Page 2 of Spurins Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk October 9th 2019

One of the many things I love about the EU is its stance on smoking; throughout half a continent it is unacceptable to smoke in public. To remind yourself of how good this is, travel to the other half of Europe which smells like a 1980s British pub carpet. The non-smoking Hotel Minsk is one such location – there is so much smoke oozing through the ventilation system that you need breathing apparatus to go for a pee. The morning is filled with complicated simple things. First, I want to find a supermarket and buy a bottle of Diet Coke. According to Google Maps, the nearest supermarket is 43 feet away, but it refuses to give directions. At first, I think this must mean that it’s in the underground shopping centre, but a full search of ... read more
 City sculpture
Church of Saint Simon and Saint Helena
Post Office

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk October 8th 2019

I had worried that with temperatures below zero, I would get cold in Minsk, so last week I purchased the world’s thickest (well, Primark’s thickest) pyjamas. But the Hotel Minsk isn’t skimping on the heating – last night was like one long hot flush. We get up and set off for some sightseeing. One of the first things you notice about Belarus – jaywalking is not a thing. You stand and wait for the light to go green, even if this means waiting for hours when there isn’t a car in sight. Then, when the light finally does go green, still nobody moves. This is either because they’ve been there for so long they’ve forgotten where they’ve going, or because they’ve frozen to the spot and can no longer move. We start by heading to the ... read more
Communism v KFC
Holy Spirit Cathedral
Old town

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk October 7th 2019

It’s time for a little trip. We usually go away in October and in recent years have been to Mexico, Cuba, Israel, Greece and Turkey – all places which delay the inevitability of having to deal with the cold, damp British Autumn. This year, as the old man attempts to notch up 100 countries and our destinations become more obscure, we are heading for Belarus. The weather forecast is for minus 3 degrees and snow. As I return home the night before the Great South Run, I get up early and go for a run before setting off for Gatwick. We’re flying with Belavia Belarusian Airline, which isn’t bad, apart from the in flight meal – chicken sausages which taste as bad as they look. We arrive in Minsk on time, immigration and baggage reclaim is ... read more
Belavia dinner
Hotel Minsk
Hotel Minsk from Independence Square

Europe » France » Île-de-France » Fontainebleau June 22nd 2019

It’s Saturday – parkrun day and today we’re running in the grounds of Fontainebleau castle. To be more precise; 2 laps of an ornamental lake at the entrance to the château. My fitness has declined due to injury so I’m not looking forward to it. But I meet a lovely lady called Christine from Kingston and we pootle round together. It takes a very slow 47 minutes but we chat the whole way so the time flies by. We speed up towards the end when our respective families come and encourage us to run more and talk less. Then it’s time to drive the 225 miles to Calais. It’s hot and first we have to circumnavigate Paris. Today’s soundtrack is Hadestown – appropriate for a Parisian motorway on a Saturday morning. We reach the Tunnel and ... read more
Fontainebleau parkrun
Fontainebleau parkrun
Fontainebleau parkrun

Europe » France » Île-de-France » Fontainebleau June 21st 2019

Today’s 210 mile drive takes us as far as Fontainebleau. It’s a slight deviation from the optimum route but it’s Friday and Fontainebleau has a parkrun. Our route is predominantly motorway which is (a) expensive (it costs €60 to drive across France) and (b) dull. Thank goodness for musical theatre. By the time we reach our destination, we all know all the lyrics to Six, but only one of us feels the need to sing along. There’s still time for a rendition of Les Misérables. Singing along is trickier but daughter no 2 performs admirably (although I fear her head is going to explode during One Day More). We stop at a rest area to use the facilities. The toilet is so high tech it’s like wandering into the USS Enterprise. It’s a far cry from ... read more
Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau

Europe » France » Franche-Comté » Besançon June 20th 2019

It’s time to start the drive back to London. It’s over 600 miles so we’ve divided it into 3 chunks. Our first overnight stop is Besançon. We set off from Zurich with musical accompaniment for 4 hours of driving/culture. By the time we reach our hotel, we have covered Tudor history (Six), Greek Mythology (Hadestown) and American history (Hamilton). The hotel is difficult to spot, requiring 3 (increasingly irate) circuits of the one way system to locate it. I briefly hope our arrival will stop daughter no 2 from reciting the lyrics of every musical in the world, but we’re in the birthplace of Victor Hugo. It’s mid afternoon, so locating a restaurant that’s still open takes a while, but we find a crêperie which serves an awesome Roquefort pasta. Besançon is a fortified city in ... read more
River Doubs
Besançon university

Europe » Switzerland » North-East » Zürich June 19th 2019

We get up and walk to the station. We’re going to visit Zurich, which is 10 miles to the north. I purchase 3 return tickets which are so expensive I wonder briefly if I’ve accidentally bought the train. The nice lady in the ticket office explains that she’s giving us tickets to Uetliberg because they’re the same price as Zurich and Uetliberg is a nice place to visit in the mountains. We spend the morning in Zurich, walking along the river to the Fraumünster and over the bridge to the Grossmünster churches then visit the Kunsthaus. It’s a really good art gallery with lots of works by artists the old man has heard of. The rest of my family are philistines; while I wander round enjoying the art, they sit on a bench checking their social ... read more

Europe » Switzerland » North-East » Horgen June 18th 2019

The experiment is over. Time to load the equipment back into the van. After a final trip to the PSI café, we set off for Horgen, a town on the shores of Lake Zürich. The Italians were in charge of loading the pumps but at the first few roundabouts there are creaks and clunks. So we end up in General Electric car park for half an hour resecuring everything. It’s a hot drive – the temperature is pushing 30 degrees so once in Horgen, we head straight for the Sportbad; a 50m open air pool with adjacent lake swimming area. We relax and swim in the pool. Daughter no 2 swims in the lake but I wuss out and make do with sitting semi emerged on the steps. Then we check into our B&B. We’ve been ... read more
Packing up
Sportbad Käpfnach

Europe » Switzerland » North-West » Aargau June 17th 2019

We get up early - we’ve run out of coins for the parking meter. Our room shares a half bathroom with 5 other rooms. It’s a half length bath with a shower head attachment. The old man showers cross legged holding the shower attachment above his head. He says it’s the worst shower he’s ever had. I wouldn’t know – I can’t actually get in and out of the half bath so have to make do with a rub down with a flannel. I can’t get my head round the expense of Switzerland. For our room with 1/6 share of a 1/2 bathroom we are paying £100 a night, plus an additional £2 an hour to park a mile away. We descend the 142 steps to the street, hike back to the van and drive to ... read more
Half a bath
Walk from apartment in Morcote
Morning in Morcote

Europe » Switzerland » South-East » Lugano June 16th 2019

It’s time to start our 900 mile drive home. First stop, brunch in Como. After 4 circuits of town trying to find a parking space, we picnic on the shores of Lake Como. Alessandro Volta, inventor of the battery, was from Como. There is a museum in his honour, Tempio Voltiano, on the shore. Plus you can walk along a jetty to the Life Electric sculpture in the middle of the lake. It’s not a very pleasant walk - both the jetty and the lake are covered in debris. We stroll along the prom until we reach the funicular. From here you can, theoretically, travel 720m up the hillside for a stunning view of the lake. However, the old man declares the queue is too long so we return to the van and continue to our ... read more
Lake Como
Tempio Voltiano
Life Electric monument

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