Many years ago a friend in Hobart directed a play called No Time for Fig Leaves and I was, I think, the stage manager for the production. I do not recall much about it other than it was similar to a Feydeau farce with lots of scantily clad women running in and out of doors.
Even more scantily clad women – and men – can be seen at the many naturist resorts I have visited, where the idea of a fig leaf or any other sort of leaf would be viewed with horror. I was asked once why was I a naturist and my answer was that I had been born naked. Of course Oscar Wilde had a word to say about the subject: If we were meant to be nude we would have been born that way. I rather hope to be disposed of – when the time comes – similarly unclad! What a waste of a good suit otherwise. So – birthday suits all round it is, and as I get older the “all round” aspect is becoming ever more appropriate and an all-over tan has a bit more acreage to cover.
I recently spent the weekend at the Oriental Village Resort in Chiang Mai – one of only three resorts in Thailand that cater for naturists. (The excellent Chan Resort in Pattaya and the Lumra Resort in southern Thailand are the others.) The OV has a dozen or so charming little cottages scattered along a winding path in a beautiful garden, a small swimming pool and spectacular views across rice fields to the mountains in the west. The weekend was like a mini-United Nations gathering as there were couples from Holland, Canada, the Seychelles, Germany – and a single Australian – me. The worst thing I found about being naked this time was that I had hay fever – and so lots of sneezes and sniffles but no pockets for a handkerchief. I wonder if a good plastic surgeon could make a snip here and a tuck there to create a suitable place to tuck away a handkerchief?
I visited the interesting naturist resort at Le Cap d’Agde in the south of France a couple of times and on my first visit bought a wonderful floppy sun hat – that actually did have a small pocket suitable for money while shopping in the clothing-optional supermarket. So if a hat can have a pocket, why not convert some of those extra hectares of Hall into something useful?
Le Cap d’Agde is a massive set-up of hotels and apartment buildings and camping grounds and bungalows and marinas and vast sunny beaches. I enjoyed my first visit more than the subsequent one as the resort seemed to be gradually becoming a destination for “swingers”, and has lost a lot of its family appeal.
Euronat, also in France but up near Bordeaux, sprawls over hundreds of hectares of pine forest and is very much a family place, with excellent camping pitches and small cottages sprinkled amid the trees. I got there late having travelled up from Perpignan, almost on the Spanish border, and after checking in was told that my cottage was “over there” … so began a bit of a marathon trek through the trees with my little pocket torch (at that stage I still had pockets!) poking a dim beam through the gathering dark, and me stumbling after it.
My Euronat visit was out of season so the place was quite deserted and I had the long beaches almost to myself, and my borrowed bicycle got me around quite easily once I had found my bearings. In other places I have visited it has been easy to figure out where to go – just follow the crowds. There are numerous resorts scattered along Croatia’s craggy coastline and its islands have pebbly beaches full of chattering naturists who descend – and depart – by the boatload. I found “my” cove on an island not far from Hvar by accident and was enjoying the sound of nothing … until one or two others found “my” cove and those two became five … became twenty-five … and the noise level grew accordingly: I do not think Italian naturists have a volume switch – everything is always at top pitch. I suppose that a volume switch, like a pocket, is a bit hard to find on a naked body.
I Love You!
Perhaps the strangest naturist place I have visited was in Hawaii, and is called Isle of You. A working farm, the resort has a yurt and another cabin and the owners’ house and that is it. The owners boast there is no Internet, no mobile telephone coverage – just peace and quiet and acres of fruit trees, glorious views down the valley and a driveway to remember. I have just noticed that there is even a video of the driveway on YouTube. I had hired a car and one evening as I drove out of the resort I hit a bump and thought nothing more about the bash underneath … until the oil warning light flickered on and off a few times, and the car gave a tired little cough and stopped in the middle of the road in a sensational summer downpour. I had damaged the sump, it turned out, and the engine seized. Several hours later and thanks to a passing policeman I was eventually towed into town and the hire company delivered a replacement car to me the following day. I negotiated that driveway with a bit more care … and was not surprised to see there was a trail of oil drops leading away from the resort’s front gate.
There are no gates and no rough driveways to worry about when you visit Barcelona’s St Sebastià beach: it is just a brief walk from the busy port area and beaches of Barceloneta and in the shadow of the W Hotel’s giant sail on the end of the point. Although not officially a naturist beach, the crowds are about half and half – dressed and undressed, men and women, singles, families … and Chinese tourists with cameras. The beach has lifeguards on duty and the waters of the Mediterranean are clear and crisp. I have spent three summers in Barcelona and almost every day of these visits on St Sebastià beach. Blissful! Many naturist beaches are in remote locations and visitors are forced to trudge for miles, or up and down rocky pathways – not so here. There are bars and restaurants a few minutes away and showers and toilets nearby. Ah! Wonder if I should go back again next year?
I’d also be happy to return to Munich’s beautiful English Gardens as the nudist area by the horse track and a branch of the Isar River is a delight. Families having picnics, equestrians galloping along, frantic Frisbee flingers and blissful naked sunbathers all share the same area … until it is time to fling on a few clothes and return to lectures at the nearby university or to have a beer or two in the beer garden next to the Chinese Tower. I like the garden and the craziness of having a naked sunbathing and swimming area in the middle of a public park, but the chilly fast-flowing stream and the idle clothed spectators make it a less than ideal place – but worth a visit.
The Dantebad is a public swimming pool in Munich’s northern suburbs, and has extensive gardens. For naturists it offers a separate 25-metre pool and a large garden area. I have enjoyed my visits to this pool more than my couple of afternoons in the English Gardens, although while walking barefoot on the lawns visitors should be aware of the bees that are scuttling around the clover flowers. I walked on one that took exception to being walked on and retaliated … and I then had a swollen and painful foot for several days. Still, I guess it would have been worse had I sat naked on the little beastie and was bitten in another place …
Vecāķi beach, a short train ride north of Riga in Latvia, is a popular naturist beach and one very popular with families as the waters of the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Riga are very shallow – indeed, on my visit earlier this year I had to walk out a hundred metres or so before the water was deep enough for swimming but at least I can say that I have swum in the Baltic!
I wonder if it is possible to be a naturist and a non-swimmer …? I suppose so … but it seems that water is just about always a feature of my naked experiences. One does need to cool off every now and then! I suppose it would also be hard to be a good golfer if you were agoraphobic. Or a pilot who was scared of heights … Or a teacher who hated kids … Ooops! Who said that?
Australia has some of the world’s best swimming places and naturists can use a small handful of them legally. My former home state of Tasmania has no legal “free” beaches, but each of the other states offers a selection – ranging from the camel-friendly Cable Beach in Western Australia to the narrow nude beaches south from Melbourne and to the superb Alexandria Bay in Noosa National Park, Queensland. In Cairns, right up the top of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is a major attraction. No legal nude bathing is allowed but there are several excellent naturist B&Bs in the region.
Did Man Friday have a “Casual Clothes Day” on Fridays?
I had a week’s camping holiday on one of the uninhabited Whitsunday Islands some time ago. The captain of the small boat that dropped me off and picked me up exaggerated somewhat when he laughingly told other passengers on the return journey, “He was wearing a three-piece suit when I dropped him here last week – and today nothing!” It was true that for a week I had dropped my duds and played Robinson Crusoe – dodging sharks and battling it out with furry little animals that ate holes in my tent trying to get at my food. But on the seventh day a sarong was needed to get back on the ferry. All good things …
I have started looking at possibilities for next summer – yes – Barcelona is still on the list – but whenever I travel I usually look out for new places to try. If a particular destination has an interesting historical aspect, access to a good train journey or two, a naturist beach and a selection of good restaurants, then it has ticked all the right boxes. So somehow in six or seven weeks next summer I have to fit in a week or two on the beaches in South Africa, Croatia and France, return visits to Portugal’s Algarve, to Yvonne’s Mi Casa in Albuquerque and to the lovely Desert Sun Resort in Palm Springs, as well as a fourth visit to a small naturist resort on Bali’s north coast and a visit to see friends in Malta as well – although there are no nude beaches or trains there, its history is fascinating and I am told the eating is wonderful. Since Malta is a very conservative country and a predominantly Roman Catholic country I guess I will have to add a fig leaf or two to my travelling wardrobe … and pray for an early autumn.
- Many journeys to many wonderful places over many years
- Text © Christopher Hall 2014
- David, Cap d’Agde and Euronat photographs downloaded from the Internet, others © Christopher Hall 2014
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