Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The world's best swimming pool

Two weeks in Chamonix, mountain-sport capital of Europe, finishing a book about snowboarding. In August. We arrive to afternoon thunderstorms that roll around the valley, bringing the Mutt trembling and shaking to lean against my leg. Later, after the showers, a walk in the cooler air and perhaps an ice cream. Allowed, because every day the Glamorous Companion and I swim in the World's Best Pool.

Where else can you do backstroke looking up at the continent's tallest mountain? Well, nearly, if we forget about Mt Elbrus in Russia... and in Chamonix, everyone does. An outdoor, 50-metre pool of the kind most British swimmers can only dream of (hence the woeful performance of British swimmers in London: it may no longer be true, but there used to be more 50-metre pools in Sydney than Britain).

In fact, the mountains loom everywhere here. I'm writing this in a shoebox apartment (the block is shown on the right) with a view of the glacier below Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles du Midi. It's easy to forget – you're walking along a normal street in a normal mountain town, then suddenly you look up and there they are, towering above.

We're leaving tomorrow, heading back to the Southern Alps for a few days and then out to the Basque Country. Too long without waves! We'll get a few days in Gu├ęthary, then north an hour to meet up with my friend Moose, his partner Nicola and their shared horde of children, all jammed into his new-old pride and joy Hymer. Then, sadly, we're on our way proper north, slowly back to the UK in time for winter. Boo.

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