Maybe eight years ago Emma & I flew to Ibiza on a whim: she went to Ibiza Yoga to do bend & contort, & I stayed down the road. (I’ve never been a fan of the spend eye-watering sums on yoga holidays and be expected to eat brown food & stay in ropey huts with communal showers business model.) The high point of the holiday was discovering Benirras Beach in the north of the islands, now quite possibly one of my favourite beaches in the world.
At that point I was still phobic about seaweed, swimming in cold water, touching bottom in the water & the murk that lurks below. I refused to swim. Emma wasn’t having any of it and in her best sergeant major manner got me in the water.
And since then we have swum around the world in water so cold I’ve thought my toes would fall off. Most notably, on a hen weekend to Barcelona some six years ago, we hived ourselves off from the rest of the group who had gone to the beach and headed instead to Montjuïc, the large hill that overlooks the western side of the city.
First to the Fundació Joan Miró, and then to a swimming pool I read about in some long defunct guidebook. It promised an Olympic Sports Complex, but gave little details.
After a ten minute trek in the midday sun along the road that runs around the perimeter of the hill, we passed the Olympic Stadium. Still no swimming pool. But then, a long low building loomed up behind some unedifying metal gates.
And there it was. The Piscines Bernat Picornell: one of Barcelona’s two Olympic swimming pools. For just 5 euros anyone can swim there. It’s blissful as no tourists ever visit – it’s pretty much all Spaniards, there’s no music or hot dog stands, just basic white plastic sun loungers. It’s no use for kids that can’t swim, so there’s relatively little frolicking – just wonderful swimming in refreshing unheated water. For a Londoner, whose only outdoor pool options are the lidos, full of shrieking infants & stroppy teens, this is a paradise for swimmers. (The pool is 50 x 25 m.)
Opened in 1970 for the European Aquatics Championships, the complex was remodelled and modernised for the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. Since then it has hosted several Spanish and Catalan swimming championships as well as the synchronized swimming events for the 2003 World Aquatics Championships. (wiki)
Of the three pools, I haven’t braved the heated indoor pool – the point, after all, is to be able to swim proper lengths in the glorious Barcelona sunshine. (When Miss P & I visited last Monday the diving pool was temporarily closed.)
I recommend doing as we did, and just shoving a swimsuit, suntan lotion & a sarong in your handbag, so you can go for a swim in the middle of a day of sightseeing. It’s hot enough that you can just lie on a lounger to dry off, (but there are shaded overhangs too (above), and showers indoors if you need. You can walk there from the Montjuic Funicular, but a cab all the way from El Born up the hill only cost us EUR8.
It´s open from 1100 – 18.30 hrs, with last entry at 17.30 hrs.
Adult: 5,35 €, Children (6 -14yrs): 3,70 € (No children under 6)
Av. de l’Estadi 30, Barcelona, Spain, 08038 www.picornell.cat
I also wanted to add that as I wrote this morning, reminiscing in my head about all the adventures Emma & I have had all over the world, she emailed me completely out of the blue. Extraordinary. That kind of friend-connected-ness is joyful. Altho I had to remind her that it was she who got me swimming outdoors, because she now associates me with swimming EVERYWHERE. As does Ayla who, when I commented that the sea in Barcelona was cold last week, replied that if I found it cold there must have been penguins & icebergs floating around me. Funny how we can change so much.
ADDENDUM: This is NOT the pool where Kylie shot her video for Slow. For that you’ll need to visit the Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc, at the other end of the road. It has two swimming pools: a pool for diving and a 25m outdoor pool. It hosted the diving events and the water polo preliminaries for the 1992 Summer Olympics. Also equally charming. And it also has a view over Barcelona.