40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

#105: Roberto Clemente State Park

RCSP pool and deckLocation: Morris Heights, Bronx, New York

Configuration: 50 meters by 25 yards

Fee: $2

This state-run outdoor pool opened in early July. Unlike its Manhattan cousin, Riverbank, Roberto Clemente State Park pool does not have designated lap swim times. However, on a quiet day you can swim to your heart’s content. My summer pool buddy Alex was having good swims up there, so at his urging I ventured north on Saturday, July 11, arriving for the 9:30 opening and knocking out 5,000 short course yards. Even though the temperature was in the upper 80s, the pool was empty enough that I had barely any interference. Toward the end of my swim I moved to the far (south) end where there aren’t black lines to follow, but there was a seam that kept me straight as I crossed the long course markings. I was thrilled.

Post-swim selfie

How happy was I after 5,000?!

More recently, I’ve heard that the pool is not always staffed enough to open fully, and that the turnout has been higher, so be warned that you might not get your laps in.

Even so, it’s a nice place to hang out with spacious bleachers, a snack bar and picnic tables right off the pool deck, and entertainment in the form of fearless youngsters in the diving pool and spray park.

Hand and wirstband

The magic wristband. Pro tip: put it on tight so it doesn’t bug you when you swim.

There are many concessions to the pandemic. For one, make very sure that you arrive with your bathing suit on and that you’ll be able to show it easily more than once. (Actually, that might happen anyway.) The changing rooms are closed, and the showers are on the deck. Only if you have to use a toilet do you go inside. Your entry fee gets you a wristband that is snipped when you leave: only one entry per session. Hours are reduced from the normal summer schedule to 9:30-1:00 and 2:30-6:00. You’re not supposed to bring a bag, although I did and so did the people who entered in front of me. The wading pool is not opening.

Roberto Clemente statue

This statue by the entrance, whose sponsor I am not endorsing, gives a glimpse of the park’s scenic Harlem River-front location. Swindler cover in Manhattan is across the way.

This park, which abuts the Bronx’s tallest buildings — the nearly 1,700-unit River Park Towers housing complex — was the state’s first within New York City, opening in 1973. Soon named for the famed baseball player who died young in a plane crash during a humanitarian trip in 1972, it has been renovated and refreshed in intervening years. North of the pool complex is a lovely waterfront area that serves multiple purposes: greenway, passive and active recreation space, wildlife habitat, flood mitigation, and rainwater filtration. I also found it to be a fine changing area to get out of my wet suit before the ride home.

If you are coming here by bike from the south, note that online mapping directions have you use the Major Deegan service road. Do not get on the actual expressway. (Right, Brad?) A later stretch along the waterfront brings you to a parking garage that seems to have no way out, but miraculously a gate will open and deposit you by the pool. Enjoy.

Another view of the pool

The diving well is at upper right. I didn’t go up there — it opened late into my visit — but bet it has a great view.

Spray zone

Who doesn’t love a giant spray park?

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103 and 104: The Club at the Claremont

lounge area within poolLocation: Oakland, California

Configuration: One 25-meter pool, one 25-yard pool, plus hot tub and kiddie pool

Fee: Members and hotel guests only

Here’s a throwback Thursday look at an incredible facility in the Bay Area.

I was graciously permitted to join in a masters practice at the Claremont during a trip in February. While this hotel and club rightly boasts “rich history and elegance since 1915,” what now qualifies this post for throwback status is the facility’s temporary but lengthening closure, since late March, due to COVID-19.

north wing of the Claremont Hotel

Here’s the north wing of the hotel and, to its left, the club and spa areas I visited.

This castle-esque structure sits on a hill rising out of Oakland and Berkeley, and I’d long admired it from afar. A couple of years ago, an East Coast friend was going to be staying there right after I was in the area, so I dropped off something for her at the hotel desk and got a quick peak around the grounds. Pool coveting ensued.

For my February trip, I looked at splurging on a stay at the Claremont but dithered and the rates shot up — and I was happy to end up at the Berkeley City Club instead. The Claremont website clearly states that visitors aren’t allowed at the Club, which includes the pool, but just in case I reached out to the masters coach. After a while I received approval to join a practice on Valentine’s Day! What’s more, the workout would be coached by Suzie, a fellow open water lover I came to know years ago.

training pool

Training pool.

Thrilled that my name was on the manager’s list, I ascended Claremont Avenue and walked through the parking area to the spa. Check-in was an exercise in agreement: Would I be using the towels and locker room? Would I like a robe? Yes, yes, yes!

On Suzie’s advice, I’d arrived a bit early, so I stretched out a bit in the 25-meter pool in my own lane, of course. Over in the 25-yard pool for the masters practice, I enjoyed the company of jocular swimmers and Suzie’s technique-focused workout. Both pools were crystal clear saline, with a minor temperature variation between the two. They had digital pace clocks and plenty of gear, plus a hot tub for apres swim.

view from the pool deck

The view on the pool deck.

It’s hard to say what I liked best, but it just might be the view. From the training pool, you looked into a wooded residential area. From the deck, it was down into Berkeley and out toward San Francisco Bay. My photos don’t do any of it justice. Had I not been meeting my brother and family at a delicious bakery nearby soon after my swim, I could have easily enjoyed a long, comfy, umbrella-shaded lounge on the deck.

Months later, we have no idea when previously common activities like cross-country travel will resume, let alone indulgences like luxury resorts. Thanks for the memories.

 

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#92: Pound Ridge Town Pool

Pound Ridge pool complexLocation: Pound Ridge, Westchester, New York

Configuration: 6 x 25 meters in the lap pool

Fee: Guest of resident

The Pound Ridge Town Pool is one of those places that feels disconnected from the world, as if the sky here were perpetually blue and the water the same, just the right temperature, and never crowded. If you are able to get in either by being a resident or a resident’s guest, you can swim, lounge, eat, socialize, and play table tennis and air hockey here to your heart’s content.

10 pass guest card

me and dad

Me and my dad.

I visited with my friend Naomi and her mother, Ethel, over Labor Day weekend. A regular all summer, Ethel had three guest visits left on her pool card, and she kindly shared them with the two of us and my dad. We chose partially shaded lounge chairs by the nearly empty lap pool and whiled away a couple of hours. At some point a pool pal of Ethel’s joined us. I swam just 1,000 meters, realizing in the process that the pool was a wee bit longer than 25 yards. The rest of our group did some laps too, some for the first time in years and years. That’s how otherworldly the experience was!

The lap pool is also the diving and competition pool. Just two lane lines were in, but the lifeguards kindly let us overflow into the rest of the pool as needed, even though it was signed as closed. No problems here. Most other people frolicked in the shallow pool and lounged closer to the snack bar.

Naomi’s family moved here when she was in elementary school. She swam here in the summers during her childhood but hadn’t been back for ages. Still, she was able to find some names she recognized in the trophy case. The 1970s high dive records would seem to be especially secure given that the high dive has been removed. Back in the day, she said, there was always a long line for the high dive and people really got the business if they didn’t jump. Somehow I can’t imagine anyone getting the business here now.

 trophy case

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#90 & #91: Eriksdalsbadet

empty pool

Eurogames competition pool. Photo by Janet.

Location: Skanstull, Stockholm

Configuration: Indoor 50 x 25- and 25 x 25-meter pools with lots and lots of lanes. More pools outdoors that I didn’t swim in.

Fee: 90 kronor for a regular visit, lots more for Eurogames meet entry

Dear Eriksdalsbadet,

Please accept my apology for taking so long–three months!–to write about your wonders. You have so much to offer. If only we had met under different circumstance, it would have been magical. Unfortunately, Eurogames got in our way.

highway over Eriksdalsbadet

Just like the highway above it, Eriksdalsbadet goes on and on. Hints of its nearly 100-year-old history as a swim site are scant.

It’s awesome that the tradition of swimming on your site goes back to the closed waterworks in the 1920s, although I wish there were more traces left from those days. Still, I get that the Swedish national team needed a cutting-edge training facility–and how exciting was it that your very own Sarah Sjöström was off in China breaking world records during our visit?! (Do your pros really like the water that warm? It sure got hot with the afternoon and then evening sun streaming in.)

I was psyched to beat some of my times from Iceland ever so slightly during the three-day competition. True, I was wearing a $190 technical suit thanks to my team’s new sponsorship deal with Speedo, but I’m sure your infinity gutters, deep water, and normal ceiling played a role.

48500010

Speed slide (right) and lazy river slide.

The tiered showers in the locker room are a great idea–people’s heights vary, so why shouldn’t shower heights vary, too? I also really enjoyed the water slides, once they reopened after some undisclosed incident the first day. The split clock added a whole new dimension to our sliding. Try as I might, I could not break 9 seconds to match my teammates’ times on the fastest slide. Perhaps my technical suit was not optimized for this purpose?

Yonder outdoor pool and grassy lawn.

An early morning view of yonder 50-meter outdoor pool and giant grassy lawn, which all filled up with Stockholmers on these beautiful days.

How about the outdoor pools? I only made it as far as the lawn, since we’d been told that our meet entry did not cover the outdoor part of the complex and I was all pooled out anyway. The natives sure seemed to enjoy themselves out there–and the warm, sunny weather that came with us to Stockholm.

Of course, the competition was fierce. Our TNYA contingent alone was more than 80 swimmers, divers, and water polo players strong. The combination of many of my favorite people traveling to one my favorite places to participate in one of my favorite activities seemed like a guaranteed success.

25-meter pool

25-meter pool, used for warm-ups and cool-downs during our meet.

The lead-up to Eurogames–a major international competition that required signup months in advance and significant travel by most participants–should have given me pause. First the meet was going to be four days, then it switched to three. The registration site flummoxed some of my very intelligent teammates and me. (In fact, I almost got pulled from a couple events due to not having seed times with my entries. I thought I had entered times, mind you, and would have gladly provided them had anyone asked in the intervening months.) Important details such as the event schedule were scant and poorly communicated. All along, though, I reassured myself that everything would go off without a hitch in ever-so-organized Sweden. How organized? This is a place where all the bus stations have countdown clocks and the grocery store check-out conveyors are split by a chute so that a customer who is slow to gather her wares does not impede the person behind her in line. For example.

Smörgåsbord

I swam extra-hard in my 1500 so I wouldn’t be late for this smörgåsbord at my favorite building in Stockholm, Stadshuset. It was a model of efficiency, with hundreds of people enjoying Swedish delicacies and hospitality simultaneously. Photo by Janet.

Things went downhill as the meet drew near. Just a couple days before the start, the meet director realized that the time allocated was impossibly short given the number of competitors. How this was not clear from the data the moment registration closed is beyond me. The “solution” at this late stage was to drop the slowest and no-time entrants from all events and to limit options for distance freestyle swimmers such as myself. Many participants and teams raised a ruckus about these changes, given the long tradition of inclusion in our competitions, and so the schedule was changed yet again and all entrants were reinstated. The catch was that the meet would run loooong, a situation exacerbated by failure to implement various efficiencies such as fly-over starts. Also, the reconfigured schedule had the 800 and 1500 back-to-back. I decided that would be too much at the end of a loooong day so did just the 1500 with the consolation that my 800 split would be recorded. As far as I can tell, that did not happen.

In a different setting–a developing nation, or a culture less known for precision–I would have taken it all in stride. However, because I hold Sweden to such a high standard, because I wanted more free time to enjoy the rest of the city, and because 80 of my friends were watching and griping, the failures large and small were major disappointments.

But, like I said, you’re a nice pool. With a few months’ perspective, I’m clearly still frustrated that the experience could have been even better, but those are the breaks. There were plenty of highlights, and I’m very, very glad to have had the excuse to check out some new water, swim in a technical suit, and visit some old friends and old haunts along with one of Stockholm’s newest museums.

Next time, I’ll make sure that we have more quality time together (not quantity). Until then, thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Hannah

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#89: Vanadisbadet

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vanadisbadet2014.jpg

Courtesy Vanadisbadet 2014

Location: Vasastan, Stockholm

Configuration: 4 striped 25-meter lanes

Fee: 90 kronor, just under $11 at the current, strong exchange rate

The day before the meet, I was overdue for some pool time. Following the recommendation of a local, I wandered into a hilly park in central Stockholm for 7:00 p.m. lap swimming at Vanadisbadet.

The time was the same as night owl lap swimming in Manhattan, but that was about the only similarity. There was no drama at the transition time from open swim to laps, and the existence of both lockers and lifeguards was subtle if they were in fact there at all. Remarkably, even in this Nordic climate, the pool has a much longer season than New York’s outdoor pools, which closed last Monday even though our summer heat continues. (Yes, I am whining.) Vanadisbadet’s season runs from May 1 until September 15, and lap swimming–“motion” or exercise swimming–is offered daily from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

Like so many of my favorite pools, this one dates to the 1930s, 1938 to be precise. Stockholm’s first outdoor electrically heated pool, Vanadis takes its name from its host park, named for the goddess of fertility, also known as Freja. A popular swim place for decades, it closed in 2007. Various plans were floated in the years that followed, but ultimately a simple renovation prevailed, and the pool reopened for the 2014 season. The Google Earth view led me to expect water slides, however, that must be an older picture because they are not there.

What is there? Two smaller pools in addition to the lap pool, all about the same warmish temperature; beautiful outcroppings from a former quarry; lounge chairs for rent; a café; poolside showers aplenty; and great views over the city. The evening sun made long shadows across the deck.

My swim was lovely. The few other people who swam in my lane all kept a good pace and showed proper pool etiquette. I stretched out about a mile and decided that was enough, given the upcoming early morning starting the first of three days of the meet.

If you make a visit, I highly recommend also stopping at the nearby Stadsbibliotek or City Library (1928), a masterpiece by the architect Gunnar Asplund. Its gradually sloping entry, outside and in, transports you into a veritable shrine to books. It was also very exciting to find a room devoted to mysteries, with all of my favorite Swedish authors in their native language.

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#71: Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre

indoor 50m pool

Can you find the 14 diving boards?

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Configuration: 10 lanes x 50 meters in both indoor and outdoor pools

Fee: Normally AUD7.40, but we got charged a higher rate for family fun day

MSAC, as it is known, offers just about every kind of aquatic opportunity imaginable: indoor 75-meter pool that can be configured as a 50-meter competition pool and a 25-meter diving pool with 14 diving boards, outdoor 50-meter competition pool, wave pool, water slide, a “flow rider” for practicing surfing, hydrotherapy pools, and hot tubs. Are we missing anything?

Outdoor pool

Outdoor pool with adjustable floor.

It sounds like swim paradise, but trying to get from one area to another was an exercise in frustration. Of the 71 pools I’ve visited in the past two years, none was so confounding: Locked doors, roped-off walkways, turnstiles, gates, and signs prevented you from taking a logical route from one pool to another. Making matters worse, I left my bathers  in the car (this was a day of many swims; please forgive me) so I had to make extra exit and reentry trips through this maddening morass, and it wasn’t any easier the second time. I was also disappointed that the outdoor pool’s adjustable bottom was raised to make it a wading pool for family fun, meaning we’d have to swim indoors.

entry

Don’t let this well-delineated entrance fool you. It’s a maze inside.

Some of the navigational challenges may stem from the construction history. The indoor pools opened with the rest of this massive sports facility in 1997. Turns out they weren’t enough, and in 2006 the outdoor pool and grandstand appendage was added so Melbourne could host the Commonwealth Games. That’s only part of the problem, though, as even the connections in the original structure just don’t flow right.

Once I got over my wayfinding issues and was properly attired, I enjoyed my swim. Compared to the screaming masses everywhere else, the indoor pool was blissfully free of family fun. The water was pleasantly cool and chlorinated (no salt), and the natural light much more abundant than at the similarly ginormous Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. Frankie settled in to knock off another set of 40 x 100s, but I swam less given my delayed start and previous laps under the hot sun at the Fitzroy Pool.

wave pool and waterslide

OK, I’ll admit it, this wave pool did look like a lot of fun.

As we were finishing up, the Vicentre Aquatics squad hit the water. They were marvelous to watch, with such perfect form that they seemed to need just a few strokes per length. I especially enjoyed seeing them do starts from the blocks, for which their coach used a remote-controlled megaphone-light starter that I’ve never seen before. Theirs is another massive squad, surely rivaling Nanawading, with distance superstar Grant Hackett as one of the headliners.

If there isn’t enough in MSAC to keep you busy, simply step outside. Albert Park’s lake, cinder running paths, and grand prix racetrack are right outside and offer more respite from family fun.

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#45: McCarren Park Pool

Location: Greenpoint/Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Configuration: Lap swim area is a mere 8 x 25 meters despite the pool being 100 x 50 meters in parts.

Fee: Free

Fees to Date: $181.74

McCarren was the pool story of the summer, the young upstart that burst onto the scene and stole all the attention from its more established, more reliable forebears. That’s how it seemed, anyway, but in reality this “new” pool is actually from that favorite year in NYC swim history, 1936, revived after sitting empty for a generation save for rock concerts. Its return to life as a pool is a happy tale of historic preservation, complete with repurposed wood from the Coney Island boardwalk, mixed with 21st-century budgetary and demographic realities.

The locals embraced the pool en masse, and not always peacefully, overwhelming the capacity and the lifeguards from day 1. That lap-swim area that you see in the lower right of the pool rendering could have been used during regular hours, à la Red Hook, if only the pool weren’t so crowded. Reinforcements were called in from NYPD, and the media spewed out a steady stories of unsportsmanlike conduct.

pool entranceGiven the plethora of pool options available in New York in the summer, I decided to let this one cool down, occupying myself in other venues nearly until the end of the season. Finally, on a day that started out at Lasker Pool in Central Park, I ventured to Brooklyn to see what all the fuss was. John joined me for the ride from Manhattan, and we met up with million-meter-man Ethan at the pool. I was happy to see two other friends also there for the night owl lap session: bike-buddy Wentworth and my swim teammate Charles.

A small army of po-po let us know that we weren’t in Kansas any more, but they cleared out along with the free-swim crowds, turning the southwestern corner of the pool over to us lap swimmers. Even though the pool is 100 meters long with two 50-meter legs, lap swimming was relegated to this small area, crowding dozens of swimmers into just 8 x 25-meter lanes. The Williamsburg Swimmers petitioned for more space, but the Parks department stood firm: only 25 meters for you this season. Given the crowding, the lanes were pretty well organized, and swimmers had better etiquette than I’ve seen at most other city pools.

Image from Gothamist.

The card I got after checking in was #2520, the highest  number in my collection. This backs up what the commissioner said that the awards dinner earlier that week: Despite being the last pool to the party, McCarren was the most popular of the whole bunch. It’s easy to see why–it sits at the border of two rapidly growing and changing neighborhoods, and it fills a crucial gap in the city’s pool network.

Plus, it’s a very uplifting place to visit, at least when it’s not at capacity. The grand entryway (above left) makes you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere special, and the locker rooms (left) and shower corridor cleverly mix plein air and privacy. Those benches are where the Coney Island boardwalk comes in. If only the lap area could be expanded next year, this will be hard to beat.

After the swim, we continued the après pool tradition of hunting out good eats, satiating ourselvs a few blocks away in Greenpoint’s at Lomzynianka. The stick-to-your-ribs Polish food was the perfect ending to our action-packed day and is every bit an enticement to return as the pool.

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#37: Jackie Robinson Park Pool

line-free lap swimming

John, Lisa Lisa, Janet, and Rondi claim some underwater turf. Not pictured: Piez, Ed.

Location: Harlem, Manhattan

Configuration: However many 25-meter trajectories you can squeeze in without lane lines or markings

Fee: Free

Fees to Date: $166.74

It’s a busy season for pool tourists, especially if you view the city’s outdoor lap-swim offerings as a checklist. In the try-them-all spirit, and thanks to organization by Lisa Lisa, the Pool Tourism Club convened at Jackie Robinson Pool last Wednesday morning. We found ourselves a narrow strip of unclaimed blue highway the short way across the pool and proceeded to have some fun.
Janet strikes up a chordJanet had done her homework, providing a font of Jackie Robinson-specific and general baseball trivia to enliven our swim sets. Jackie’s accomplishments, you see, include breaking the color line in baseball, when in 1947 he became the first African-American athlete to play professionally. His team was the Dodgers, then based in Brooklyn, and he earned himself title roles in a city park, pool, school, and highway.

Our warm-up was a set of nine with a stretch after number seven. We practiced sliding into the wall and did some reps of four balls followed by a walk. In honor of Jackie’s retired #42, we stretched to see how much ground we could cover in 42 strokes. In one of our activities, I somehow managed to get a piece of paint chipping off the bottom of the pool up my fingernail, a unique–and painful–souvenir. Capping things off, Janet played a lively rendition of “Take Me out to the Ballgame” on the piano in the rec center’s beautiful arched entryway, under Jackie’s watchful eye.

Lisa Lisa in the water park after swimmingThis 1936 pool is beautifully situated in Jackie Robinson Park (formerly Colonial Park), tucked at the bottom of a steep hill with greenery poking through the fencing and brickwork on three sides and city views to the fourth. Lap swimming is on the short axis in the northern two-thirds of the pool, and there wasn’t much room to spare. The water was a pleasantly refreshing temperature on this already hot morning, and the aquatics staff took a keen interest in our swim. Afterward, we enjoyed the deck-side water park and broke rules left and right in the locker room through subversive activities such as washing our hair.

No shampoo allowed!

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New York City’s WPA Pools

Parks Department image: A busy McCarren Park Pool keeps Brooklynites cool on July 12, 1937.

The biggest pool news of the summer may well be happening this morning, with McCarren Park Pool‘s grand reopening after a 29-year closure. As exciting as that is, it is only one of dozens of fabulous City of New York Parks & Recreation outdoor pools opening today. I am unable to attend the McCarren event, but I look forward to hearing all about it and checking out that “new” pool sometime soon.

McCarren was just one highlight of an unprecedented and unequaled season of pool news back in 1936 when it first opened, in the midst of the Great Depression. During that record-hot summer, eleven incredibly beautiful and spacious new pools opened all around the city, and with McCarren’s restoration all eleven are still in service. They are architectural delights and engineering marvels, and I recommend that you visit all of them: Astoria (Queens), Betsy Head (Brooklyn), Crotona (Bronx), Hamilton Fish (Manhattan), Highbridge (Manhattan), Jackie Robinson (Manhattan), Joseph H. Lyons (Staten Island), McCarren (Brooklyn), Red Hook (Brooklyn), Sunset Park (Brooklyn), and Thomas Jefferson (Manhattan).

Adding to the attraction, most of these pools as well as several others participate in a city-run lap swim program, with “early bird” (7-8:30 a.m.) and/or “night owl” (7-8:30 p.m.) hours for lap swimmers only. I discovered early bird lap swimming in summer 2000, and it is now one of my favorite things about living here: free, reasonably well run, full of characters, and replete with incentives such as T-shirts, trophies, and a dinner! I’ve made a number of good friends thanks to the program and had some amazing pool tourism experiences as well. July 5 is the start date of the all-too-short season this year.

Now back to 1936. I would be remiss not to thank Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and especially Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, himself a swimmer, for this pool bounty. They were raring to go with plan for neighborhood pools throughout the five boroughs when the Works Progress Administration was doling out funds for shovel-ready projects, and the story of the design and construction is as amazing as the end result. Once opened, the pools provided relief and safe recreation to 43,000 “bathers”–not without segregation–at a time. They have since served as sites for Olympic Trials (Astoria, 1936 and 1964), learn-to-swim programs, performances, and lots lots more. A great exhibit in 2006 celebrated the 70th anniversary, and there was a 75th birthday party in Red Hook last summer. They are an incredible resource for the city, and I can’t say enough good things about them; please read more here.

Long live our WPA pools!

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#31: Seltjarnarneslaug

hot pot with a viewLocation: Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

Configuration: 4 lanes of 25 meters + play area and 4 hot tubs

Fee: 500 ISK (Icelandic kronur), approximately $3.49

Fees to Date: $158.74

On my last day in Iceland, I wanted to squeeze in a visit to one more pool. I’d heard that the indoor-outdoor complex near where Elisabeth was staying was good enough to rival Laugardalslaug, but unfortunately it was closed for the day due to water-slide upgrades and other construction. Instead, I headed north of the Movie Star’s neighborhood to Seltjarnarnes Sundlaug, a beautiful, Modern facility with great views of  the sea and downtown Reykjavik.  The water slide wasn’t too shabby either. Unfortunately, I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought due to user error, so you will have to go see this pool for yourself.

pool view

Seltjarnarnes is a tiny, independent municipality at the end of the peninsula west of downtown Reykjavik. It’s got a beautiful lighthouse, a striking church, and a lot of athletic facilities. The pool uses pumped-in seawater, and it was clearer than the other Icelandic waters pools I’d seen. The degree of attention to design here was impressive as well. Clean lines, the simple wooden sauna structure, the cool whites and grays on the pool deck, and the bright tiles in the locker room all made me wonder who had gotten this commission.

The four lap lanes were definitely the least popular thing going here–no circle swimming necessary during my leisurely set. Instead, people lazed around in the hot pots and shallow hot tub, which had the best view of all. Small groups of teenagers were by far the largest contingent, and most of them did not budge from whatever spots they had staked out for the duration of my visit. I can think of worse ways for teenagers to pass their time.

My pool buddies had all either gone home or busied themselves with other activities, so I felt a bit lonely and old among all the teens, and yet I was content to soak in the sun and the warm water while enjoying the perspective on Reykjavik. One thing that struck me consistently during my week in Iceland was how clean everything is. Air, water, and earth all seemed unsullied by the small population. My usually runny nose calmed down, presumably due the lack of air- and water-borne irritants.  I was also impressed by the laissez-faire attitude. Never did I hear lifeguards yelling at anyone, for example. Even the locker-room matrons held off on their shower critiques, despite the many warnings about hygiene. The ethos seems to be to provide water wings and, later, swim lessons, and assume that people are equipped to fend for themselves or bear the consequences. I occasionally felt tentative about dipping into an empty pool or trying a play feature, but it was all good–no harm, no foul. It’s a lot easier to have that attitude with only 300,000 people, most of whom are distantly related and know each other by first names.

I can’t recommend Iceland highly enough as a pool-tourist destination, nor can I wait to return.

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