The key (bracelet) to swimming in France

I knew when returning to the Alps that there would be a last minute chance for a swim. While there were pools in all the places we'd stayed - they hadn't opened for Summer yet. So I'd been out of luck.

I discovered last time we were here that there are systems to follow at the pools in France. It's not like at home where you wander in, pay your money, and get into the pool at your leisure. What would I be getting myself in to here?

The weather today was, well, poo. No other way to describe it. I therefore opted for the indoor pool at Alpe d'Huez instead of the outdoor pool whose systems I'd previously mastered.

Today I paid my money at the entrance to the sport centre, then followed the signs down to the 'Piscine'.

I'd been given a bar code receipt so scanned that at the turnstile and made my way in. I was faced with a row of closed doors - obviously changing rooms. I picked one, but was obviously looking lost as the pool attendant approached me almost immediately.

She gave me complete directions in fluent French, so I only understood a very small amount of what was no doubt vital information on how to get through this pool's entry system.

I had to ask a few more questions to get it straight. With my limited french and excellent interpretive miming skills, I ascertained that the system was:
  1. choose a change room
  2. close lock the door by lifting up a handle below the small seat. The handle secures both doors to the change room - see 6.
  3. get changed
  4. place your personal items in a tall hanging basket 
  5. don't put your shoes back on, shoes are prohibited from this point onwards
  6. exit the change room through the second door, which is in the opposite side to the entry door - so you effectively walk through the change room on your journey to the pool.
  7. choose a locker
  8. insert a one euro coin into a locker of your choice to open the door
  9. hang your basket of personal belongings in the locker, and place your shoes and any other items you don't need on the pool deck in there as well
  10. lock with your key bracelet*. When you pay your euro and lock the locker, the key is released. The key is on an adjustable bracelet which you can then fix to your wrist to secure your belongings while swimming.
  11. go through the shower room, making sure you shower before you enter the pool
  12. walk through the ankle deep water to make sure your feet are cleansed
Congratulations. You're on the pool deck.

The pool wasn't a regular lap pool, which didn't surprise me. It's difficult to find a training pool in France.

There was one proper lane between the pool wall and a lane rope with two blokes in it, and another quasi lane beside the lane rope where another couple of swimmers were doing laps. As I headed over to these lanes, the life guard said to me in English, "wherever you like, you choose".

I was wearing my Triathlon Queensland swim cap and Speedos. Is that enough to give away my nationality?

I jumped in, the water was warm and the swim felt pretty good for not having swum for a couple of weeks. My key bracelet didn't interfere with my stroke like I thought it might. After half an hour or so they kicked me out for their noon siesta. I'd been in the water for just over half an hour, which is probably OK for taper week.

Now for the reverse of the system... the fact that I'm typing this means I got out!

*I tried to take a photo of the key bracelet. I tried but it was a bit fraught. I had to lock my locker to release the key and get the bracelet, but by this time obviously my phone was in the locker. When I opened the locker to get the phone, the key bracelet was stuck in the locker door. It ended up being too hard, but I guess taking photos in an environment like a swimming pool isn't cool anyway.


  1. Interesting read Lyndell. Been a while since I've been to a pool, and I'd forgotten how easy it is to get labelled a paedo just for messing with your phone. I think some gyms ban them from workout areas.

    Hope your travels are going well and you feel strong for the Ironman. Suppose you have to be more disciplined with the food and alcohol, unlike Phil :)

  2. Hi Bruce,

    You can rest assured that visiting a pool in Australia is not as complex as this 12 step routine! Although I kind of like how the security of your belonging is part of the deal over here.

    I am being a little more restrained with my diet (though I have been having local cheese and a glass of wine watching le Tour in the arvo). I haven't sought out cheese fondue just yet but I am determined to have a crack at one when we come back to the Alps after Roth. Last time we were here my race was right at the end of our trip so I didn't get that chance! It looks delicious but probably not the best pre-race choice.

    Luckily, fresh and healthy food is plentiful over here, the fruit is excellent and salads come in meal sized portions even in pubs! Veges are a little more difficult to find though.