I’m back after a month on the road to Iceland, France, and the United Kingdom. Lots to do at home, plus some more blogging about my travels. But first I want to sketch the story of my travels from swimming hole to swimming hole. Not quite as much long-distance swimming on this busy trip as I might have liked, but by my count six new places, a bit more than a dozen swims in all.
The Blue Lagoon, Keflavik, Iceland
Nothing like a little silica-infused geothermal plant waste water to process that jet lag. The water was warm, milky, and only about 3 feet deep. I dug my fingers deep into a bucket of silica mud and pasted it over my face.
The rift between the continental plates is a swimmer’s paradise, deep blue and ethereal. I’ve blogged about it already, and it’s now my Facebook profile picture, but I still can’t quite believe I pulled this one off. Looking down, into emptiness, I saw sand and gravel, piled into the expanding void. The most transitory beach in the world?
Landmannalauger Hot Springs, Iceland
Traveling around Iceland with a tri-generational family party meant no long hikes, but we did get a dip in the geothermal springs at the trailhead in Landmannalauger. I inched myself close to the spot where the hot water trickled into the pool, but could not get too close. When you reach down through the gravel to the rock floor of the pool, the rocks feel hot to the touch.
Iceland is famous for its public pools and hot-tubs, and in between conference panels and back-country adventures I got a few good morning swims in at Sundhollen pool on Baronsstiger, just on the other side of the big church from downtown. It was one of the warmest and deepest pools I’ve swum in; no one worries about the cost of heating the water, since it comes out of the ground hot. There were a few others there swimming for exercise in the early mornings, but no lanes, just lines on the bottom of the pool. With no way to orient myself, I gave up on doing backstroke at all. A really nice place to swim, and then soak in the blazing hot tubs outside under a cool rain.
The River Lot, St. Cirq-lapopie, France
We partly picked our French village based on its swimming beach, but what we didn’t quite realize was how far “below the village” could be. It was a beautiful beach on a bend in the River Lot, but probably a good kilometer or more down a steep rocky trail from our lovely medieval house, just inside the Porte de Rocamadour at the lower entrance to the village. (St-Cirq is gorgeous, but steep!) I loved swimming in the River: clear, cool water, a healthy current which made any long workout wonderfully asymmetrical, a one-lane auto bridge between which and the small rapids I could make about 1000m “laps.” I didn’t get down there every day — it was cool and foggy most mornings, and by afternoon we were sometimes busy — but I did get some great swims in. The kids swam with me all the way upstream to the bridge, which was great.
No swimming in this massive underground natural cavern in the limestone, but I can’t resist including the Gouffre’s pool in my list of new-to-me bodies of water. The water runs in over limestone formations and then away in an underground river, forming an eerie and inhuman pool. No art in this cave, but lots of beauty.
The Stratford Leisure Center, United Kingdom
My last few swims during my last week in Europe were at the Leisure Center in Stratford-upon-Avon. An excellent pool, though a bit busy during the 7 – 9 am “swim 4 fitness” time. Unusually configured at 33 1/3m, it’s a good place to process yesterday’s pints before morning lectures. I imagine I’ll be going back to this pool for many years to come. I might even shift my Stratford B&B to get closer to it. The Applegarth looks promising.
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