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It Is a Wash!

La Piscine

La Piscine

There is confirmation that we evolved from fish. It is amazing to witness the affinity that human societies have to the sea or at least to big bodies of water.  Today I made a significant stride in my everyday life to make it to the local pool.   Community pools in France are present in about every city, town and village.  They are a cultural centerpiece not unlike the community baths of Japan and Turkey.  Bathing suits are part of the French landscape as much as bottles of good wine on the dinner table and corner bakeries open until late at night.  Several of my colleagues at Amadeus routinely go to the pool over lunch.  I have been trying to figure out an option for regular exercise and having the newly refurbished Jean Médecin Piscine next door to my car parking lot is anything less than an epiphany.  So it is a quiet Sunday for me and I was determined to get there before it closed at 1:00 in the afternoon.

The reopening of the Jean Médecin pool in the newspaper

The reopening of the Jean Médecin pool in the newspaper

After paying my €1.60 to get in (the piscines are heavily subsidized by the mayor of a given town), I entered something truly French.  Immediately after the cashier window were rows of benches and everyone was taking off their shoes and socks.  Of course I did the same thing to quickly realize that you had to walk through a small wading pool to wash off your feet.  On the other side was the locker room.  My American eyes were keeping watch for the familiar male/female signs for the appropriate changing spaces but when I turned the corner I was faced with a few women in their bathing suits.  For an instant I froze, thinking somehow I walked in the wrong locker room.  Then to my relief some men walked out of the shower space to head to the pool.  The locker was a mixed environment; men and women shared it to store their belongings.  Along the right wall was a series of closets that everyone used to formally get undressed and into their bathing suit.  Along the left wall were the lockers for you to store your clothes.

Once I was changed and ready to go, everyone had to pass through the showers and then another wading pool to even get to big pool.  There at the pool was everyone; young/old, male/female, families/singles.  It was just a nice relaxed atmosphere of everyone enjoying the water.  There was a huge pool with lanes mostly for the adults to get their laps as well as a nice smaller pool with a fountain for the children.  So finally I get the courage to enter the big pool with the lanes to start my laps.  Wouldn’t you know it, I get yelled at immediately by the lifeguard.  (Okay, yell is a strong word – he politely told me to get out of the pool.)  I didn’t have my swimming cap.  Suddenly I realized everyone around me had a swimming cap; male and female regardless of hair length.  Graciously the lifeguard gave me one that he had on his desk so I was able to still participate.  In addition to having a swimming cap, men had to wear speedos or square-cuts; the casual, lengthy swimming shorts more popular in the States are not even allowed.  In France, we take swimming seriously.

After completing my routine, I made my way back in which I came (wading pool -> shower -> locker -> closet -> wading pool again -> socks and shoes -> exit).  I do have to say I appreciate the more active lifestyle here, even though most of you reading this post will say that is an oxymoron.   In any case, the culture here is more attuned to doing exercise in a variety of ways.  At work I see many colleagues either bike to work or go the pool.  During the weekends, there are frequent hiking excursions to the mountains.  Along the promenade, there are always runners and bikers year around.

With all this talk on exercise, it is time for a good nap.  À bientôt!

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Categories: Everyday Life
  1. Clara Laurent
    22 November 2010 at 11:10 am

    I am a bit surprised french community swimming-pools are different from the american… Interesting.
    I like the accurate way you are describing it. I am a community swimming-pool fan, swimming is my favorite sport, and when I was living in Paris, I explored many of them. They have all a specific “personnality”, some are from the beginning of the 20th century, with an atrium, nice tiles…
    Don’t worry about the swimming cap: I forget mine often and have to ask one from the lifeguard.
    But there is one experience you will probably never make: going on a nice Sunday to your favorite swimming-pool, relaxing and being happy, when suddenly, young voices are yelling at you: “Madame Lauauauaurrrrrent!”. Several pupils of your school are there, spoiling your anonymity!

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