You John Cheever fans who have read his great short story “The Swimmer,” or seen the pretty fair adaptation with Burt Lancaster in the title role, will know what I’m talking about when I tell you my new bucket-list vacation is this:
Swimming across Iceland. A leisurely trip around the ring road, with detours into the interior, sampling the wonders of the country’s great municipal swimming pools.
Akureyi, where we are now, is a town of about 22,000. Roughly…what? Defiance, Ohio? Auburn, Indiana? Whatever. Here’s their pool:
That’s just the outside, of course. Phones and cameras seem to be frowned upon in the pool area, so you can google it if you like. But like the one I visited in Reykjavik, it just seems to me to be the ultimate in municipal recreation — turn a few laps, then pop into the steam or one of the several hot pots, watch the towheaded toddlers squealing down the water slides, then a leisurely final shower and on with your day.
Any anxiety over the fearsome hygiene requirements — nude shower, with soap, before entering the water — melt away before the la-de-da attitudes of the natives. The showers are full of old women, tattooed women, tan women, pale women, Scandinavian goddesses and their great-great grannies, all washin’ up before they go into the beautiful, clean pools outside. A goddess took her shower next to me this morning, plopping her white-blonde toddler into a tub next to her. Later, I saw her outside with her husband and two other kids. The picture of healthy living under a blazing blue subarctic sky.
Yesterday was whale-watching. I feared we’d be skunked, but it was anything but — after a loop around a puffin nesting ground, we headed for an area where recent reports had been good. We were steering toward a place where a thar-she-blows puff of spray had just been sighted when a humpback suddenly leapt from the water, turning in midair to land in a great splash. And for about the next 40 minutes, that’s how it went, just whale after whale after whale, mostly humpbacks but also minkes. I was using my other camera, so no pix from me, but Kate captured this with her phone:
[for those with browsers that don’t support the video:
And then we came back, shucked off our overall/PDFs and checked the news of the day. Ugh.
“I don’t even want to hear about it,” said sensible Alan. But of course I’ve been reading about it for hours now. And I don’t know what to say. For whoever wondered how this was being covered overseas? Can’t say. We haven’t seen an English-language paper since Reykjavik, and that was the alt-weekly. But I’ll keep my eyes open.
Meanwhile, have a great day, all. Mine is off to a good start.