We thought a trip to Gallipoli whilst we were over here was in order so locked it in for the 99th anniversary. We did it through On the Go tours which looked after everything for us. We arrived in Istanbul on Saturday and were transferred to our hotel. That night we had our tour briefing explaining the proceedings for the next couple of days.
We left the hotel bright and early the next morning for a long drive to Gallipoli with a couple of stops along the way to stock up on. We arrived outside ANZAC Cove late afternoon and from 6pm we were allowed to enter the ceremony area via metal detectors and bag searches. Some groups arrive very early to ensure that they get a good spot and even with us arriving early we were the 56th bus arriving. The early ones in took the grassy area to set up for the night and we were left with grandstand seating, however they had seating for 10,000 people and there were only 4,500 people there so we were able to stretch out our sleeping bags in front of the seats and were quite cosy. Formal proceedings kicked off at 8pm and went all through the night with music, speeches, explanations and interviews either on the stage or displayed on the big screens around the area. We were toasty in our new sleeping bags but didn't get a lot of sleep. At 4am we were woken up to start getting ready for the dawn service and at 6am the service started. After the dawn service we all packed up our things then headed off along the coastal road then up a track past numerous cemeteries to Lone Pine - the location of the Australian service. We kept walking past and saw some remains of trenches and more cemeteries then ended up at Chunick Bar - the location of the NZ service where we also had the Governor-General present. The rain had held out all night and all day until the end of the NZ service and it then started raining and showed no signs of letting up. We had quite a long wait for our bus to arrive and by then were very grateful to be sitting down somewhere warm and dry. After our long drive back to Istanbul we grabbed some quick dinner in the hotel and went straight to bed.
The next day was another very busy day with it being our only full day in Istanbul. Our tour included all the sights of Istanbul, we just had to have the stamina to see them all! First up we were bussed into town to do a cruise along the Bosphorus, then walked to the Egyptian Spice Market for a wee explore. Next up we were dropped off in the Hippodrome so we could visit the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and refuel. The final stop on the list was the Grand Bazaar. We didn't have long in the Grand Bazaar until it closed but by this stage all we needed was a short walk around to see the sights then head off for a sit down and a beer! We stayed in the old town to finally have dinner somewhere other than the hotel whereas the rest of the tour group bussed back to the hotel. We found a lovely restaurant to eat at, then walked around some of the main sights around the Hippodrome to see them all lit up at night. Once back at the hotel we saw the rest of our tour group sitting around drinking in the bar so we joined them for a bit but decided we needed our sleep rather than join them clubbing in Istanbul. We had the next morning to ourselves so we went back into the old town to walk around slowly and enjoy the sights when we weren't so rushed. We also visited the Arasta Bazaar which is a much smaller bazaar. After lunch it was time to collect our bags from the hotel and head to the airport back to London.