Cap D’Agde-Go au Naturel

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.