40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Not a Pool: TWA Hotel

rooftop pool with TWA logo and runway view

TWA Hotel pool. Photos by Gordon Gebert unless otherwise noted.

As the temperature drops this fall, I’m thinking fondly of a summertime outing taken with my coworkers on a hot day this past July. We were treated to a tour of the new TWA Hotel and the magnificent public spaces within the old TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. Our day ended with a long lunch and plenty of time for dunking up on the rooftop pool deck.

The pool is shallow and short so I didn’t even attempt to swim a lap. Rather, it’s a nice place to hang out and watch things flying around the airport and Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which in our case included birds, a gigantic swarm of dragon flies, and airplanes (seen but magically not heard).

Our tour guide told us that the pool would be open year round, though some aspects of the heating plan had yet to be determined. I’d be curious to check it out in the winter, especially if the deck also has some warm spots.

Day visitors are welcome for a fee, but there are no locker rooms and you have to leave a long list of personal items with security, making the whole experience a bit awkward. We loved the spaces and the views, had some bumps with the service just like the New York Times critic, and all agreed we’d go back in a heartbeat.

Here are some more views of the pool area and the rest of the property from this wonderfully memorable day.

table set with pool-themed accessories

Our lunch table complete with pool-themed accessories and TWA wings. Note that everything on the deck is white and there is no shade. We weren’t sure if this was because the project wasn’t completed or they don’t want guests to overstay their welcome up there. (This photo is mine.)

"Connie" on the tarmac

Architect Eero Saarinen’s creation as seen from the pool area atop one of the new hotel wings, with the “Connie” lounge inside a plane salvaged from the Honduran jungle.

three of us in the sun

Nothing says a good day at work like a pool huddle with some of your favorite coworkers. Thanks to Michael for the pic!

lobby lounge

The entire terminal is now public space, open to hotel guests and visitors alike. There’s even free wifi! Check out the beautiful former departure lounge.

departure lounge

Another view of the terminal, in all its sweeping glory.

white walls, red carpet, tunnel with a light at the end

The light at the end of the tunnel: a fantastic promenade sans harried travelers.

curvaceous concrete and bike rack

Curvaceous concrete and bike rack at the terminal entrance. (This photo is by yours truly.)

group photo in stripy room

Let’s hear it for this great team! (Photo by tour guide Kelly.)

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Wodny Park Pool

Amanda and Jack, lookin’ better than ever!

Location: Warsaw, Poland

Configuration: 10 lanes of 50 meters plus recreational pool

Fee: depends; see below

Ever-intrepid pool tourist Amander, aka Amanda, visited our beloved lane-mate Jack in his new home turf of Warsaw, Poland, this past spring. On a gray, drizzly, mid-March day, they ventured to an early morning swim with the Warsaw Masters Team at the Wodny Park Pool to provide this dispatch. I miss swimming with them both — Jack’s relocation coincided more or less with the closure of the pool where we all swam together — and love how their personalities come through in this post, which introduces a dialog-based format to 40 Pools. Not to mention, the pool is gorgeous! 

AmandaJack, how did you discover the team?

Jack: First of all, let me just say how lovely it was to host you, Ms. Amanda! As for team, one of the first things I did when we moved from NYC to Warsaw in February of 2018 was to start looking for a team. WMT is pretty much the only viable option in the city, but I found the whole process quite confusing. The website is in Polish (I didn’t speak a lick when I first got here), the whole structure of the team/payments/practices is different from our NY team, and their system doesn’t accommodate drop-ins the way ours does. In other words, you have to be cleared by the Team Administrator to attend a practice in advance, and I found it very difficult.

In the meantime, I swam in a couple of other pools that were closer to home and my office. It was a truly horrific experience. The pools were nice enough and it was beyond cheap, but there was no order in the pool whatsoever. Even lanes that were marked for faster swimmers had extremely slow sidestrokers in them. And forget about lane etiquette! Poland is a very individualistic society, so no one (even at the masters level) would think to stop at the end of the lane to let you pass no matter how much faster you are. So after several frustrating solo swims (one of which resulted in someone punching me in the water so I may or may not have kicked him in the face), I decided the only way to go was by finding a way to join the team and swimming at the Wodny Park Pool, locally known as “Warsawianka.” 

What did you think of Wodny Park, Amanda?

Swoon! (Yes, Jack, I am insanely jealous.)

Amanda: Plenty of aquatics facilities like to tout their “Olympic” pools, but Wodny Park can legitimately make this claim, at least in terms of size, with ten lanes of 50 meters. Additionally, according to the pool information on the Wodny Park website, “The first-class technical fittings include an electronic Omega timekeeper, an area for judges, commentators and trainers and appropriate lighting and sound systems in the swimming pool hall allowing for sporting competitions and television broadcasting to be performed. The water is maintained at a constant temperature. 600 people may watch sporting competitions in the auditorium at one time.”

Impressive numbers aside, this is a truly beautiful pool. In spite of the dreary early spring weather during my visit, the vaulted ceiling with wooden slats arcing gracefully over a full wall of windows on one side of the facility provided generous natural light. The water was a perfect temperature, and the pool is deep with well-marked lanes. Swimming long course was an extra special treat. And our hosts, the Warsaw Masters Team, were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Although the workout was given entirely in Polish, some very helpful lane-mates translated for us.

Jack, are they always so nice?

Jack: For the most part, yes. As I mentioned before, I had a hard time at first getting “invited” to join the team. My husband had the brilliant idea of basically stalking them – going to the pool while the team was practicing, swimming near them, and then introducing myself to the coach afterwards. It worked like a charm!

Once invited onto the team, most of the men and women could not have been more lovely. The main coaches I swim with, Milena and Patryk, always make sure to take time to explain the set to me in English (I’m the only non-Pole in the water on most days) or they ask one of the better English speakers to help me out. At the end of my first practice, I was even welcomed by one of the guys named Bartek to join them for breakfast and a fruit smoothie he had brought in for the swimmers from home!

Amanda – did you notice anything other than the gorgeous pool in the Wodny Park facility?

Family area with yonder water slides.

Amanda: The facility has so much to offer. There is a separate recreational pool with slides and toys for families; sadly, we did not partake. We also skipped the saunas, steam rooms, “snow cabins,” and solariums, but judging by the photos on Wodny Park’s website, it seems like it would be worth the splurge to pay the 79 Zloty (about US$21) for a full-day ticket to enjoy both the pool and saunas. The locker room, in the usual European fashion, is co-ed in the locker area, with private stalls for changing and single-sex shower areas. It is clean, well-lit, and spacious, with amenities like vanity mirrors and hair dryers. There’s even a bowling alley, spa, and full gym in the space!

Jack, have you tried out the snow cabins or the solariums?

Jack: I have gone to the “Russian Bania” once or twice, which is right off the recreational pool. It was quite an experience. I had assumed going in that it would be a more conservative (i.e., clothed) experience, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Fully nude men, women, and children are all about using the several saunas, steam rooms, ice rooms, and even sunbathing outside on one of two all-nude sun decks. I mean, I’m from freaking Connecticut, you know? This was not normal for me – especially seeing a dad and his 12-year old girl chillin’ naked together in one of the steam rooms! – but when in Warsaw, you know?

Amanda – given all they had to offer, what did you think of the pricing?

Amanda: It’s very reasonable, although it is definitely a better value if you purchase a full day ticket and really take advantage of all the amenities. As a one-time visitor to the facility, I paid for a 2.5-hour single-entry swimming-only ticket for 35 Zloty (about US$9.25). Upon leaving, my ticket was scanned and I was reimbursed for the portion of time on my ticket that I hadn’t used (about 30 minutes). Aside from being a spectacular place to stretch out some sore traveling muscles and enjoy a fun organized workout, it was a really special part of my trip to be able to swim with Jack again and to have a little glimpse into his life in the place he and James are calling home for the next few years. 

Jack, how much did you love having me there??

Amanda: Honestly, it was one of my favorite practices of the year – except for the fact that you are now officially faster than me 100% of the time. Ok, well – we didn’t do any backstroke sets but otherwise you totally owned me!

Seriously though, it was lovely showing you off to my new Polish Team. So happy you came, and to finally be a part of this blog! Thanks Hannah – miss you and hope to swim with you soon!

To close, here are some of Amanda’s views of Warsaw’s Old Town Square, plus a current shot of what we are all missing at John Jay.

pool construction shot

Swamp no more? Reconstruction proceeds at John Jay College. (There’s a broken water pipe somewhere in here.)

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Winter Swimming in England

Thanks to Zoe (pictured at right alongside the Dart) for offering to report on swim conditions from her recent trip. With its year-round outdoor swim culture, England is high on my list of places to covet.

photo: Zoe feeling good after her Boxing Day swim in the River Dart.

Hannah’s suggestion that I visit some outdoor “lidos” during my Christmastime trip to England inspired me to seek out swimming during my vacation. While I didn’t end up swimming in an outdoor lido per se, I had two great swimming experiences.

Lido pronounced “lai-do” is British for swimming pool. Before my arrival in London (from New York), I did some research on winter outdoor lidos in the UK at the Outdoor Swimming Society’s website. A London-based friend directed me to an article, published in The Guardian newspaper in July 2015, on a swimmer’s journey over one weekend across London’s top 10 outdoor pools and ponds. I was fascinated to learn about the vibrant year-round outdoor swim culture in the UK, that also incorporates swimming in ponds and a lake London’s public parks.

In London, I headed to Hyde Park and walked alongside the Serpentine Lake that bisects the park while admiring the rich variety of waterfowl and other birds that inhabit it. Heading west, I arrived at the Serpentine Lido, the area of the lake roped off for the Serpentine Swim Club. The year-round open air swim club is the oldest swimming club in Great Britain. Members swim in the “lido” area between 6:00 and 9:30 every morning and also during its famous Christmas Day race. While I had arrived too late to see any people swimming, it was fun to see the lido and imagine the delights of swimming in this lovely public park.

photo: Serpentine Lake Lido, Hyde Park, London

Serpentine Lake Lido, Hyde Park, London

Hampstead Heath, a public park on a large ancient heath (an open area dominated by low-growing shrubland) in one of the highest points in London, is also well-known for its outdoor swimming. It includes one outdoor swimming pool and three bathing ponds; its Ladies’ Pond and Men’s Ponds are the UK’s only lifeguarded open water swimming facilities open to the public every day of the year. While I was attracted to the idea of swimming in outdoor pond solely for women, the cold water and my unfamiliarity of the park and the pond made me decide against it as the place for my first swim in England.

photo: light-filled 3-lane pool

The restored Art Deco pool at the Marshall Street Leisure Center in the West End of London.

After some online research, I selected as my swim venue the airy and light-filled 30-meter restored Art Deco indoor pool at the Marshall Street Leisure Centre & Spa, in the City of Westminster, in the West End of London. The location and open swim hours worked well with my schedule so I dropped in on a Friday afternoon after a visit to the National Portrait Gallery. The front desk associate was helpful and friendly, and, noting my accent, asked if I was American. I paid about $17.60 to use the pool and spa facilities, a rate that may have been discounted from the official rate for day use. The pool’s six lanes were divided into three sections: slow, medium, and fast. The medium lane turned out to be suitable for my approximately 20-minute swim, a combination of breaststroke, front crawl, and backstroke that seemed a reasonable workout, given that I was out of practice for lap swimming. Sharing the pool with about eight swimmers, my swim was pleasantly uncrowded. It was fun, as a visitor, to be able to use a gym and pool frequented by locals, and I felt grateful that I was allowed to do so. The swim and quick trip to the steam room afterward were welcome diversions from my sightseeing and made me feel more relaxed and open for the rest of my day’s tourist activities.

On Saturday, I boarded the train to Cambridge where I met my sister, Eve, who lives in and runs an interior design firm in the city. The next day, with her partner and son, we drove to Dartmouth, in Devon on the southwest of coast of England, where we met her daughter and eight other people with whom we would spend the next four days over the holiday in a large rented house up a hill above the River Dart. The Dart is an estuary that rises high to the moorlands of Dartmoor and releases into the English Channel at Dartmouth. The sparkling turquoise blue color of the Dart and the area’s mild climate that is hospitable to palm trees made Dartmouth seem almost tropical, amid the intermittent fog and drizzling rain.

photo: palm trees

A public park with palm trees in Dartmouth, England.

photo: riverside houses

Dartmouth on the River Dart in Devon in the southwest of England.

Swimming, it turns out, is a Christmas Day tradition in the United Kingdom, so on the holiday, I followed my fellow houseguest Tristan to the beach and watched him peel down to his trunks and swim far out toward the mouth of the turquoise river. Tristan told me that he always likes to swim when he’s on vacation. I promised myself that I would go for a swim the next day, which was Boxing Day in the UK. After breakfast the next morning, Tristan, another fellow houseguest Jon, and I set out downhill for the beach, accompanied by three others from our group. With the tide receding, we waded over a rocky bottom to deeper water with a soft sandy bottom, and then, screaming and yelling, we plunged in, while our companions cheered us on from a high point above the water. The river water was quite cold but not icy, and the outside temperature was about 50 Fahrenheit. I played with my fantasy of Dartmouth and England as a tropical paradise as I swam front and backstrokes and tasted the salty water, which Tristan noted was diluted with the onrushing freshwater draining down from the hillside into the river. We stayed in for just a few minutes and then ran out. After a wonderfully warm shower at the house, I was ready for an afternoon walk with my family members and newfound friends, who had generously shared this lovely part of the country and swimming in it, with me.

photo: Tristan swimming in the Dart on Christmas Day.

Tristan swimming in the Dart on Christmas Day.

Swimming, I learned, is an exceptional way to immerse myself in a culture and make a connection with people and a place. I returned from my trip energized and inspired, and excited for more swimming adventures in the new year.

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#99: MIT Zesiger Center

MIT pool - long viewLocation: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Configuration: 12 lanes of 25 yards plus diving well; 50 meters long in total

Fee: $10 day pass with non-MIT student ID, $15 day pass without student ID

A work event brought me to Boston in late September, so I seized the opportunity to try out pool #99 for a Friday night workout with MIT Tech Masters. What a good choice this was! The MIT Zesiger Center pool turned out to be the nicest indoor facility I’ve swum in on the East Coast. Opened in 2002, it still feels and looks brand new. The temperature was perfect, underwater visibility incredible, and my times faster than usual. If there had been a hot tub on deck, I’d probably still be there.

Coach Bill welcomed me to the workout, the club’s first on a Friday night since the spring. I shared a lane with just one other swimmer and somehow ended up doing about 14 laps of butterfly and 12 of breaststroke during the workout. Ouch!

The existence of a second pool (upper right) didn’t even tempt me, this one was so nice.

MIT pool artSwimming in the shallow end had the added benefit of proximity to a multipart art installation by Matthew Ritchie. The view at left, taken from the hallway outside the pool, is not as good as the one from within. Every time I breathed facing that window, I tried to figure out if it was a giant equation or other key to the universe. MIT takes its public art seriously, with a Percent-for-Art program of which this piece is just one example.

If the pool is any indication, sports facilities are taken seriously too — even though MIT is Division III. I wish schools in New York could do the same.

 

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Hafnarfjörður, Iceland

Amanda’s summer 2017 return visit to Iceland brought her to many Westfjords pools, which you can check out in her photo essay. Herein, she tackles Reykjavík, site of some of our previous exploits. Due to the “no photography” policy posted at all of these pools, she’s listed links to the websites for the facilities, which include images. The photographs below are hers. 

After a spectacular road trip around the Westfjords, we ended our 2017 Icelandic vacation with several days in and around Reykjavík, which in turn provided opportunities to visit a few more pools. My first stop was a return to Laugardalslaug, site of the IGLA Championships in 2012 that first brought me to Iceland. Unsurprisingly on a beautiful summer day, the outdoor pools and hot pots were crowded, but I had the indoor pool essentially to myself and enjoyed a nice long-course workout. I thought that the sight guides on the ceiling were a new addition, but photographic evidence from this blog proves me wrong. Nonetheless, swimming backstroke here remains a challenge. Most importantly, we did not leave the complex without a joyous trip down the waterslide, which was just as much fun as I remembered.

We spent a few lazy days at our friends’ summer house in the village of Borg, about one hour east of Reykjavík. Borg’s swimming pool is connected to an athletic complex featuring a gym, soccer fields, basketball courts, and a playground. Our 1000kr (US$9.30) entry fee gave us access to 4x25m outdoor lanes, one designated for lap swimming, two hot pots, a kiddie pool, and a basic (especially compared to the one at Laugardalslaug) waterslide. I found this pool unremarkable except for an epic meltdown by a young girl in the locker room, complete with crying, screaming, and the slamming of bathroom doors.

spectacularly blue waterfall

The spectacularly blue Brúarfoss, found not far from Borg.

What I did find remarkable was a pool in the quaint Reykjavík suburb of Hafnarfjörður, a picturesque harbor town and the third-largest city in Iceland, with 30,000 inhabitants. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Hafnarfjörður is that it is essentially built into the lava, with its well-kept houses, yards, and streets nestled carefully among hardened lava flows.

flowers

Some landscaping among the lava flows in Hafnarfjörður.

The city of Hafnarfjörður boasts three swimming facilities. We visited one: Suðurbæjarlaug. The 1100kr (US$10.25) entry fee included towel rental, which was convenient because we had walked there from where we were staying in Garðabær. The swimming facility is edged by a beautiful dark wood-paneled building, with a 5x25m outdoor pool with marked and roped lane lines for lap swimming connected to a smaller open swimming area. This large pool is also connected to an indoor pool, separated by a wall above the water, so you could swim under the wall and into the indoor section. It must be terribly convenient on rainy or snowy winter days.

At most of the pools we visited in Iceland, if anyone was using the designated lap-swimming lane it was usually only to swim a few leisurely laps before retreating to one of the hot pots. Suðurbæjarlaug was the only pool where I saw several serious lap swimmers with caps, goggles, and “toys” like fins and kickboards. There are also starting blocks, so my guess is that this is regularly used as a competition pool. As much as I enjoyed coming across this ideal set-up for swimming proper sets, I tried to keep my workout short so as not to get in the way of the locals.

The outdoor area at Suðurbæjarlaug also featured three hot pots and a cold pot, a kiddie pool, two waterslides, a steam room, as well as gender-specific nude steam rooms. The main locker room was spacious with full-size lockers, mirrors, and hair dryers. But one of my favorite features was the open-air locker room. When it’s available, I always opt for an outdoor shower. There is something especially pleasing about showering with an open sky above you. The presence of a neighborhood swimming facility like Suðurbæjarlaug makes it easy to understand why Iceland repeatedly ranks high in happiness measures.

A lovely street in Hafnarfjörður

A lovely street in Hafnarfjörður.

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Iceland’s Westfjords Pools

Amanda and I loved exploring pools and cultural attractions in Iceland in 2012. I was thrilled when she asked about writing for the blog in advance of a return visit with her husband and two Icelandic friends last summer. As if we needed more convincing, her photo essay provides full evidence of Icelanders’ love for the pool. Stay tuned for a separate post about the pool in Hafnafjordur, outside Reykjavik, which was her favorite of the whole trip.

The (very short) list of “stuff” that we would need for our trip to the Westfjords of Iceland included this bullet point: “Swimming gear! Let’s hit every pool in every town. Goal.”

Photo of waterfall in distance behind fields

Water, water everywhere. A roadside waterfall on day one of our Westfjords road trip. Photo by César Martínez.

I was 100% on board with this plan. My first trip to Iceland in 2012 included visits to several of the pools featured among the original 40 of this blog, and I have since remained a big fan of the country and the people, due in no small part to their passionate pool culture. Since I had already volunteered to provide some guest posts for 40 Pools, I was grateful that my fellow travelers shared in my enthusiasm to visit local pools in the Westfjords.

Photo of green hills

A typical Westfjords view. Photo by César Martínez.

In fact, a pool was on the itinerary for our very first day of travel, with a planned stop at the pool where Einar’s grandmother learned to swim. Attached to the Hotel Reykjanes, this pool has two things that are remarkable: it is large (50m long and 12.5m across), and it is geothermally heated to quite a hot temperature. It was not difficult to imagine Einar’s grandmother, along with everyone else in town, splashing around in this giant “hot tub” while enjoying the spectacular views of the surrounding fjord.

Amanda underwater with bubbles

Taking a dip in the heated pool at Hotel Reykjanes. Photo by César Martínez.

Steamy fields and water

Geothermal steam rising from the grounds outside Hotel Reykjanes. Photo by César Martínez.

Spectacular views quickly became a theme as we continued to check Westfjords swimming pools off our list. I had planned to swim some laps when possible, but in many cases this proved difficult, as the pools were oddly sized and usually only had one or two lap lanes available. Not to mention that most were far too warm for a proper workout.

Sketch of pool

An example of odd pool dimensions from the public pool in Suðureyri.

The pool in Suðureyri was packed with local families on a beautiful Westfjords summer day, with plentiful sunshine and temperatures in the high 60s. It indeed seemed that the entire town was there, some splashing in the small swimming pool and others lounging in one of the three hot pots. Given the strict rules about bathing properly before swimming in Iceland, I was surprised to see the largest hot pot full of small children eating popsicles while their parents enjoyed miniature cups of coffee from a dispenser on the pool deck.

Pool view

Photo by César Martínez.

We discovered a true gem of a pool in Patreksfjörður. The complex was clearly recently built, with a 16.5m five-lane pool, complete with lane lines painted on the bottom, as well as the customary three hot pots, on a deck with truly breathtaking views of the fjord. We timed our visit to coincide with summer’s extended dusk and puzzled over the Lonely Planet’s description of the town as “unattractive.” A full gym is attached to the pool complex, with a number of trophies from regional swim competitions on display in the hallways, one of the only pools we visited that seemed to offer a competitive swim program.

Hot tub and scenery

Dusk over Patreksfjörður.

Twilight view

Dusk over Patreksfjörður. Photo by César Martínez.

Eerie black and white image

The moonscape on the drive between Bíldudalur and Tálknafjörður. Photo by César Martínez.

That said, we completed our circuit of Westfjords pools with a beautiful competition pool in Tálknafjörður, featuring five 25m lanes with painted lane lines and starting blocks. By the time we arrived at 8:00 in the evening, the shade of the setting sun was beginning to encroach on most of the facility, so we didn’t enjoy basking in the hot pots as much as we had in Patreksfjörður, but what this pool lacked in atmosphere and views it made up for with a spectacular water slide.

talknafjordur hot pots

Raudasandur beach

Iceland also has beautiful beaches. Here’s the photographer on Rauðasandur (“red sand beach”).

Snow-capped mountains in distance

On the Snaefellsnes peninsula, on the road back to Reykjavík. Photo by César Martínez.

Westfjords map

Iceland’s Westfjords

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#98: Richmond Plunge

full length of pool

Location: Richmond, California

Configuration: 8 lanes of 25 yards plus shorter shallow lanes

Fee: $6 for non-residents

I thought I’d found pool heaven at Hansborough in Harlem, but it turns out that there is an even bigger, more light-filled pool paradise across the bay from San Francisco in Richmond, California. It’s the Richmond Plunge, which I visited on a sunny September Friday morning with local pool blogger Dave, who is a regular here on weekends. What a treat!

exterior with MUNICIPAL AUDITORIUM sing

If only NYC’s Riverbank State Park had been built 70 years earlier, it might be showier, like this. The tunnel to the left leads to Keller Beach.

I’ve been unable to find an exact definition of this sense of “plunge,” but it seems to imply a cavernous, indoor, public pool built in the first half of the twentieth century, for both swimming and socializing, and situated near the California coast and likely near a train, too. The Richmond Plunge, opened in this bustling port and railroad town in 1926, ticks all these boxes. In fact, I first saw the building on my last trip to California, on the way to Keller Beach.

We had to wait a while out front for the pool to open due to a late lifeguard, something all too familiar to Riverbank swimmers a few years ago. The regulars who were gathered were reminiscent of Riverbank, too–a diverse slice of local life–making me speculate that perhaps my public pool of choice would have turned out like this if only it had been built 70 years earlier.

high ceiling above pool

How about that natural light and fresh air?

Once inside, I changed in the vintage locker room and paced the deck to fully take in the marvelous structure. The lights weren’t even turned on, all the better to appreciate the beams of sunshine streaming in from the east through windows that actually open.

The north half of the pool was set up with 8 x 25-yard lanes, and it was uncrowded enough that circle swimming wasn’t necessary. There was shorter-distance lap swimming without lane lines in the other end. The water had a silky quality due to the saline treatment system that was installed during a major renovation/rebuilding earlier this decade and is touted for its environmental sensitivity.

The San Francisco Bay Trail is adding new travel and recreational options for the area, which is part of a historic district in a town that’s seen some rough times. Anchored by this exemplary public amenity, and with a number of parks, museums, and historic sites nearby, Richmond and its plunge seem to have a bright future in store. I certainly hope to be back, especially now that my count of nearby nephews has doubled.

women's locker room windows

Simple yet classy locker rooms.

mural

This mural, based on a nearby park, was added during the recent renovation.

Hannah and Dave

Thanks to Dave for facilitating this pool visit.

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Piscine Blomet a Paris

Lisa Lisa’s European vacation was not limited to Munich. Ever the diligent pool tourist, she also traveled to Paris and filed the following report. (To all other pool tourists and would-be correspondents out there, yes, 40 Pools welcomes guest entries from you, too!)

long view of the pool

Photo courtesy of TNYA member Ed, who also visited Paris recently.

Location: Rue Blomet, Paris, France (15th Arrondissement)

Configuration: Five 50-meter lanes, subject to rearrangement

Fee: €3, approximately $3.20

According to the New York Times, Paris has 38 municipal pools, but I only managed to visit one during my whirlwind trip to France. However, what I lost in quantity I made up for in quality.

After saying auf Wiedersehen to the Olympia Schwimmhalle, I took a side trip to visit TNYA mates John and Mingwei, who are halfway through a three-year Paris posting. And whenever/wherever TNYAs get together, there is swimming to be had.

sign: Paris Piscines BlometOn my first day in France, Mingwei and I walked over to their local pool, the Piscine Blomet. (John claimed to have to work. However; given the number of times I have seen them in the pool together, I still hold that the boys are only in possession of one suit between them.)

The Piscine Blomet is trés magnifique, a five-lane, 50-meter Parisian beauty. Entry is obtained for a mere €3, with another €1 required for changing room deposit. (Note to self: I owe Mingwei €1.) The locker room, as in Germany, is co-ed.

France’s national motto of liberté, égalité, fraternité is nowhere more evident than in this pool. With one lane set aside for the local team, and another strangely formatted into two 25-meter halves (see top image, left), the remaining three lanes were available to anyone, regardless of speed or ability. My lane-mates included a grand-mère, two débutants, one backstroker inorganisé, and that aggressive triathlete guy you find in every pool. Mingwei opted for the 25-meter area, knowing it was less populated.

Getting by anyone was accomplished via passing, turning, swimming over, swimming under, or any combination thereof. This was common, and expected. The traditional foot-touch signal must have lost meaning in translation, as this rendered no response at all.

As someone who is usually the slowest in the lane, I did experience un petit frisson in passing so many fellow swimmers. However, this quickly wore off, and I debated the option of joining Mingwei in the 25-meter area. I’ve followed him in the lane for years, after all, and can attest that it is a comfortable place to be. But before I could make the move to the familiar territory, the gendarme blew the whistle and we were required to clear the pool.

Mingwei promised croissants for breakfast, and so begins a typical day in Paris. C’est la vie!

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Throwback Thursday: Olympia Schwimmhalle

Inspired by posts covering the pools from the Sydney and Montreal Olympic Games, pool tourism comrade Lisa Lisa petitioned for a guest spot to cover her favorite competition venue, the Olympia Schwimmhalle in Munich. I was more than happy to oblige! I love the architecture of this place, which I’ve only seen from a bus window–and from knockoffs like Vassar College’s pool. Her post exemplifies one of my favorite themes, namely, what lasting memories pools make. Future guest entries welcome!

snow-covered SchwimmhalleLocation: Olympiapark, Munich, West Germany (in 1985)/Germany (in 2016)

Configuration: 9-lane 50-meter pool, with separate platform and springboard diving area

Fee: see below

Germany has hosted the Olympic Games twice, in Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972, and neither the XI nor the XX Olympiad was without incident. The 1936 Olympics were the first to be televised, and the leader at the time manipulated the media to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy. (Sounds familiar? No comment.) In an effort to counteract this negativity, the 1972 Olympics strove toward an ideal of openness and freedom, unfortunately leaving the athletes’ village open to a terrorist attack. This was also televised. The world watched it all, and I was no exception.

As a gymnast, swimmer (see pool #13), and Fräulein, I was obsessed by these Olympic Games, and the competition at Munich was tremendous. Gymnast Olga Korbut was the darling of the games (at age 17; practically geriatric). Mark Spitz went on a medal-winning streak that was not topped until 2008. The East Germans won everything–and later got busted for it. And I inaugurated a fantasy of swimming in an indoor venue that wasn’t dark, cold, or dingy.

Munich Schwimmhalle front doorMy fantasy was fulfilled in 1985, when my sister and I made a pilgrimage to the Olympia Schwimmhalle while I was participating in a junior year abroad. Munich is a city that has truly Munich Schwimmhalle price listmade use of its Olympic venue, and many local masters’ teams are lucky enough to call the Schwimmhalle their home. Visitors are welcome, and my sister–also a member of the esteemed Sandpiper Swim Team (and now a bona fide pool tourist)–and I were excited to check it out. My picture is blurry (likewise my memory), but as a college student on a budget, I can’t imagine we paid more than 10 Deutschmarks some 30 years ago.

I can say with certainty that at the time, it was the most spectacular pool in which I had ever swum. It snowed the day we arrived, covering the “sails” of the venue with a light dusting and providing a picture-perfect Bavarian image (upper right).

The pool itself had more than 3 lanes, a rarity in our world, and to be able to swim and see the light of day concomitantly was a feat previously unheard of.Olympia Schwimmhalle interior

hair dryer at perfect height for author

Editor’s note: A hair dryer that is the right height for Lisa Lisa may be low for many of us.

sisters in the locker room

Pool tourists investigate the co-ed locker rooms, 1985 style.

The hair dryers were at the perfect height, something I have been unable to find anywhere else. And what’s that guy doing in the women’s locker room? As it turned out, the locker room was co-ed, with patrons paying a deposit for a private changing cubby in a large hall, open to anyone.

Finally, the Olympic gods/German engineers ensured that the water temperature was perfect, the lockers pristine, and the pool Band-aid and hairball free. Yes, 1985 was a very good year.

But so was 2016–for pool tourism, at least. Remember when I said the Olympic Schwimmhalle was the most spectacular pool in which I have even swum? Well, it still is, and I know for sure because I recently popped over to the Schwimmhalle for a repeat visit.Olympia Schwimmhalle today

sign in 2016two photos from 2016: hair dryers and locker roomNot much has changed since 1985. (Well, they did get a new sign, at right.) The pool was as clean and beautiful as I remembered. The grounds were immaculate and accessible. The locker rooms were still co-ed. The painted lane lines were as dark and clear as the days when Mark Spitz stroked over them. The hair dryers remained at the perfect height, albeit more modern.

One thing that changed is the price, since Germany bid auf Wiedersehen to the Deutschmark in 1999. The current price, €3.20, is the equivalent to $3.50.

In keeping with my travel trend, I look forward to returning to the Olympia Schwimmhalle in another 31 years.

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#94 and #95: Olympic Training and Competition Pools, Centre Sportif, Montreal

Competition pool

Location: Olympic Park, Montreal

Configuration: Two 50-meter pools, one with 5 lanes (the training pool) and one configured with oodles of 25-meter lanes across (the competition pool)

Fee: CA$6.50 plus tax, or a bit under US$5

Many of my fellow Americans are clamoring for information about Canada, and 40 Pools is here to assure you that there is good pool swimming to be had in our friendly neighbor to the north.

How do I know? I visited Montreal last month over the U.S. Columbus Day weekend and swam in the pool complex from the 1976 Olympic Games, now the Centre Sportif. Through researching the schedule I realized that my trip encompassed a national holiday, Action de Grâces–aka Canadian Thanksgiving. This tidbit provided helpful focus to the holiday weekend, and I timed my visit to swim in two pools for the price of one.

The swim competition at the XXI Olympiad benefited from a number of now-standard pool innovations, including an extra lane on either side of the 8 lanes of competition and turbulence-damping gutters to ensure the smoothest swim experience possible. While gymnast Nadia Comaneci was racking up the perfect 10s and the former Bruce Jenner broke his own decathlon records to become the “world’s greatest athlete,” the East German and American women duked things out in the pool. The U.S. women’s only gold came in a dramatic upset in the 4×100 relay [video]. (Host Canada took bronze behind the East Germans.)

Montreal Tower by the Centre Sportif

Montreal Tower by the Centre Sportif

I was very excited to take in these waters, my second Olympic pool experience. (The first was in Sydney.) Though the weather was dreary, anticipation built as we wandered through the Olympic complex, the first to have its swim hall connected to the Olympic stadium.

My swim started in the training pool, which paralleled the competition pool in a side room. It lacked the bright, inspirational feel of the main pool but had some nice touches such as its tiles and cutaways in the ceiling to reveal the underside of the bleachers. Although I was more rapide than most of the patrons, I placed myself among the moyen, where there was better lane etiquette.

training pool

Training pool

I got in a nice warm-up before this pool closed and we all shuffled over to the main event, the fully renovated competition pool. It’s looking and running great at 40! Cool temperature, crystal-clear water, a nice wall surface, skylights, motivational decor, a view of warm-ups for a diving competition, and my very own lane added up to a perfect swim experience.

25-meter lanes across the competition pool.

25-meter lanes across the competition pool

Banners tout the laurels of the aquatic facilities: 7 pools, more than 9 millions liters of water, and more than 40,000 dives and 1,000 water polo matches per year. With lap lanes open more than 80 hours per week, this is the place to be for Québécois swimmers.

After my swim, we watched a bit more diving–up to 10 meters! We didn’t make it to the exhibit of 40th anniversary Olympic exhibit due to rain and other sightseeing plans. Imagining the excitement was easy enough.

diving pool

Plongeons!

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