No shirt, no shoes, no problem. Like any good oceanside resort, Cap d’Agde in southern France has a wide, sundrenched beach, an interesting variety of shops and restaurants, and daily activities such as beach volleyball, windsurfing, and sandcastle-building competitions. The only difference is that in Cap d’Agde, people wear nothing but their birthday suits.
Yes, the whole town of 40,000 is a nudist colony. Only to call it a “colony” is not giving the fully functioning, selfsufficient town with its own police department and doctors’ offices its due. People in Cap d’Agde bank in the nude, buy groceries in the nude, and, yes, even dine out at restaurants in the nude. In fact, if you try to sneakily wear a Speedo onto its gorgeous 1.5-mile-long beach, authorities will politely ask you to either “take it off, take it all off ” or to leave. Voyeurism, at least the kind where you don’t share and share alike, is strictly forbidden.
At first, it can be uncomfortable. You find yourself scrutinizing every bump, every lump, every blemish. You wonder why you didn’t take that New Year’s resolution seriously. But before long, you start to settle in. You come to realize, “Hey, if this is how God made me, why shouldn’t I be proud of it?”
Naturists, as they call themselves, talk about body acceptance and claim that hanging out in the very outfit they came with offers a refreshing kind of freedom. There’s no pretending to be someone you’re not. As the Naturists Association proudly proclaims on its website, “We view the nude human form for what it is: a gift of nature, dignified and worthy of respect, regardless of shape, size, age, or hue.”
And look at it like this: You won’t need a lot of suitcases.
Cap d’Agde was developed from scrub in the 1970s and belongs to Agde, a fifth-century walled city just a few miles inland. The resort spreads out from a large man-made harbor with a marina. While there is also what is known as “the textile section” (a neighborhood where clothing is not optional), the naturist section is completely independent, with its own boutiques, banks, restaurants, swimming pools, nightclubs, and services.
Harry Shaffer, an 88-year-old economics professor from the University of Kansas, and his wife, Betty, rented an apartment in Cap d’Agde every summer for 11 years. “It was very liberating,” Betty says. “It made you realize what life could be like. The only thing is, you had to remember to put your clothes back on when you left.”
Cap d’Agde, situated in the lush Languedoc region, is also close to many other wonderful French destinations. The port city of Sete, known as the “ Venice of Languedoc,” is nearby. This romantic town with canals and quaint neighborhoods is a great place to get Bouziques oysters and bourride, a French specialty of monkfish in garlic mayonnaise. The medieval fortified city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Canal du Midi, lies 75 miles to the west. From Cap d’Agde, you’re also close to Nîmes, with its Roman heritage; the bustling city of Montpellier and its Place de la Comédie, adorned with the elegant “Three Graces” fountain; and charming Arles, a labyrinth of ancient streets. And, of course, it’s only a five-hour train ride from Paris on the speedy TGV.
There are four types of accommodations in Cap—apartments, villas, a campground, and one hotel. Hotel Eve, although not exactly the Ritz, has a large heated pool, a sauna, a 24-hour lounge, a staff that speaks English (because the resort caters to lots of French and Germans, English can be harder to come by elsewhere), and clean, comfortable rooms. Newbies often stay there until they can score an apartment or villa.
The campground—the original nudist colony—has more than 2,500 sites, and whether you bring a tent or rent one of the permanently parked mobile homes or chalets, you’ll get a secure swipe-card to allow safe admittance.