Swimming is getting more important in the work-out mashup that is a middle-age athletic life. I used to love the pool as a kid, spending most every day in the summer playing all kinds of ridiculous games with my siblings and neighborhood friends. “Minnow” and “Marco Polo” come quickly to mind, the latter being an example of how much a little sister can get away with cheating and still never catch an older brother who lived underwater.
But now, swimming has become a great low impact workout that nevertheless burns a tremendous amount of energy. I am not the first one to figure this out, but I may be uniquely qualified to opine upon some world bests, having been to many round the globe more than a few times, and always hitting the pool where I land as part of “who needs sleep” regimen. A word on the judging before we begin. Pools are for swimming, so they have to excel there first. I grew up swimming in the Beaver public pool (packed minnow scene) and later our own in ground in the backyard, so I begin with hopelessly low standards, but that’s before travelling the world. Now my book includes scenic integration, and some scenery worth integrating. Overcrowding (more than 2 people) is instant DSQ in my book. Needless accompaniments like hovering pool staff, warm towels, branded robes and overpriced lotion will not count for extra, but will not be deducted as long as they do not interfere.
Ready? One two three jump!!!
Rating a mention is the pool at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, mainly for the view. Great giant kidney nestled into the cliffs, but too much indoor and too much spa traffic for my tastes. The Miraflores Club in Lima has an amazing over-hanger, but no-one swims as the weather is always mist. The Fairmont in Chicago has a stunner as well, but it is shared with a club next door, so I don’t really know who owns it so scratch that one. Riyadh has a beauty in the Al Faisaliya Hotel, if you are ever in town hanging around waiting for Princes to call. Full Olympic job, with hand applied tiles throughout, an unbelievable waterfall, super heating and cooling systems, great extras like the ice-death plunge pool and no-one is ever there! Total swimmers paradise, except that-get this- you can’t ever see the sun (uh, one hang-up of Islam). Despite this, I give it my runner up status. It’s that good. Winner goes to a place on the French Riviera- Alps Maritimes, actually. Mortgage your house, drain the kid’s retirement fund and/or max the credit cards for a fun week at Eden Roc in Cap D’Antibes. Jewel in the crown of a family hotel operator (that owns Brenner’s in Baden Baden and the Bristol in Paris), the place was bought sight unseen (ok, seen from the boat) by the big man, who insisted it remain a family operation and not succumb to Omni-Mega-World Domination Hotel Corp. So far, so good!
The pool is worth it all. Perched on a 30-acre nature preserve, Eden Roc is the “summer cottage” portion of Hotel du Cap, made famous firstly by F. Scott Fitzgerald and later all sorts of fashion and movie stars. Cannes and its festival are just across the bay in late May. And the pool itself is pure masterpiece. Cut into the rocks and facing west, it’s a negative edge that’s falls into the best western view there is. It’s a salt water job, so you literally fly and float (just don’t drink, and keep the goggles tight). Most people are there to be seen, so the pool is like I-95 at 3:00am, pure fast-lane.
But it keeps going (yes, the aforementioned towels, robes, lotion and service are always available) but check out the gymnastic equipment strung out over the water. What a great place to horse around and break an arm! And if that’s not enough for you, some very legitimate 5 and 10 meter boards to plunge into the colder than it looks Med. Nice thing about the derring-do equipment: there are no peligroso signs on them. Anyone idiot enough to try should not be permitted to bring any action against the owners lest they be laughed out of court. The swim platforms are out there, a-ways off, if you can fight off the hypothermia to get to them. I now know why sea lions warm themselves on the rocks between dips! Unlike them, I was permitted to return to the pool (+/-85f) feels all the better. (No, the Med doesn’t have sea lions- try Galapagos). But the Galapagos doesn’t have an Eden Roc either! Francois, Pierre, Jean-Jacques my congratulations. As pool boys, you work at the center of the world.