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Provence Swimming Pools Overview

French Swimming Pools
Why Mark Spitz could never swim here

The French tendency towards Le Liasons Dangeureuse and their obsession with cleanliness when it comes to using a public swimming pool is slightly ironic to say the least. Without lowering the tone, it is safe to say that the average French swimmer lives in terror of bodily germs and microbes. Every surface in the pool area must be pristine and there is a bewildering array of rules and regulations to ensure that every swimmer keeps themselves nice.


The rules are, in order of use;
a) Apparently your shoes are “nests of bacteria” so be sure to leave them in the locker room and either use “pool approved” sandals or go barefoot.
b) Visit the toilet. Even if you don't feel the urge, it is better to be safe than sorry because if you are spotted going straight from the locker to the pool, you will be asked to go by the attendant.
c) You must have a five minute soapy shower to remove all the dead skin, pollutants bacteria etc. Locals are really into giving themselves a good scrub. Do not be alarmed by the sight of red angry skin all around you in the shower area. Wear your bathing suit, nudity is frowned on. We are not in Berlin, people!
d)Disinfect your feet before entering the pool.
Remember to keep the locker room clean. Attendants have an eerie way of knowing, who has left what, where and when.

This pdf link , from the Digne-les-Bains public pool ,shows a cartoon diagram of the procedures you will need to follow before entering the pool

What to wear ?
Easy rules to follow;
a) Men: No board shorts. They billow and attract germs.
b)Women: No skimpy bikinis. One piece 'serious' bathing suits preferred. Swimming is taken seriously. Swanning about in your designer bikini is just not done.

Do I have to wear a Swimming Cap? And a headband ?

Absolutely. Human hair, apart from germ content, clogs up filters, floats about and blinds other swimmers by wrapping itself around their goggles.

Headbands are encouraged for extra protection. These are to be worn under your bathing caps. Baldness is no excuse! All that bare skin, teaming with microbes is a virtual biohazard. Cap on, please.

Lane swimming and you
Until 2013 swimming was a free for all.There were life guards that made sure you didn't kill your self,but all this fast lane, slow lane stuff was seen as unimportant. Thankfully those days are almost a thing of the past. However, old habits die hard and you may find yourself smacked in the face from an oncoming swimmer.
In short,
a) Swim to the right and in the same direction.
b) Do not overtake another swimmer
c) If you are a fast swimmer stick to the fast lane.If slow stick to the slow lane. Lifeguards do actively police this rule and you will be admonished in the least or asked to leave the pool in the worst case scenario.
d)No back stroke or butterfly if there are other patrons in the pool.
So, he days of being smashed in the face by someone’s fist will soon be a thing of the past. Thank heaven for small mercies.

On the pool deck
No running,no jumping,no pushing off the diving board. As a consequence, you will find yourself untroubled by boisterous spotty youths at the pool.

Pool Cleanliness
Rules and regulations abound when it comes to sanitation. Perhaps this accounts for the obsession with body cleanliness. Typically the pool should be drained twice a year and the locker areas should be cleaned three times a day. The public are very vocal about the maintenance of these rules and failures to comply are usually recitfied promptly. Watch out if you see a sign saying “ The pool is being renovated”. This is usually an excuse offered when the owner can't be bothered to comply with council conditions. French bureaucracy at it's finest.

Why are the hours so weird?
Pools are used by everyone in the community. That includes school students,pensioner groups, mothers groups etc. The Piscine des Campelières in Mougins is the only pool in the area for everyone,so as you can imagine hours are tight.

Lockers and you
There are as many different routines as you can imagine. Most involve traipsing back and forth to the receptionist. You must collect a rubber bracelet or similar ID, place your things in a basket and then follow the grumpy attendant to the locker room. Your items will then be dumped into a locker, the attendant will disappear before you realise you must take the key back to the receptionist and use your new ID to prove your identity! Confused yet? Everybody is. Total nightmare. Hold onto your ID for dear life. No ID, no help from staff. They are merciless. One would think they enjoy upsetting the customers! Heaven forbid.

Outdoor Pools
Thankfully the fun factor is alive when you visit an outdoor pool. Most are only open mid Jun-Aug,but the vibe is relaxed and fun.Sringent rules about scrubbing down are rarely followed, and your hair is as a general rule, allowed to flow. Paddling Pools, diving boards, childrens play areas, snack bars, sun chairs are all here. The outdoor pool in Vence has a particularly relaxing feel, simply because of it's live and let live nature.

The best option is to use your sense of humour when taking a swim. The sight of two people earnestly debating whether one has properly washed their feet or not is an absurd distraction. Even the French themselves know that this fixation with public bodily cleanliness has gone too far. In fact a popular excuse kids use when fighting over taking a bath at home is to tell mum and dad “ Pas besoin de me laver, je vais a la piscine!” In other words, “ No need to wash, I go to the pool!”.

Mark Spitz    1976 Munich Olympics    Photographer  Unknown