Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coed changing rooms??

Tuesday May 10th

So today we headed off to Aquaboulevard, France’s largest indoor water park. With Katie’s love of water, this has been our list from the very beginning, but I kept putting it off. Not because I didn’t want to go, because I love waterparks too, but just because it is really off the beaten path for most tourists. Every time we stray off the beaten path, we have fun, but it just makes me nervous working with the different French customs and procedures each time.  
The water park was no different, once we got settled we had a lot of fun, it was just figuring everything out at first that made it challenging.  We went on a quiet day, and it worked out nicely.  We walked through a very long entrance hallway that looked like it is used for large lines on hot summer days.  The water park is both indoor and outdoor, although we stayed indoors today.  We paid our admissions without too much trouble and got change for the lockers.
We then walked down a long hallway.  None of the signs were in English, and I did not know the words for changing room or locker room, or whatever the French variation of that is. I was looking for a ladies locker room, or something similar and we came upon on what looked like a changing room. However I couldn’t figure out if it was men’s or women’s.
 Well, no matter, as it turns out it was all in one.  There were small changing rooms like in department stores, but they didn’t lock and had doors on two sides for you to keep track of! Katie and I went in one together and each kept our eye on one door as we quickly changed.  Men, women, boys and girls were all coming in and out of the changing stalls. We then stowed our gear in a locker and headed out.  A large sign said showers were mandatory, and although lot of US pools say that and don’t enforce it, we took a quick shower just to be safe.
 Katie then saw a sign that said bathing suits forbidden!!  That worried and confused us to no end, until we figured out that baggy American style men’s trunks were forbidden, not bathing suits.  Men and boys had to wear form fitting suits like girls do. Luckily this did not really mean that most men and boys were in Speedos, although some of the older gentlemen were.  The trunks of choice for the under 50 set were a shorter version of the thigh length jammers that the boys wear on Katie’s swim team.  These were mainly of the length that I would call “boy short” length, just at the top of the thigh, and weren’t super tight, although more form-fitting than baggy trunks. They were actually nice looking on most of the men. Interestingly, in Nice we didn’t see many Speedos either, again just on the over 60 or under 5 sets.  We saw a lot of American style trunks in Nice, and almost no topless women either, but a lot of bikinis.  Most of the girls at Aqauboulevard were in bikinis too (but tops were required). Only a few girls were in tank style suits, but we didn’t feel out of place.
Once we got through the changing room situation, we were able to enter the water park and it was a lot of fun. Similar to what you would see at a Great Wolf lodge at home.  Huge, huge zero depth entry pool and lots of squirting fountains.  Lounge chairs for resting, and several large hot tubs.  There were three water slides inside, and more outside along with more pools, but we stayed in the indoor region.
The water slides were pretty tame compared to what they have at Hersheypark. I’m not sure if that is typical, but at any park we’ve been to in France we notice that the rides are tamer than at home.  Maybe Americans like their thrills bigger.  It works out fine for us though because Katie likes things a little tamer anyway.  Katie was hesitant to go on the slides at first, and asked me to go on each of them and then report  back to her. Even when I reported that they were slow in comparison to home, she still hesitated.  She said, “They might be tame for you, Mommy, but still too hard for me.” But she did agree to give them a try.
There were two big slides, both from a platform about 3 stories high. One you rode with a tube and one without a tube. There was also a third smaller slide that went from inside the belly of a whale. We tried the big slides first, and Katie was fine with them!  We rode them again and again throughout the day.  We both liked the tube one better because you went a little faster on it and it had more splashes.  There was no guard at the top of the slide which we found odd.  You had to get yourself ready and then go when the traffic light above the slide turned green.  Those traffic lights exist at home too, but maybe they don’t trust everyone to obey them?  Or maybe insurance companies don’t trust us and insist on guards?  Well, we didn’t see anyone disobey the lights all day and things proceeded smoothly even without a guard at the top.  There wasn’t a guard at the bottom of the slide either, you had to be trusted to get out of the way or get hit by the next rider. Again, no issues. I think there were three guards for the entire area, all up on bridges over the pools looking down.  The sides weren’t very busy, we never had to wait more than two riders before our turn.
We stuck to the big slides but did try the little slide from the whale’s belly once. You walked up a ramp into the whale’s tail.  The shale was suspended over the pool and the slide came out its eye!   It was interesting because inside the whale you could see all of its organs in fiberglass.  Lungs, heart, intestines, even a baby whale with umbilical cord! I thought it was cool, but it creeped Katie out.
The other fun activity was a big rope swing.  You stepped up on a platform, grabbed the big rope and swung out over the pool. If you did it right you would arc out over the water and drop off with a big splash.  Most people didn’t grab the rope high enough and just hit the water on the way down.  I got the hang of it pretty quickly and was able to splash down nicely by the second try, but it took Katie several tries. It was pretty fun, but kind of scary standing on the platform getting ready to swing out over the water. A lot of people got up on the platform and gave up and turned back around.  Katie was brave enough to keep trying though!  Some young twentysomething guys were swinging out really high, letting go and doing a somersault before hitting the water. Very fun to watch!

Katie also had fun doing tricks in the water and requesting a score for her trick from me.  The score is out of five on execution and out of five on interest level.  Thus a well-done but boring trick like a single handstand can get five points (5/0) and a poorly executed interesting trick like three forward rolls followed by a handstand might also get five points (0/5).  She tries to invent well done and interesting trick combinations.  This is one of her very favorite things to do in a pool and we have been playing this game for easily six or seven years.  I also tried to get her to invent a routine of tricks, as she used to do. We could keep her busy by giving her a theme, like “Mount Rushmore” and she would invent an elaborate routine for that theme.  Unfortunately, I think she is outgrowing these routines and refused to invent any today.  A single routine could keep her busy for a good 20 minutes at a hotel pool when she was six or seven.  Update: Katie read through this blog and said she didn't hear me ask for a routine, she still likes to do them and hasn't outgrown them.
Towards the end of the afternoon, the pool became a wave pool for 10 minutes out of every 30 and that was a lot of fun.  Katie LOVES wave pools and this one had some really big waves.  But all of this activity finally wore us out, we braved the coed changing room again and headed home exhausted.


  1. I don't want to picture those banana hammocks!

  2. Colin and Julianna would have been all over this water park!!

  3. odd...you are worried about coed change rooms, yet you are biased against certain men wearing speedos...