Thursday, April 21, 2016

Seven Swimming Pools, A Pond and A Lake

 Laugardalslaug...that slidey thing is fucking terrifying by the way...
We're back from our American travels. Last time Leah was on sabbatical and we did a jaunt in the US I did a blog about all the food I ate and beer I drank, this time I'm going to talk about swimming pools. Because of decades of rugby, the odd motorcycle accident and a genetic disposition towards bad knees in my family the only real exercise I can do these days is swimming. Fortunately I like swimming. Two of my favourite books are the swimming related books: Waterlog and The Swimmer As Hero both of which talk quite a bit about specific swimming locations even if they are only swimming pools. I thought I cd talk about our travels too through the medium of swimming pool description...

1. Sheraton Gateway Hotel Los Angeles Airport. We arrived at night, two days before Christmas after a long flight from Australia and this big, lovely, empty outdoor pool was a welcome relief. Cold yes but not freezing and we got a cabana each. Cobalt blue water and you were allowed to bring your beers poolside.

2. The YMCA pool on 63rd and Central Park West. This was my swimming pool of choice while I lived in New York. Very cold, full of eccentrics, beautifully tiled, run down, with a locker room that I never failed to get lost in this was a great little 25 yard lap pool. Swimming caps are compulsory unless you are bald and if an elderly man screams at you to circle you better circle. Here's a tip: if the water is too damn freezing on a January morning there is in fact a heated "small pool" right next door that they dont really talk about. 

3. Barger Pond, Putnam Valley, New York. I went upstate a few times to see various relatives and friends and on one particular chilly February morning went swimming here. Yikes. Pond scum, ice cold water, mysterious oily fishes and snapping turtles do not a pleasant swim make. 

4. The Laugardalslaug 50m pool, Reykjavik. Offered a ridiculously cheap transatlantic fair from the new start up airline Wow we flew to Dublin via Reykjavik and spent a couple of days in Iceland's capital. I went to several of their geothermally heated outdoor pools - which unbenownst to me is a thing to do - but the best was the big empty 50m pool in the Laugardalslaug complex east of the city. Swimming there at night under the high latitude stars through the black still water is a rare old treat. 

5. Trinity College Dublin Pool. When in Dublin do make use of the lovely Trinity pool which is in the north east corner of the TCD campus. Clean, efficient, not over chlorinated and with a slightly risque for Ireland multi gender changing room system this is a lovely hidden gem in busy Dub and a perfect place to burn off those pints of the black stuff and the full Irish breakfast. 

6. Carrickfergus Leisure Centre 25m Pool. Up from Dublin to Carrickfergus and the local leisure centre pool. This is where I learnt to swim when I was eleven years old. Little story about that: from the age of six or seven my father used to swim across Larne Lough to visit his granny McKee on Islandmagee every Sunday*. Fighting the current and the cold turned him into a powerful swimmer. He was pretty scandalised then to discover that by the age of eleven I somehow had never learned to swim. One morning he took me down to Carrick Leisure Centre, led me to the deep end, threw me in and commanded me to "swim!" Somehow it worked. The pool today is clean, hassle free and in a nice complex surrounded by a lake and a bird sanctuary. 

7. The Serpentine, Hyde Park, London. Not for the faint of heart this as its often chilly, full of crazy people and there can be a lot of, ahem, duck shit. I've swum the Serpentine several times however and its always been pretty pleasant. 

8. The Pan Pacific Apartments, Singapore. This was the first rooftop outdoor infinity pool I've ever been in. The way an infinity pool is supposed to work, apparently, is that you swim in the pool and look out a body of water and it seems like the pool goes on forever. If you go right in the centre of the swimming pool at the Pan Pacific Apartments it looks as if you are swimming across the Singapore Strait dodging dozens of enormous container ships with Indonesia in the background. This is pretty cool. 

9. The St Kilda Sea Baths, Melbourne. Home again to the St Kilda Sea Baths where on my very first swim back an old Russian guy grabbed my ankle and angrily told me I was swimming too slowly for the medium lane. Ah, it's good to be home.... 

*if you've seen the horrific zombie attack on Hardhome in Game of Thrones that's where it was filmed and its exactly the place where my dad used to swim and where I paddled as a little kid...