Old. Right there is a loaded word. Sometimes it is used as a pejorative, as in ‘old coot’ or ‘old geezer,’ but I like it, because I have earned the right to be called old and am enjoying my seniority immensely.
Let me give you an example. Last month (October, 2018) our oldest son and his wife celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. (The inescapable implication is that I must be old.) The whole family booked a Mediterranean cruise to mark the occasion. Great food, no responsibilities, beautiful and interesting ports to visit: What could be better?
Here is what turned out to be the icing on the cake for the swimmer in me. The good thing about cruise ships is that they are always (doh!) close to the water, as was indeed the case with our ship, Holland America’s Oosterdam. Her itinerary took us from Venice to Rome and back, with stops in Croatia, Albania, Greek islands, Malta and Sicily, a new port almost every day, always with a fine beach within a short distance of the ship’s mooring. When the ship was not in a port, my alternative was to make use of the two small pools on board.
So I sought and found delightful places to swim in the sea everywhere. In the Albanian city of Sarande, there is a lovely town beach within a short walk of the pier. Just south of the city of Catania, Sicily, is a broad beach with gentle surf and warm water. Just under the ancient city walls of Rhodes I swam laps between luxurious mega-yachts and the ship. In Santorini we rode away from the touristic town of Thira and found isolated, enchanting Mera Beach about twenty minutes away. There is a hidden beach just outside the old city of Dubrovnik, where I swam with a local swim group. Always the sea calling me; always right at hand. How much did I swim? Whatever felt right, always close to shore; usually between 500 and 1500 meters. Sylvia was always there to keep an eye on me.
In places where we were docked in an industrial area of a big city, I took a cab or a city bus to the outskirts. That was the case in Peiraeus, Athen’s port city, where for five euros we took a taxi to the quiet little fishing town of Mikrolimano, and we were the only tourists in town to enjoy a great swim and a fine dinner from the sea. Rome’s port city is Civitavecchia, and just south of this lovely town is a beach that will satisfy your inner needs.
I swam in the beautiful Mediterranean every day. It is what I love and need, and I confess to being a non-repentant swim-aholic. With the blessing of time and good health, I will continue to pursue my vice. And when I am sailing on a cruise ship, I will continue to sneak off to frolic in the sea. That is where the ship will always be, and it is what I do. Would you call that a symbiotic relationship?
Note regarding cruising: I have heard people say that they are afraid to cruise because of the fearsome food and drink temptations. The fact is that you have the same temptations at home: the choice is always yours. I know folks who walk six miles a day on board, and there is always a gym and a place to swim, either in the on-board pool or in some exotic port. And it is so nice to have someone cook and clean for you. The older I get, the more I like it. Maybe I am a cruise-aholic too?