Water temperature is very important for me. I won't venture into a freezing pool unless I know I will be moving non stop, that is swim laps instead of paddling with the kids. However, I won't swim laps in a pool that is smaller than 25 meters. I call pools that are smaller bath-tubs and they are fun, only when the temperature is ambient. Only then, do I become an ideal lifeguard and play with the kids for hours.
I may sound finicky when it comes to swimming, but it is quite the opposite. Why do people say they are going to the beach, when in reality, they are sitting by the pool, which has a view of the beach? Why do people want beaches with full amenities, showers, long chairs, umbrellas and even food service? While Club 55 in Saint Tropez is certainly worth the posh and the experience, what is wrong with a towel on a free beach? Isn't the salt and sand combination an ideal exfoliation?
This summer I have been fortunate to have swum off the most beautiful peninsula of Cap Martin where the famed LeCorbusier swam (and drowned): the Mediterranean was a perfect blue temperature! I climbed back on the rocks at 7pm in the evening and didn't even need to dry off with a towel!
Take me to sea and I will swim from the boat to shore and back, or from the shore to a raft or a random floating boyee. When I was in camp, the swim practice for the team I belonged on, consisted of daily squad in the freezing Lake Champlain lake of Vermont. Back and forth to the raft, back and forth. I always smile at the thought that my freezing dives in Lake Leman, Geneva, are dives in a huge lake of Evian, as the Evian mountains and water fall into this lake.
But I had never swam in a river. Only in my recurring happy dreams. Most of the time I dream of the salty Creek of Dubai where I have lived most of my life, or else the Potomac Canal in Washington DC, where I have walked many Georgetown summers. I have sometimes dreamed of swimming in the Seine, the river whose geography and poetry I know so well.
But it never crossed my imagination to swim in the Rhone, which falls into Lac Leman in Geneva. In fact, I created a myth with my children that crocodiles inhabited the river and I would point to pieces of tree trunks drifting away in the current and tell them they were crocodile tails.
On a bicycle ride, I stumbled onto an unknown bike trail that took us to a rather boisterous bank of that river. There under the large trees, youngsters pounced in and out of the green river, using the accommodations built by the city, that is decks and ladders. The ambiance was urban alternative, all under the age of 30, smoking, drinking, jumping in, music playing from somewhere, bikes parked against graffiti walls.
It became my ambition to come back with my suit and try my luck. I didn't know how cold the water was, nor could I tell how it felt to swim with the current. The last time I swam with current was in an ice stream in Iran, as a child, held safely by a rope by my grandfather.
In fact, my aunt remarked about the post-Iran years, when my grandfather sought the same thrills in the USA: "The place we usually go to camp in Utah has a really wild and cold river. I don't remember if you were ever with us but it was a lot of fun. I remember your parents and mine came and joined us there for the day." I was there ofcourse and I remember the streams and waterfalls of Utah very well!
It was therefore with the same courage, learned in my childhood, that I jumped in, without my grandfather or his safe rope, but with my kids, looking over from the banks, wondering whether their mother is a daredevil or an example to follow.
Extraordinary feeling to swim in green currents, in a controlled environment, because the banks have many ladders and on-looking suntanning hippies.
Yes, it did feel like a dream....