Swimming in the Rhone was lovely. The water in the middle of the river is deep enough to allow a jump off a bridge twenty feet above the water, but nearer the bank is shallower. On the left hand side facing downstream, where all the pontoons and exits are, it’s shallow enough in places to allow one to stand up, but the current is swift. Facing upstream, only a strong swimmer can make progress against it. The water is clear enough to allow one to see easily down to the bottom, to see the weeds and rocks on the riverbed. As I swam against the current, I could see the individual stones beneath me and measure how little progress I was making.
Swimming downstream, by contrast, was fantastic, as you whooshed along on the current. My main concern was missing the famous Last Ladder and finding myself sailing off into France. Thus for some of the time I front crawled, and for some of the time I swam breaststroke so that I could keep an eye on where I was. It was a fabulous way to swim, the wooded bank to the right, the towpath to the left crowded with happy groups enjoying the sunshine. Enticing whiffs of barbecue and snatches of music drifted over the water as we swam.
Then, after successfully locating Last Ladder and wolfing down a picnic of excellent bread and cheese, we were off to our next swim spot. This was on Lake Geneva and involved either a short walk or an exciting boat trip to the Quai du Mont-Blanc, a wide promenade which runs along the lake’s northern shore. On one side were grand buildings such as the Beau Rivage hotel, adorned with window boxes full of bright flowers and flags fluttering in the breeze. There were colourful flowerbeds and flags along the promenade as well, and a children’s carousel and stalls selling ice-creams and cold drinks. Pedestrians were strolling along the broad pavement enjoying the sunshine, some with small dogs in tow, while cyclists and joggers wove in between them. The yellow passenger boats which act as buses on the water chugged to and fro, passing stately white steamers moored up and waiting for passengers. Out on the lake little sailboats darted about, their sails flashing in the light, and the dancing wavelets sparkled in the sunshine. It was a scene designed for the word Holiday, the sort of scene which, if I were writing an Edwardian novel, could only be described by the adjective “gay”.