I’ve recently been enjoying the wonders of the bains municipals (municipal baths), thanks in no small part to a pulled knee ligament preventing me from running to keep fit.
Built by the Germans just before the outbreak of WWI, the neo-roman style building on Blvd de la Victoire houses it’s main bath beneath a large vaulted ceiling, in a space which displays many of the it’s original architectural features (a real pleasure when you’re doing backstroke). It’s 3.30 Euro for a dip, and if you want to keep your kit secure while swimming you need to remember to have a 1 Euro coin handy for the changing cubicle.
As with all swimming pools (piscines) in France there is a bizarre rule for gentlemen who wish to swim; and that is – ‘no baggies’. Meaning, men are expected to wear tight-fitting trunks rather than the loose-fitting kind. Indeed, a friend of mine said he had visited a pool in Paris where they not only insisted that they be tight fitting – but also be made of rubber. Kinky.
One supposes there is a logical reason for this. Whether it truly is “To stop you smuggling cigarettes into the pool” as one attendant explained, I remain dubious of. One suspects rather that it is probably intended to discourage gentlemen simply wearing boxer-shorts, which are likely to take on a see-through quality when wet, are likely to fly-off in one fail swoop when diving in, and are likely to be dirty and smelly, obviously.
There appears to be no rule as to what ladies should wear however, which is a crying shame if you ask me, as the sight of a baggy bikini really is quite unsavoury.