When I travel, I like to swim. It’s easier to carry a pair of goggles and light-weight Speedo than it is to cart a whole bunch of keep-fit stuff in your bag.
So, I have a fairly honed in radar for decent pools. I even have an app to detect swimming pools in Paris and I know all the great pools in London. I swim in the sea if the beach is protected and the water is calm but I constantly run into hotels with lots of land and inadequate pool facilities. I wonder if these guys ever had a pool advisor. If you would like to work out in a pool, it has to be a minimum of 20 meters; 25 is preferable and anything beyond that is gravy. It always amazes me that on cruise ships with 4,000 to 5,000 passengers and luxury accommodations, the pool is nothing more than a tiny splashing pool a little bigger than a big over-chlorinated Jacuzzi with God knows what in it.
Huge resort complexes have fancy pools with kidney shapes that you cannot swim in and more often than not are unheated. Hotel pools are, in general, absolutely hopeless. I just want to advocate for a few more meters and some common sense. After all, people do use swimming pools for exercise and when you sit on a 1,000-acre complex, what difference does it make to add 10 extra meters to a pool?! Trying to find out whether the pool in a hotel or complex is adequate for swimming is also tricky. Go look at the photographs of the pool online. Those images can be mighty deceptive. It’s like the pool at the villa in Tuscany or Spain that you rented that turns out to be a little bigger than a bathtub.
For those of us who like to swim, preferably in a heated 25 meter pool, let’s just get some common parameters for discovery and let’s ask hotels and complexes to give a little more thought, a little more honesty, and a little more land for the non-Olympian swimmer who likes to keep fit.
The Dead Sea is something that you just have to go to once in your life. The surface is 428 meters below sea level – the lowest point on the face of the Earth. It’s part of the Great Rift Valley and is fed by the Jordan River to the north. Its salt content, because of the lack of outflow, is about 34% or 10 times more than the normal salty ocean that we swim in. Essentially, it is two lakes held together by a thin thread in the middle. There are “health resorts” on the Jordanian and Israeli side which promote all sorts of minerals that are supposed to make you young again. Yeah, right.
There is actually nothing quite like going into this hyper-salty lake/sea. It is very difficult to stand up and for the most part it is pretty uncomfortable to hang around for more than about 15 minutes. If you shave the night before, you are in for a rough time, and if you have a cut, think pain. There is no way out in this bathtub. It will attack you wherever it sees a weakness and if you make the mistake of putting your eyes in the water, you will suffer temporary blindness. Yep – it was a lot of fun. Probably the greatest single moment was that moment when you get to stand under the fresh water shower and remove the salty deposits. That will keep your hair looking strange for several days no matter what.
As for reading the newspaper, it is easy to do. Swimming is impossible, floating is fun, and more importantly, if there is anybody in your party that cannot swim, they will overcome their fear of water and swim. This has to be the place where Jesus walked on water.
There were Russian groups here that were all staying at the hotels by the beach. You had to be a hardcore salt water person for that. For me, been there, done that, great stories, funny photos, but I couldn’t wait to get to the shower.