Both of us are swimmers, so since we had some residual jet lag, going swimming seemed like a good idea. There are a number of municipal pools to choose from in Paris. Some of the pools are famous for their architecture or location (Piscine Josephine Baker, Piscine Georges-Vallerey). However, most of the municipal pools are just ordinary neighborhood pools. Since the closest famous pool, the Josephine Baker pool, was closed, we decided to go to the closest neighborhood pool. Unfortunately, the closest was not really all that close since it is a 40 minute walk.
The pool we went to, Piscine Jacqueline Auriol ex Beaujon is in the 8th arrondisement. It is a newly built pool complex with two pools, a smaller warmer one for kids and a larger pool for lap swimming. It is part of a larger “centre sportif” which also has a gym, climbing wall, and fitness classes.
The set-up is quite clever. You buy a ticket and pass through the turnstile (which then keeps track of how many people are in the pool complex). To get to the pool you enter individual changing cubicles (about 3 ft by 3ft.) You enter one door – change into your bathing suit – and then exit the door on the opposite side – to the pool! In other words, the only way to the pool is through the changing room.
Past the changing rooms are lockers (free) which have a simple but high tech locking system. After you place your items in an empty locker, you go to the central pin pad, enter the locker number and a 4-digit password of your choosing, and the locker is ready to be closed. When you close it, it locks. When returning after your swim, your again enter the locker number, the password you have chosen, and the locker pops open.
Now, the french aspects. You do need to wear a swim cap. Men must wear non-baggy bathing suits (that is, no board shorts). The men were wearing neither speedos nor jammers (racing suits) but something in-between. They were similar to the underwear that in the US we call “boy shorts”. The spaces are also all co-ed. Because of the change room setup, there is no “mens” or “womens” section. The showers (down at the pool) are in the open next to the pool and the bathrooms are next to each other and fairly open (as in, the urinal is in plain view with only a small barricade for privacy). In fact, I saw girls looking in the mirror in the mens and men doing the same in the womens.
More details on pricing and pool etiquette in further posts since we plan on going to all the municipal pools in Paris.
By the way, here is an amazingly helpful website which lists pools in Paris and shows whether they are open or closed in real time. Is the pool open?