If God intended people to be naked, they would be born that way.
- Oscar Wilde
I never cease to amaze myself. I say this humbly.
None of which had anything to do with my reasons for being there. I took the train down to Agde on Saturday morning because of a much more modern aspect of the place: the enormous (and enormously tacky) resort area at nearby Cap d'Agde, on the Mediterranean, and specifically the famous Quartier Naturiste.
I'd been interested in nudism, or naturism (the distinction is one of those Bigendian-Littlendian things, incomprehensible to outsiders), for a long time; it was something I'd always wanted to try. Not just for the obvious reasons (if all I wanted was to see women with their clothes off, there are plenty of strip clubs in Tulsa), but because I liked the idea of dumping the status uniforms, of nobody being able to judge me by the clothes I wore. Besides, I liked the sensation; in the woods or on the river, when nobody was around, I often went naked and enjoyed it.
Now, though, I think I was mostly just looking for a new experience. There wasn't much in life, at 58, that I hadn't tried. This was one of the few possibilities left.
And I figured it would be easier, the first time, if I did it somewhere nobody knew me.
So I hopped the local down to Agde, and took the bus down to the Quartier Naturiste. I wasn't at all sure this was going to work. The sky was heavily clouded over and the wind was still coming out of the south; I wondered if anybody would be around.
And sure enough, when I got there and paid my entry fee and got my little plastic card, I found my pessimism justified. Throughout the broad complex of streets and stores and huge butt-ugly apartment buildings, the few people I saw were fully dressed, many of them wrapped up in windbreakers and hooded jackets as if it were cold.
Which it wasn't. I want to say this for the record: IT WASN'T COLD, GOD DAMN IT. It wasn't even chilly - and anybody who knows me will tell you I have a very low tolerance for cold temperatures and get chilled very easily; but the wind, though strong, was warm (after all, it was coming up out of Africa) and certainly there was no reason for anyone to wrap up. Even a non-nudist should have been comfortable in shorts and a T-shirt.
Well, the Quartier is mostly clothing-optional rather than strictly nudist; I walked down toward the beach, which is supposed to be mandatory-nude. And a few minutes later there it was and there I was.
OK, get ready, here it comes. The rules at Cap d'Agde strictly prohibit photography of the nudist areas, but I sneaked my camera in and at great personal risk violated the regulations; and now you can see the results -
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PHOTOS DEPICT SCENES FROM A NUDIST BEACH.
I said, "Well, shit," or words to that effect, and thought it over. I didn't have to think long, though. I'd already made up my mind on my way down to the beach: I came here to get naked and if nobody else wants to get naked that's their problem but by God I'M GETTING NAKED.
So I stood there on the beach and took off everything but my headband and stowed it all in my daypack and then I found a spot in the shelter of a deserted beach café building and sat down on the sand and had my lunch, which I'd brought all the way from Avignon. From time to time people drifted by, singly or in pairs, mostly men but a few women. They looked at me a bit oddly, but nobody said anything beyond an occasional casual greeting.
Done with lunch, I rammed the cork back in the wine bottle - which weighed somewhat less than it had before - and went walking along the beach. Still no sight of anyone else going nuddy. A very strange sensation for me, being the only one observing the rules. Not a common experience in my life.
Finally it started to rain, a light sprinkle at first and then a serious downpour. Reality time; I climbed up off the beach and headed for the shelter of the little shopping area, maybe a quarter-mile away. By now the rain was really coming down but I made no move to get dressed; my clothes would have gotten soaked and I'd have gotten chilled. I was warmer walking along naked than I'd have been in sodden cotton clothes - and my poncho and my leather jacket were back at the hotel in Avignon.
So I walked that quarter-mile along the street and across the parking lot, while cars passed by, their occupants staring at the nude nut striding along in the rain. By the time I reached the shelter of the little mall, I was starting to feel a little bit chilled; but I got under cover and took out my towel and then, and only then, after drying off, I put my clothes back on. Everything had stayed nice and dry in the pack and very soon I was warm again.
I stood there waiting, feeling generally disgusted, for an hour or so until the rain stopped. People came and went, still fully dressed, though now there was some excuse. After the rain stopped I got naked again and walked around the area, back down to the beach and back and then here and there about the Quartier. It was nice and warm after the rain stopped and the sun was even trying to shine through the clouds, but everybody was staying clad. Finally I did run into a couple of guys - separately, not together - wearing windbreakers but no pants. That struck me as pretty silly; they certainly looked dumb with their butts and ballocks hanging out like that, but at least they were making an effort. They were the only ones, though.
Back at the shopping area, I went over to the little patisserie and got myself a cup of coffee and a sweet roll. The young lady behind the counter was very pretty, attractively attired in a simple black dress with a little white lace apron. I got into a long conversation with her - the longest conversation entirely in French that I'd had so far, and the first real social conversation; up to now my efforts in French had mostly been about things like meals and train tickets and hotel rooms.
It was a remarkable sensation, standing there wearing nothing but a headband and chatting away with this lovely young woman who happened to be fully dressed. I knew, of course, it didn't bother her - she worked here, she'd seen it all. (She told me a little of what it was like there in the summer, when the place was packed and everybody was bare-assed. "You should see them playing volleyball," she said with a comical grimace.) But I'd never done anything like this before in my life, and I was amazed at how easy it was, how natural it felt.
Later on, out on the parking lot by the marina, I got into another conversation, this time with a middle-aged Dutch lady in a neat black pants suit. You could hardly have imagined a more respectable-looking individual; and there she stood in broad daylight talking with a naked man, and the only thing we were both embarrassed about was how badly we both spoke French. (Our only common language, as it turned out.)
So much for my introduction to the wonderful world of naturism. All in all a fascinating experience, and even though it didn't turn out as expected, it had its moments; I learned some things and I had a few laughs.... I definitely want to try it again, if I can find a place within range of where I live; next time, though, I hope I'm not the only one.
(If you want to know more about Cap d'Agde and see what allegedly goes on there later in the season, try [click here to go see the naked people] - but I'm telling you now, it's not like that all the time BECAUSE THEY'RE A BUNCH OF WUSSIES. Sorry, I've been needing to say that....)
Finally I gave up and got dressed and caught the bus back into town and then the train back to Avignon - where I learned that it hadn't rained all day.
Later I went up to the square and chose a café and tucked into a gigot a l'agneau roti a la fleur thyme, which was just as good as it sounds, and thought about this and that, and at last I walked up to the Palais to watch the dancing.
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