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Posts tagged ‘historical places’

A coastal and often narrow road to Cornwall

The mission this day was to drive to the coastal village of Boscastle in Cornwall. We had rented a house for a week in a village that is significant in the background of mum’s mum’s side of the family.

Distances between things are never that long in England, on account of all the villages and whatnot dotted around the place, and there would be several stops along the way for us. The drive could have been as short as three hours via the efficient motorway systems but we took all day via a more coastal route. And we had a perfect blue sky day to do it.


We had one mission before leaving the Bath area. A branch of the family had lived at neighbouring Swainswick (from ‘swine’ – there’s that pig connection again) so we had to try and find the old cottage and the church. Easier said than done; granted it is only a small village but the winding lanes combined with a bypass road which has been chucked in since mum was last there 19 years ago confused the navigation. We got there.

Down a very narrow lane you eventually find the Swainswick church. The stone building dates roughly to the 12th century. Near the front gate is a headstone for Miles, ancestors from my grandmother’s side of the family

Tossed up going to see the Castle Comb race track, which had a turn off nearby, but that was going to be a bit out of the way.

Cheddar Gorge

Veered off the main road for a semi-unplanned deviation toward Wookey Hole, a place with limestone caves. When it became clear that this was quite a way off in an unhelpful direction, we flagged it. At that stage though we were fairly close to Cheddar Gorge, another limestone area, so we decided to have a brief look. We drove part way up the gorge with its towering limestone cliffs. We saw rock climbers, cyclists, hikers, and goats. There are also cave attractions to lure in the punters but we needed to crack on. It was good to see that teeny weeny bit at least.

Limestone cliffs in the Cheddar Gorge



Our lunch stop, a pleasant village with mighty population of 860 or thereabouts. It seemed more thanks to the tourists flitting in and out. The main drawcard is the castle, plonked on a high point at one end of the town. Tourism of course has prompted other businesses and there were a few shops and things in which to while away the time.

We were surprised to find the ‘Kiwi Gallery’. A husband and wife run it (Jonathan Collier is a NZer or has a NZ connection, forget which) with half the shop being his handcrafted jewellery and the other half NZ arty things which they bring back to sell from their annual trip to NZ. The exchange rate is making the NZ side of the business less profitable and they’re contemplating closing it. I shouldn’t have looked around his jewellery as there were things that insisted I buy them. Mind you, with a birthday on the horizon I’m fairly sure this was probably justified.

Shepherd’s pie for lunch – robust food to fuel the afternoon.

Dunster Castle. We were happy to just see what we could from afar. I’m sure it’s nice

The main street of Dunster. Castle is at the far end. To the right is the Yarn Market, built around 1590

At the other end of town, just down from the castle


This was the first of the moors we would encounter. Interesting landscape and spongy to walk on.

Sneaky peek at some Devon coastline as we wound our way up to the moor proper

Mum and dad took advantage of the ice cream van at this lookout place on the moor

Saw loads of motorcyclists during the day, maybe on account of the good weather after a long spell of it being ungood. A brilliant way to see the country and I felt quite jealous. Never mind – on we surged in the Merc.


Another longish stop was at this coastal village on the northern edge of Exmoor. I had wanted to stop here because I was curious about a destructive flood they experienced in 1952. This is a picturesque place, river leading to small harbour with village nestled around and into the high wooded hills behind. With all that going on alone there was plenty to occupy people with cameras.

I knew there was a memorial for the flood so went in search of that and ended up asking at the information centre. And just as well; a large wooden cross had been fixed to the inside wall on one side of the river and I would never have otherwise found it. The flood devastated this small place: “…over 100 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged along with 28 of the 31 bridges, and 38 cars were washed out to sea. In total, 35 people died, with a further 420 made homeless.” A small museum with news articles and photographs and scale models was well worth a visit.

Lynmouth harbour and village behind. It’s probably a bit more majestic looking at high tide!

These have been everywhere on our travels and I stalked one momentarily at Lynmouth. Rooks or something of that ilk

Lynmouth shore at low tide

East Lyn River, just north of the meeting point with the West Lyn River. In 1952 the Lyn River ran through the village. When the flood happened, the many culverts built across the river became blocked and the water swept through the town.

Another feature is the twin village Lynton on top of the cliff (reminded me of Switzerland) – or more specifically, the funicular railway that opened in 1890 linking the two. Until that time, the only way up was via a tortuous road which was extremely difficult for humans and horses. Mum and I took a trip up and straight back down.

The rather steep if relatively short railway linking Lynmouth at the bottom with Lynton at the top


And after many more narrow lanes, and the occasional bit of hard braking and inching past other vehicles, we made it to our home for the next few days. In the remaining daylight mum and I shot down to the harbour for a quick walkabout. I think the plan may have been to get fish and chips to take back for tea, but the place seemed dead. Luckily we had stopped at a supermarket earlier on. It would be good to put the bags down for a few days, though it would still be a busy old week.

The entry to Boscastle Harbour

A great day in Bath

With only one day in Bath we couldn’t really muck around. We walked into town earlyish to find some breakfast.

Near where our hotel was. There’s something about the sameness and uniformity of Georgian buildings that I really like

Pulteney Bridge, though you could walk over it and not realise. Completed in the 1770s to replace the ferry service, it’s one of four bridges in the world which has shops all the way along both sides.

Pulteney Bridge, River Avon and the top of the weir

And looking down the weir

The Roman Baths were the first priority of the day. The Romans first began to develop a spa in 60AD, give or take, on account of the hot springs. The finished complex, consisting of indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, temple and whatnot, would have been amazing. But after a while they must’ve got bored as the Romans left Britain in the 400s.

The Great Bath. The site is a mix of what the Romans built and what was developed in subsequent ages, e.g. the Romans didn’t build the columns and top level as seen here

In the late 1800s the original Roman Bath complex was discovered underneath the structure built upon it, and in subsequent years archaeologists found how extensive the baths were. They’ve made lots of it open to the public, with various interpretive displays as they do, but our overall impression was amazement really. There was much more to see than we realised.

That modern street level is much higher than in Roman times I find interesting in itself. Easily pleased I guess.

One of the Roman statues on The Terrace overlooking the Great Bath

The hot spring that the original spa was inspired by. The water at the Roman Baths are not considered safe for bathing these days because of the original lead pipes and risk of infectious disease (a girl died in the 1970s)

One of the artefacts I quite fancied

After some gift shop dilly dallying we went next door to the Bath Abbey.

The Roman Baths (right) and the Abbey

A very impressive building which I would probably have labelled a cathedral, but it was home to a monastery rather than a bishop, hence it’s known as an abbey. Over the centuries it has seen its share of damage, most recently in 1942 during WW2 bombing. But it’s in pretty good nick now. While I do not call myself a religious person, I like looking around places of worship – and there would be ‘one or two’ churches to come on the trip (dad would say more like one or two hundred).

In the Bath Abbey. The amazingly detailed stained glass window at the end, which has come up pathetically on this photo, contains 56 scenes of Jesus’ life

Inside the Abbey are tonnes of memorial stones along the walls and floor. This is just one example of the interesting old way with words

The hop on / hop off bus was next up, to give us an overview of the main city features. There’s also another route that takes you out a bit further and higher but we wouldn’t have time for this. We did a full circuit, sitting on top at the front like all good keen people do.

Who’s the cheesy tourist then?

Continuing for a second loop, I got off at The Circus and continued on foot, leaving mum and dad to it for a few hours. The Circus is actually a big circle of lovely Georgian houses. Similarly impressive is the Royal Crescent, not far away. I imagine this would be a very exclusive street, and the cars parked along it certainly helped reinforce that impression.

Part of The Circus

The Royal Crescent (an iPhone stitched panorama)

The Royal Avenue runs in front of these, on the other side of a large field, and at one end of this road are some town memorials.

Town centre wasn’t far away and I doddled around for a few more photos before a mid afternoon appointment.

Legend has made pigs a popular symbol in Bath and there are over 100 arty pigs displayed in the city. I didn’t know this til later (I’m fond of pigs!) and only came across two

A thirsty pidgeon and an obliging statue

Parade Gardens is a pleasant spot alongside the river, though you have to pay a couple of pounds to get in!

King Bladud, from whom the pig association with Bath began. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the pig next to him was placed there in 2008 as part of the arty pigs campaign

From the eastern side of the river. Due to an apparent translation misunderstanding by the Romans, River Avon actually means River River.

The appointment was work related: one of the external companies I have been talking to for a year or so for my project back at work (I vaguely recall that I have a job somewhere?) is based in Bath. So it made sense to have a face to face chat for a change. A couple of wines in the sun made for a great interlude in the day. After six weeks of rain that was apparently the second day of sun, which I was happy to claim full credit for.

I returned to the hotel to find mum and dad and later we made the short walk back into town for dinner.

Great meal at the Thai Balcony Restaurant

We only barely scratched the surface in Bath but it had been a great short visit. It was originally a one night stopover as we had booked a house for a week down south, but decided to arrive there a day late in order to have more time in Bath. Not a bad decision that one.

To Bath via Worcestershire and Wales

After departing Manchester, much of the day was on England’s motorway system. Have to say they do it very well; excellent roads and signage. While the motorway speed limit is 70mph (which was a novelty as in NZ it is the equivalent of 60mph) many cars skipped past much faster. I was a touch more sedate, not knowing the general approach to tolerances and how the speed traps work. And also I didn’t want to activate mum’s backseat driver mode.

Dad rides shotgun which means he’s thrust a camera from mum every once in a while

Early afternoon we reached Worcestershire. We were making a rural stop here to visit Mike’s brother’s wife Fi on her parents’ farm. They had been able to come out to NZ earlier in the year and it would be great to see at least Fi again so soon.

The TomTom could manage finding the local village but full credit must go to the iPhone map function for locating and directing us to the farm. We got out of the car… breathed in… looked down… yep, definitely a farm with cows.

We interrupted Fi making ice cream, which has been a side business on the farm for the last few years. She would not consent to a photo in her white coat, blue hair net with chocolate splatter on her face. But you get the idea 🙂

Fi and sister Gillian with part of the ice cream van fleet

It was a hectic day there but the sisters and their father gave us a cup of tea and showed us around. They live in a beautiful part of the country with probably the greenest grass you could find anywhere.

Coming from youthful New Zealand, you just don’t get OLD stuff, like houses built several hundred years ago that are still very much being lived in. They are so interesting with their character and quirks. Though interesting may not be the word when cold weather arrives.

There would be one or two challenges with living somewhere like this!

Old barn and water pump

I’ve always thought black cows look mean

A visit to ice cream facility would not be complete without sampling some Churchfields Farmhouse product so before we left Fi to dive back into the batch she was making, we chose a wee pot each to take away. Mum and dad cleaned up their ice creams pretty quickly though in the driver’s seat I made a right hash of my sorbet. Delicious anyway – thanks Fi!

More ice cream than you can shake a spoon at

Me ‘n’ Fi

On we drove.

Rather than go straight to Bath I wanted to detour into Wales. Just because. And not too far in, just enough to have been across the border. For this reason I chose Chepstow and this proved to be a good little stop on account of the castle and cutesy old streets. And a pretty good pub dinner. The drive there also gave us our first dose of narrow country lanes. There’d be plenty more of those soon enough!

Chepstow Castle, apparently the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain

A street in Chepstow. I like the way they break up the sameness with a touch of colour

Cobblestone street (apparently a fairly famous one) in Chepstow

They had these poppy tiles fixed onto the concrete steps around their war memorial

All location signs were in the two main languages

We arrived in Bath while it was still light and checked into our hotel, very basic rooms but off street parking, wifi and an excellent location. Mum and I went on a recce and on account of the historic look and feel to the place I could tell that I was going to enjoy this city. We were spending two nights and one full day here.

Istanbul finale

At dinner during our second and final night at the Gallipoli Houses we got talking to an American couple and the Aussie motorcycle touring bloke. By a stroke of good fortune, the couple were also going back to Istanbul in the morning – in the van with guide and driver, a package which they had hired for a week – and offered us a ride.

I thought about this. A direct ride back to Istanbul. Or, a taxi ride to Eceabat, some waiting time for a bus, a 5 hour bus ride to Istanbul, and half hour in another taxi, probably 180TL all up. Yes please, a ride would be great!!

Dinner was delicious by the way, cooked by the wife of the Belgian couple who run the hotel. There was a dish that I will try to replicate back at home though I don’t think this should be too much cause for concern for Mike. Probably.

Dad seems to be enjoying his Turkish beer

In the morning we were gone by about 8am. It was a shame to be leaving Gallipoli so soon but that was the schedule and I had achieved my (our) goal of seeing the battlefields. I would like to return one day, though the reality is that there’s so much else to see in the world it is hard to justify returning somewhere you’ve already been. Part of me would like to go to the 2015 commemorations; the other part would simply abhor all the crowds!

Leaving the Gallipoli Houses. Definitely recommend this place to anyone thinking of visiting Gallipoli

They were a nice semi-retired couple and we chatted much of the way. The seats were facing each other with Dad and I looking back down the road. I was a little worried about this as I seem to have gradually acquired a greater sensitivity to motion as I’ve gotten older. Luckily I felt fine, until we got to Istanbul where the roads and driving style started to make their mark felt. But I hung in there!

We arrived probably a couple of hours earlier than we would otherwise have. Our good fortune continued because they were staying at a hotel which was pretty close to ours, so it wasn’t far for us to haul our bags.

After a breather, dad and I met back up for some late lunch / early dinner and to tick off another couple of must-sees which we didn’t get to do the other day.

We returned to one of the cafes we ate at the other day where they have a resident cat. Most people have cat photos from Istanbul I think on account of how many you tend to come across

The trams were a bit freaky – when you cross the road you have to watch out for trams as well as normal vehicles and as you can see, you wouldn’t want to accidentally step off the footpath

First was the Hippodrome – a must see because it is freeeee! I like free things. The building no longer exists but there are a couple of interesting columns still in place and you get a feel for the size the thing was (480m x 117m!). Tourists in this area seem to be a magnet for traders of various kinds and we both got hit up here.

The Hippodrome; well, most of what remains today at least

Beware visitors to the Hippodrome area! Unless you object strongly and walk away you will in no time flat find yourself having your shoes shined for which you will be charged 25 TL

We continued on to the Grand Bazaar, one of the biggest covered markets in the world and a trading centre since 1461. We didn’t have time to linger indefinitely so didn’t venture too far; just a few streets in to have a bit of a look and tick off some items on a short shopping list. It’s a very impressive building and is lucky to have withstood various earthquakes and fires.

On the walk to the Grand Bazaar it was difficult to ignore the interesting trees growing in the narrow streets

The bazaar was indeed grand

There was a bit of time to kill before the final activity so we adjourned to the hotel. I booked us on a night time bus tour, to not only see a bit more of the city but hopefully also some nice night time cityscapes.

On the bus waiting for the tour to start. The 7pm departure became 7.35pm as they waited for more seats to be filled, so we observed half an hour of them trying to drum up more business – I found this frustrating

Just a scene from the bus as we twiddled our thumbs waiting to get underway

I didn’t realise that the two hour tour stopped half way for an hour and I didn’t really want to muck around with a late night ahead of the early start the next morning. But I’d already bought the tickets by that stage. And the tour was reasonably worthwhile, though dad would probably say it wasn’t! We should have taken more warm layers as the cool night air and wind on top of the bus made it freezing. By that stage the inside part of the bus was full. For the second part the plastic sides of the bus had been lowered so it was much more tolerable.

The only decent night photo I could muster was from the iPhone. This is taken from Camlica Hill where the tour stopped for an hour so that you could go and spend some more money at one of the eating places

And that brought our short time in Turkey to an end. Thankfully that big earthquake that is predicted sometime in the next 30 years didn’t strike during our visit. While I’d like to return to Gallipoli, I can’t say the same for Istanbul. There are other parts of Turkey I would like to go to – who knows when that is likely to happen!

The next morning we were off back to England to find mum and continue our travels.

Gallipoli battlefields tour (part 2)

With tummies filled to capacity we continued the tour, this segment focusing on the ridges. A quick photo stop at this monument was first up. It depicts a supposed event, though there are numerous examples of compassionate interludes to the fighting on record. It is nice to hear about these human elements in an otherwise dismal place.

This monument depicts a Turkish soldier carrying a wounded British soldier back to the Allied trench. It was inspired by a speech in 1967 by the Australian Governor of the time who had served at Gallipoli

This flower is called the Gallipoli Rose

The Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial is especially significant for Australians and is where the Australian Anzac Day service is held. We were there on May 7th, 12 days after Anzac Day, and temporary seating was still being dismantled. New Zealand has four Memorials to the Missing at Gallipoli, believing soldiers should be remembered close to where they fell. The Lone Pine memorial lists 708 Kiwis; sadly the number of names at Chunuk Bair tops this.

Lone Pine Cemetery is predominantly Australian (there is one identified NZer) though it is home to one of the NZ Memorials to the Missing

We continued making our way along the ridge.

Remains of Anzac trenches just along from Lone Pine. The distance to the Turkish trenches was often surprisingly short

Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery, named for an Australian commander, is an area taken on April 25th but lost the following day. One Kiwi is definitely buried here but there may be others

Mr Çelik drove us down a side road he said is very rarely visited by his compatriots. The grave of a Turkish lieutenant-colonel is there (there are a small handful of isolated Turkish graves on the peninsula) and down in the gully is a mass grave. The majority of Turkish soldiers were not identified and just buried together in mass graves.

Steps leading down to where there is a Turkish soldier mass grave

Back up on the main road we stopped at the Turkish 57th Regiment Cemetery. This is a fairly grand site, on sloping land, topped by a large memorial at the top and smaller ones at the bottom. Given my previous comment about the mass graves, it is maybe not surprising that this is a ‘representational’ cemetery and features the names of soldiers from that regiment who died. The site was busy with visiting Turkish people.

Turkish 57th Infantry Regiment Memorial Park. The cemetery is symbolic

It was a very good thing we were not attempting the tour the day before (Sunday) as Mr Celik said that the roads were clogged with buses. The Chunuk Bair area is very popular due to the numerous Turkish memorials on it, particularly on 18 March which is the main day for Turkish people to commemorate the campaign.

A little further up the road we detoured a short way off to the left. At the end here was a lookout down over a gully to North Beach and south, Walker’s Ridge Cemetery, more trenches, and The Nek Cemetery.

View over Mule Gully toward Ari Burnu

Walker’s Ridge Cemetery, named after Brigadier-General Harold Walker who was in command of New Zealand infantry forces at the landing. His HQ was roughly in this area

Allied trenches in between Walker’s Ridge and The Nek Cemeteries. They were the most authentic we saw with the remains of wood reinforcement and barbed wire still plainly visible

The Nek was a particularly bloody battlefield. Over 300 soldiers are buried here and the very small number of headstones attest to the number of identifications that could be made

View of Suvla Bay from The Nek Cemetery

We parked near Chunuk Bair and walked.

Five huge stone tablets formed the Turkish Conkbayırı Memorial, just along from Chunuk Bair

A little further on we came to the New Zealand cemetery and memorial. As Lone Pine is to Australia, Chunuk Bair is to New Zealand. The New Zealand Anzac Day service is held here, around the big battlefield memorial. In the cemetery rests 632 men, only a few of which were identified. 850 names are on the Memorial to the Missing.

I had really been looking forward to Chunuk Bair and it may have been more significant to me than Anzac Cove. It seemed fitting that our Anzac sector tour would finish here.

I knew that there was a Turkish memorial close to the New Zealand memorial but I didn’t appreciate that this would mean the place would be crawling with huge numbers of Turkish people. Which in itself is fine – it is great they wish to visit these places of significance – but for me, compared with most of the other sites, the crowds and noise detracted from the visit.

Plus they were also still dismantling the Anzac Day seating here too, which added to the distraction.

The cemetery, located a short distance away down the hill, was more peaceful. The Memorial to the Missing features the name of one of my relations, a second cousin twice removed, which we found.

There’s a lot going on at the Chunuk Bair site

Dad reading the Memorial to the Missing at Chunuk Bair

Chunuk Bair Cemetery. The big space with very few headstones tells a sad story

Inscription on the Chunuk Bair Memorial, with my poppy

As we left I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. Back in the car we looped round the next ridge and back down.

At one point we got a good view down to Kocadere, where we were staying

There was 20km or so to drive to the end of the peninsula where the Helles memorial is. While it was interesting to get the geographical perspective, the main purpose of the visit was to photograph a name for one of dad’s cousins. The cousin was lucky as we found that the memorial is part way through a three year renovation and the name in question was just about out of sight behind the fence.

One side of the big Cape Helles Memorial cenotaph (the side that was in the sun mentioned the Anzacs). The memorial also consists of a sizeable walled enclosure on which is inscribed far, far too many names. The site acknowledges the involvement of the whole British Empire at Gallipoli

Not far away is V Beach so we had a look over that.

Looking over V Beach, one of the main landing places for the British in the Cape Helles campaign. The cemetery is just back off the beach. A WWII gun emplacement is visible in the foreground

And then we were about done so drove back to Kocadere. It had been a fantastic day and so worth the trip to Turkey. We could not have wished for a better guide and I would highly recommend Mr Çelik. I purchased a guidebook (from the Book Depository website) which we found very useful, Gallipoli: A guide to New Zealand battlefields and memorials, by Ian McGibbon.

NZ soldiers sent to Gallipoli: 8556
NZ fatal casualties: 2721

“Gallipoli, too beautiful a place to die.”

Gallipoli battlefields tour (part 1)

Another bluebird day dawned. We breakfasted in the hotel and filled in time before our guide arrived at 9.30am. During my research I came across a recommendation for Mr Kenan Çelik, and, being some months out, I was able to secure his services for a full day private tour. He is one of Turkey’s leading experts on the Gallipoli campaign and is sought after by visiting Government delegations. I figured he’d be pretty alright.

Fortunately Mr Çelik also offered his car if necessary. I think most people who tour the battlefields have their own rental vehicle, but the during my reading it had been emphasised that driving in Turkey should be avoided! So yes, we would be needing his car as well as his knowledge. It cost 140 EUR for a full day tour, plus 100 EUR for his car.

Mr Çelik arrived while we chatted to an Aussie bloke who was on a motorcycle tour for several months.

The peninsula is split roughly into three battlefield sectors: Cape Helles at the end, Anzac in the middle (also known as Gaba Tepe), and Suvla Bay to the north. You can spend days going around them all on account of how many battlegrounds and cemeteries there are. But we had one day. Being Kiwis we were mainly interested in the Anzac places of interest and Mr Çelik has a fairly standard tour outline focusing on this sector, which excluded Helles and Suvla. I had requested one alteration, to go to Cape Helles, as I had been asked to photograph a name on the memorial out there.

Our tour began.

Our guide, Kenan Çelik, giving us an overview of the campaign

Mr Çelik likes to provide balance and we would visit several Turkish sites in amongst all the others. Our first stop was the village of Bigali, significant because Colonel Mustafa Kemal Atatürk lived there and left from there on the morning of 25 April 1915 to fight the Anzacs. Atatürk later became founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey and is revered in the country. His house in Bigali is now a museum, which we had a look through.

Public space in the middle of Bigali, with mural of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on one of the buildings

The first NZ stop of the day was the Hill 60 cemetery and memorial, a few hundred metres off the road up a bumpy old track. This is in the northern Anzac sector, heading out toward Suvla Bay. Hill 60 is believed to have been a particularly futile battle on account of it being fairly unimportant ground and the cost with which the relatively low gains (some trenches) were won.

Hill 60 Cemetery, the most important Gallipoli site for NZ north of the main Anzac sector. It contains one of the four NZ Memorials to the Missing

Mike and I saw several Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries in 2010 on the western front and the Gallipoli cemeteries had very much the same flavour. All beautifully maintained and cared for. A common feature is that the majority of soldiers who gave their lives were not identified. Many headstones bear the words “believed to be buried in this cemetery”. Even more names are listed on the Memorials to the Missing. This sad fact is understandable given these were battlefields and given the dire nature of the battles and often the conditions in which they were fought.

I also had a personal mission during the Hill 60 visit.

I have included this photo so that Josh and Flynn can see the two poppies I left at Hill 60, from them and their dad, for Mike’s first cousin four times removed, Second Lieutenant Desmond Kettle. Incidentally, also in the same list of names is Helen Clark’s (ex NZ PM) great uncle

We stopped at the 7th Field Ambulance Cemetery and New Zealand No. 2 Outpost Cemetery. Near the latter is Maori Hill, so called because the NZ Maori Contingent took position there.

New Zealand No. 2 Outpost Cemetery

Maori Hill (Turkish flag now at the top!) with the Fishermans’ Cottage on its slopes. The cottage is still standing from 1915; back then it was a well known landmark being the only building in the area

By now we were heading along North Beach. The Canterbury Cemetery is there along with good views to the hills above and around/across the bay.

The Canterbury cemetery is the final resting place of 26 Kiwis, mostly from the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, and one unidentified solider

The Sphinx was a prominent landmark in 1915 and still stands out today. Erosion is very gradually taking its toll on the surrounding cliffs and ridges

From above North Beach looking toward the point which is home to Ari Burnu Cemetery. Beyond that is Anzac Cove

Looking above North Beach over the Agean Sea

North Beach is also where the big dawn service is now held each Anzac Day. The Anzacs landed around the corner but North Beach has more space to cater for the huge crowds that now head to this remote location for April 25th. The area still didn’t seem big enough to fit in the thousands of people it does, so I can only guess they’re wedged in there like sardines! At the end of this short TVNZ video is a quick view of what it’s like on this one big morning each year.

Dad and I at the Anzac commemorative site at North Beach

I asked Mr Çelik if he had been lined up for the 100th anniversary commemorations in 2015. While he had been approached he had not committed to anything as it was too far out and he might die!

At the southern end of North Beach, and the northern end of Anzac Cove, is Ari Burnu Cemetery. This is where the Anzac Day dawn service used to be held until 2000. Over 250 identified soldiers lie here including 35 Kiwis. It is the best place to access Anzac Cove due to the incline further along.

Ari Burnu Cemetery. We could see why the Anzac Day dawn service outgrew this location

Ari Burnu has a beautiful location next to the beach

And finally we reached Anzac Cove, where Australian and New Zealand troops landed. While the Aussies came ashore at dawn, hence Anzac Day dawn service, the first Kiwis did not land until a few hours later. The toll of nature is very evident here when you see old photos – in 1915 the beach was much wider and less stony.

Anzac Cove. A few poppies had been left on the sign including one from dad

Anzac Cove is just a narrow strip of beach now

Along from this is Beach Cemetery, where about 20 identified New Zealanders and 280 Aussies are buried. Another very beautiful place.

Beach Cemetery, as you might guess it too is next to the beach

An inscription noting that the landing spot on 25/4/15 was nearby

It was afternoon by now and we were half way through. Lunch and some respite from the sun was needed – and achieved!

Mr Çelik placing our lunch order, a few dishes for sharing. There was so much food I felt a bit unwell afterwards but it was really delicious

Due to the amount of ground covered during the nine hour tour I have split this post. Part two to follow.

24 hours in Istanbul

After a few hours sleep I met dad for the buffet breakfast provided by the hotel. I suspected that food in Turkey would be something of a challenge for him, but he got on with it. Not that it was necessarily a doddle for me. But fortified in some way, we met again a short time later to start our walkabout.

Out hotel was in the old city on Istanbul’s historic peninsula, very close to the big old-city attractions. I didn’t really have my bearings so we started off before I realised we probably needed to be walking in the opposite direction. I seem to be doing that a bit recently. There was no particular plan for the order in which to see things as I was still working out where everything was.

One of dad’s snaps. Guide Rangi (in his words) leading the way. More a case of the blind leading the blind!

Because we probably we didn’t look like we knew where we were going, a man approached us. Polite conversation ensued and he was helpful in that he did point out the three sites in our immediate vicinity. And after we see them, perhaps we would like to visit his carpet shop just over there? Ahhh, I realised in my head. It begins. No, we don’t want to buy any carpet. Why? Surely you wouldn’t want to leave without buying a quintessential part of Turkey? Actually I’m ok with that. Dad and I thanked him for his offer and managed to extricate ourselves.

We walked to the very nearby Blue Mosque, a big beautiful blue-tinged rounded building with the large minarets poking up. We would see many, many more of those before our time in Turkey would be up.

The Blue Mosque – an impactful building from the outside as well

We wandered, looking for the way in. Another man approached us, pointing out where to go. He also said the queues were very long and the mosque was closing in an hour for prayer, but he could show us how to get in without queuing. (We would see later in the day that guided tours go straight in and many guides would walk up and down the lines touting their services. Some found business like this.) We declined our guy’s offer and I added that we were also not interested in any carpet which hadn’t been mentioned at that point. Nonetheless it was true and we had more questioning about why we would even contemplate not buying some beautiful genuine Turkish carpet while we have the opportunity.

Having finally disconnected from that conversation we queued for the Blue Mosque. We read the signs which said that men can’t wear shorts. Dad was wearing shorts. But this was ok as he was given a skirt to wear; a lovely blue wrap skirt which covered those offending knees. No doubt he wasn’t the most comfortable man in Istanbul at that point but to his credit he went along with it.

I was wearing a long skirt and t-shirt and had a scarf with me which I had thought may need to be worn over my head. But as we walked in, barefoot by this stage, the lady said I needed to cover my arms. So that is what I did with the scarf.

The Blue Mosque is stunning (also no cost to go inside). My photos are not good enough to do it justice but they are a reminder if nothing else. The mosque is still used for prayer but that it was closing in an hour was in fact a crock. That scoundrel. We joined the hundreds of other tourists inside milling around gawping, mostly at the amazing stuff above our heads.

Tons of people and even in such a big place it was quite congested

Beautiful ceilings

Part of the floor we weren’t allowed on

We re-entered the hot sunny Istanbul day. Even at this relatively early hour it was a mad place, and would get more and more busy as the day went on. Yes it’s a big city with an enormous population but it is also a massive travel destination, indicated by the kajillions of other foreigners doing what we were doing. We had also landed this big sightseeing day on a Saturday which I’m sure compounded matters.

I looked at the queue for the Hagia Sophia, spitting distance away, and foolishly said nah let’s come back later. Instead we went across the road to the Basilica Cistern, also very close by. At 10 TL (Turkish Lira or about NZ$7) this was the least expensive paid attraction we would go to.

The Cistern was developed as a backup water source for the city. Once discovered, it was given a jolly good clean out and walkways installed so that people could come and see it. It is subterranean so you walk downstairs into a dark, cool, damp but massive space. It was fantastic.

The Basilica Cistern. The area was many times as big as this

A decorative column

We bit the bullet for Hagia Sophia and of course by now the queue was much longer. Much of it also required standing in the sun – it was a mid-20s day, so rather warm for Kiwis. Not so much for the locals. While the ticket line took a really long time, there was always stuff to look at. I have no idea how the muslim women cope in the heat in their full length coverings. The black things are bad enough in the sun, but other women wore full length coats over top of their skirts etc. And colourful headscarves. No wonder loads of them were sitting in the shade.

In amongst all the people watching I had many inviting offers. Did I want to buy a guide book / guided tour / Turkish hat / spinning top on a string? No, no, no, no.

Muslim women enjoy some shade in Sultanahmet Square, the Blue Mosque poking up behind

A street vendor. Grilled corn on the cob is a common snack

Finally I was able to fork out 25TL each and we went on in. Aya Sofya used to be a basilica and later a mosque but is now categorised as a museum. It was breathtaking in size and scale. Just amazing. Enormous, and beautiful (unlike in my opinion the outer view of the building).

The lights were suspended on long wires from the ceiling so far above our heads and the wires were actually a bit distracting, but in photos the lights just seem to float.

Inside Hagia Sophia. It really was an omg moment

You could also walk up a lengthy stone ramp to the gallery where you had an elevated view of what was apparently the world’s largest enclosed space for 1000+ years

Topkapi Palace was next up, being just behind Hagia Sophia. How convenient of the old city to be so compact. We scoped out the lay of the land but I didn’t want to attempt it on an empty stomach. Plus by then I had acquired a juicy headache. We trotted down the hill and picked an al fresco restaurant in good view of the palace outer wall.

I don’t much care about acquiring food experiences while travelling. Food allergies are a hassle to try and work around but even before I became aware of those, I was basically unadventurous and fussy with food. And I’m ok with that. But I still wanted more from our time in Turkey than western looking food outlets or meals. And I was happy to find that among the staples of Turkish cuisine is meat and fresh veg. Also bread, though I tried to moderate that given gluten considerations. In our short stay in the country it was breakfast that was the trickiest given the food options typical of that; other meals were easier. So we had a good lunch.

Big meals, but fresh and good

Returning to the palace meant going back up the hill. I joined another long line to purchase two 25L tickets, amused for a time by a heated argument a couple were having with one of the staff. Dad went to find shade.

There were a couple of armed military guards decorating the entry to the palace. While not initially sure why that was the case, given some of the invaluable items on display in the complex it’s probably not surprising. One was happy to let dad take his photo; the other not so.

Inside the outer wall of the palace

Looks a bit like a palace? Once you’ve paid your dues in the queue, the archway is where you should go

We wandered around. A few of the buildings had been turned into museums with display cases of stuff – we queued just because we were there and may as well see them. We found we queued for far longer than it took to rip round the displays.

There was heaps of this sort of imagery which I love

So far I was a bit underwhelmed. One part of the palace which I had missed seeing but which had been highly recommended was the Harem. We retraced our footsteps and there it was – another ticket queue. Sigh. Dad wanted to sit this one out so I left him in the shade with an orange juice. I think this was 10TL. And it was the highlight of the palace for me. Such an interesting building, not to mention background, and the route led you on a surprisingly long route from room to corridor to room to courtyard to room etc. What stood out for me most of all was the painted tiles – so many beautiful patterns and colours. I wish I’d taken more photos of those!

Beautiful stained glass windows in one of the harem rooms

Absolutely loved all the tiles

I found dad and joined him for another OJ. We were both really tired and achy one way or another, so it was time to go back to the hotel for a rest. I didn’t like to waste time doing this but it was a physical necessity – and I knew there should be another few hours when we got back to Istanbul in a couple of days.

Turkish delight kindly provided in the hotel room

We met up again in the evening and went for a walk, mainly to find dinner somewhere but ended up walking to part of the waterfront. Congested traffic produced a fairly constant beeping of horns and people where everywhere, many going to or exiting from the ferries across the Bosphorous River. We watched it all for a time, including the last of the sun setting over the city behind us, before finding dinner.

Another of dad’s snaps from a footbridge near the ferry terminals

The end of a good day. While I wasn’t that ‘at one’ with Istanbul, I loved being somewhere so historical and with fantastic larger than life reminders of the ancient past on my doorstep. No time to stand still though, tomorrow we were off to Gallipoli. I didn’t appreciate just how much phaffing that would entail!

St Andrews: great for non-golfers too!

After Edinburgh the plan was to head a bit further north to meet mum and dad in St Andrews. Or, more precisely, the nearby town of Leuchars which has a railway station. I was looking forward to another albeit short train journey.

From the train at the North Queensferry end of the rail bridge (which I had toured under the day before) looking back at the Forth road bridge

But it was not a day for predictable travel plans. Mum and dad were the best part of three hours late, but that didn’t matter as the train turfed me (and others) out about half way to where I needed to go. They (Scotrail) didn’t explain why but possibly because we were late leaving Edinburgh. Anyhoo – I was denied another half hour of train travel and instead got a paid-for taxi ride. As there was just me in the car, the driver kindly took me to St Andrews rather than the supposed destination Leuchars. There I caught another cab to the b&b which required me to pretty much give that driver directions!

It was a nice choice of b&b and a very comfy place to wait for mum and dad while I caught up on some blog stuff. After they eventually arrived and settled in we went out for dinner.

At the very nice West Port Bar & Kitchen

There was no time left in that day to start looking around St Andrews so that fell to the following day. We were only in town for two nights so there was a lot to pack in – probably more than I appreciated. And that was because I quickly saw that St Andrews is far more than just golf.

The next day was dad’s birthday and there was no coincidence that we were in St Andrews. But I will post separately about that and the four-letter-g-word.

We drove into town and after some deviations to have a look at some large green spaces, parked and went on walkabout. It was clear just by driving around how historic the town is and this becomes more clear when you take everything in at walking pace.

It reminded me a bit of the small Belgian towns Mike and I saw on the Western Front

So many buildings invited photos and I couldn’t really restrain myself

St Andrews Harbour

East Sands, the beach beside St Andrews harbour

Dad was inviting trouble by throwing out lunch morsels for the predatory seagulls

The highlight for me was the large site encompassing big extensive historic wall enclosure, St Andrews Cathedral and other ruins, and a massive graveyard. I could have spent ages wandering around taking photos but instead condensed that into about 20 frenetic minutes. The Historic Scotland website says the cathedral is “Scotland’s largest and most magnificent medieval church”. The package of stuff to see really is impressive.

Peek-a-boo through the wall to St Rule’s Tower

The 12th century St Andrews Cathedral is a fantastic structure even in its ruinous state

St Rule’s Tower again

Part of the massive graveyard around the cathedral

Further round the coastline from the harbour, looking toward St Andrews Castle

The ruins of St Andrews Castle on the sea front. Having just been to the fabulous cathedral ruins for free and on our limited schedule we didn’t see the need to pay to go in for a closer look

The expansive West Sands beach

Since I was keen to find spring flowers on my travels, the odd flower photo will pop up. St Andrews provided these bluebells

There was more I could have seen but I had some internet catch-up to do so spent a couple of hours at good old Starbucks. The evening’s activities will be picked up in the next post and the next morning we were underway early. It wasn’t long enough – between the lovely b&b and the historic features of the town, I think three days in St Andrews would have been ideal.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s number one tourist attraction and well who was I to buck that trend. In typical Hayley fashion I booked a ticket in advance since I had worked out when I could fit it into my limited time in the city.

I made my way up to the castle via the Princes St gardens and arrived at the entrance about quarter of an hour before opening.

This way to the castle! Top of the Royal Mile

Well hello there

Works in progress on the esplanade for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August (seems like they’ve got a decent lead time!). Would love to go to the Tattoo one day.

The advance ticket and time of day was the way to go as there were only a few other punters and a group of school children around. I was in fact the first person through the gate and up to the top – a notable achievement according to the kilted Scotsman who helped organise the gate queues.

Through the Portcullis Gate looking back along the cobblestone road originally built to transport canons

The uphill road leads to Foog’s Gate and the main building shown used to be a water reservoir

St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in 12th century and the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh

I wandered around, mainly focusing on the outside features. It was another balmy single-digit Edinburgh day so there wasn’t much stopping in one place for long.

The Half Moon Battery

View over the Argyle Battery

A panorama experiment with the Autostitch app on my phone

Cemetery for soldiers’ dogs

The stand out feature for me was the Scottish National War Memorial, quite possibly the best national war memorial that I’ve seen. Photos aren’t permitted in there out of respect.

The superb Scottish National War Memorial

Wreaths outside from the Anzac Day service held there. A smaller number of wreaths were Inside and included one from the Government and people of NZ.

Rear of the war memorial

I wasn’t in the mood to linger around the buildings with inside exhibits so swept through those, hence an absence of that kind of photo. You could certainly pad out your visit to the castle by following the audio guide and visiting the regimental museums on site, but I think I was done in about 90 minutes and that’s only because I was fluffing around taking photos.

From one of the windows inside the Great Hall

There is still a military presence but the purpose of the castle has changed so other things have changed with it

You can’t help but notice all the different cobblestone patterns. Well I couldn’t at least

Glad to have seen it, don’t need to go back – other than for the Tattoo one day, I hope!

Tour on the Firth of Forth

This tour sounded interesting and was a good opportunity to get a little bit out of the city. From the same departure point on Waverley Bridge it was a 45 minute bus ride out to South Queensferry.

I didn’t delve into much pre-reading about the tour other than to grasp there was a boat ride and there was something about bridges across the Forth River.

As we neared South Queensferry suddenly this big red metal structure loomed. This was the rail bridge and it was immediately clear why they make a big deal of it. We pulled up near the pier and I then saw the big road bridge, a little further to the west. It was quite a striking sight.

To the right the rail bridge, to the left the road bridge, and straight ahead our tour boat

The rail bridge

The bridges play a major role in joining north and south Scotland on the east coast. The cantilevered rail bridge came first in 1890 and is 2.5km long. 70 years later the road bridge was opened. This tour would travel under both bridges and further out into the Firth of Forth – where the Forth River meets the North Sea.

The dozen or so of us on the tour shuffled from the bus down the pier to the boat.

Table top inside the boat!

We circuited under the road bridge first, then the rail bridge and beyond.

The road bridge

Cold? Yes just a teensy bit

The firth has a number of islands, two of which we saw fairly close up. This was the first.

The tiny island of Inchgarvie, below the rail bridge, has fortifications from a long long long time ago. In its day its position was very strategic. In the 1500s it was used to quarantine people with certain diseases

And this was the second. Inchcolm Island looked fascinating and if I could’ve jumped off for an hour I would’ve. It has a mix of ruins from several centuries ago to World War II.

Inchcolm has a fabulous 12th century abbey

Observation post from WWII on Inchcolm Island.

Rear view of the abbey

Other firth features…

The very large oil delivery platform called Hound Point. Crude oil is piped to here from the North Sea

Lighthouse in the Firth of Forth with Edinburgh behind

Grey seals taking it easy

As well as seals we were told to keep an eye out for puffins. Which I did, though didn’t really know what I was supposed to be looking for. As it turned out they were feeling a bit shy on this day.

We headed back. The tour commentary said that there were estimates of around 500 wrecks lying at the bottom of those waters. 500!

On the return run from Inchcolm to South Queensferry

Houses in South Queensferry near the tour departure point. Across the river is North Queensferry. Coming from NZ, this is an excellent naming scheme

All in all, worthwhile. And I didn’t connect the dots but I would be travelling across the rail bridge the next day when I was to catch a train to head north.

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