Standing in the corner of the shower room with my back to the wall as the attendant pinned me back with a jet of the freezing cold war from a hissing hose,
I could have been back in the Allander Swimming Pool of my youth.
In those unpolitically correct days of the 1970s, lifeguards, certainly down the Milngavie way, got away with that sort of thing.
To stop teenage boys, out to get their kicks from divebombing Saturday morning swimmers.
And the good monsieurs and mesdames of France pay good Euros for this.
Welcome to thalassotherapy. It is how the French unwind.
Following the Victorians
Now that I’ve relocated to Portobello on the Scottish Riviera where shoots run up you’re body if you’re mad enough to venture into the chilly North Sea I needed little persuading.
To take a short trip to the Bay of Biscay, and the town of Biarritz.
Which brings me back to that hosing down,
I’m down at the Sofitel Thalassa Miramar now.
It is the health resort first brought to our attention by the Victorian aristocracy.
But before I take you on a guided tour of this maritime message Mecca, I’d better come clean, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Forget the water cannon image so irresponsibly planted in your mind and replace it with the picture of a soothing spa.
Where a masseur uses your knots with a sensual spray directed to the pressure points of your body.
Which leaves you tingling all over.
Yes, she cools you down with a bracing burst of water but that only adds tho the relaxing invigorating experience.
That and the baths with their orchestrated jets, the seaweed wraps and the good-old fashioned human touch of a rubdown combine.
To give guests at France’s top thalassotherapy centre, the ultimate chill-out experience.
It is what we are all striving for in this 24-7 world.
Imagine, if you will, a morning when you’re not chomping on toast while doing up your tie or applying your make-up.
Or rushing the kids off to school, or nursery.
Instead picture a scene where you can saunter down in your luxurious white towelling dressing gown and sandals.
For a petit dejeuner and casually contemplate the breakers as they crash off the beach.
Before retreating to the spa rooms to float away.
If you can be drawn away from all this R&R and, believe me, it is difficult, there is a rich and fascinating world outside your Sifitel balcony.
Be safe on the surf
Set in the French Basque region at the foot of the Pyrenees, Biarritz is the chic epicentre.
With charming mix of the French elan and elegance, and passionate and theatrical Celtic influences.
A stroll along the shore at Biarritz reveals a ragged landscape of promontories and coves battered by the azure sea.
Which carries on its waves those brave surfers who return in the thousands each year to ride the waves.
But this is an environment that should be feared and respected in equal measure.
Our guide told us over another of those long succulent nouvelle cuisine meals, which look too good to eat and could almost be the still life of an old master but just melt away on the tongue, of the unforgiving nature of la mer.
Having gone out on her surfboard one blustery summer evening she found herself being spun around like the cycle on a washing machine.
Coming up every couple of seconds for air, before eventually finding a refuge.
She said it was the third time she had almost been killed.
I preferred instead to watch this aqua acrobatics from beside the quaint fishing port near the Rock of the Madonna.
An example of the Basque people’s respect and devotion to the two traditional guiding forces in their lives, the sea and the church.
The stunning monument to Our Lady at the end of the pier is as powerful a safeguard for boats coming ashore as the lighthouse that bounces the light off the water and into my balcony every night.
Follow the coastline, littered as it is with lush golf courses, down to St Jean de Luz, the picturesque town on the Spanish border.
Feast on the art deco Basque architecture, particularly the cathedral where a model boats hangs from the ceiling.
And taste the chocolate, a delicacy of the region, brought in by Jewish fugitives from Portugal.
All that rich cuisine, chocolate, not to mention the blancmange.
But there’s always the next morning and the chance to burn off the calories and toxins in a long soak, or wait for that hose.
Five things to do
Visit Le Musee de la Mer, Biarritz: There are aquatic centres everywhere but few in so grand a setting.
Seal pools (with chance to feed), shark caves (get up close) and an octopus measuring more than 7m long and weighing 100 kilos.
The Biarritz lighthouse: The mid-19th century landmark seems to follow you everywhere you go.
It towers 73m above the sea and after a climb of 248 steps you can rest your feet but not your eyes.
A truly breathtaking view.
The Chocolate Museum, Biarritz: On the cliffs overlooking the Cotes des Basques beach is a sumptuous setting but take a look inside.
Learn about the history of everybody’s favourite sweet food.
Visit St Jean de Luz: Take in the splendour of the town, made famous when Louis XIV married Maria-Teresa in 1660.
Marvel at the St Jean-Batptiste church, the door of which was bricked up after the Royal Couple had passed through it.
Eat and drink: The French are confirmed carnivores and if you fall into this category then sharpen your teeth on tripotxa:
It is a small mutton or veal sausage speciality with tomatoes, red peppers, ham dices and mushrooms.
Wash it down with nice Iroulequy wine (red, rose and some white).
Erna Low offers a three-night health and relaxation programme at Sofitel Thallas Miram from £860pp on a half board basis.
Prices include return flights from Ryanair from London Stansted and four thalassotherapy treatments per day.
Erna Low offers a three-night health and relaxation programme at Sofitel Thallasa Miramar https://all.accor.com/hotel/2049/index.en.shtml?utm_campaign=seo+maps&utm_medium=seo+maps&utm_source=google+Maps from £860pp on a half board basis.
Prices include return flights from Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com from London Stansted and four thalassotherapy treatments per day.
For more information and reservations contact Erna Low on (020) 75940290 or visit http://www.bodyandsoulholidays.com.
And because you love your Pyrenees here’s https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/pilgrimage/the-lourdes-prayer-pyrenees/.
And if you want a tickle at the Riviera try out https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/dresdens-renaissance-martin-luther/europe/the-boat-dazur/\