Seems I have fallen behind in the chronicles of our naturist journey…
At this writing, we are nestled in a naturist settlement in Provence – central southern France. We are thirty-five days into our “naturist odyssey” across Europe, though we have scarcely posted to the blog over the past four weeks.
From this comes a lesson for those of you out there who wish to be naked in Europe, but at the same time, want to stay connected to the Internet. Forget it!
(Should you wish to see our entire itinerary, you can peruse the “Blowing Through Europe” post from last May.)
European naturism comes with a price tag; the first part being the necessity of paying high tariffs for the privilege of simply being naked, the second part, coming to grips with the fact that you will sacrifice amenities and conveniences along with the decision to doff your clothes. (In this case, Internet access has been dismal at best –but more often than that, impossible!) I suspect many naturist families have “gone bust” on this matter alone, in this age where we are all connected 24/7/365, but I digress…
Since my last substantive post about Ile du Levant, we have made our way along the Mediterranean to the northern coast of Spain, back across the Pyrenees to our favorite naturist resort in Aquitaine, and now, on to Provence where we have settled for a week just north of Avignon in a region surrounded by grape vineyards, olive groves, and fields of sunflowers. But this post is intended to capture the essence of our five days at El Templo del Sol on the Catalonian coast about ninety minutes south of Barcelona.
I have had my eye on this curious little resort for a long time, intrigued with the post-Franco-era notion that you can be naked any time, any where you want in Spain (a law recently overturned by the local governance of Barcelona, by the way) and the curious (read: Disney-like!) quasi-north African architecture of this upscale campground, that fortunately enough, offers accommodations for travelers without trailers and tents in tow. We chose to book a “mobile-home-chalet” for 2/3 people, which turned out to be a fairly modest affair, but good enough to facilitate our five night stay near the famous Playa del Torn.
It is worth noting at this point that beaches in Spain (as is the case in most of Europe) are public property, and thus, anyone can visit, get naked, not get naked, whatever… But in this case, the management of El Templo del Sol found an entrepreneurial edge in creating a naturist campsite adjacent to a beach that has appeared on the New York Times list of the “Top Ten Places to get Naked in Europe!” (If you’re into fact checking, you may prove me wrong, but there is a LOT of chatter out there about this gorgeous naturist beach, and I’m happy to concur, it is well deserved!)
The beach, itself, is simply breath taking! (And, in fact, you can visit the beach without staying at the resort!) About one mile in length, we made a ritual of walking the beach each morning, and most evenings during our stay. That would be an excellent fitness strategy if you weren’t consuming so much chorizo, cheese, and Chianti!
The “campground” as it is, replete with mobile home chalets and extravagant tent contraptions that make it possible for non-European people to drop in for five days or more (the minimum stay in high season), is situated along the cliffs above the Playa del Torn. In concept, you are issued a wristband at check-in that will allow you access to the campground when coming from the beach. This keeps the riff-raff out of the campground, while making sure that only the paying customers are enjoying the amenities like the on-site pizzeria and mini-golf. Truthfully, the only place somebody looked for our wristbands was at the pool – but more about that later!
Our “mobile-chalet” was certainly adequate for two people, and as it turned out, the greatest luxury turned out to be the air-conditioning unit that provided a few nights of deep sleep that would have otherwise been lost to the hot, balmy nights. Having said that, this was by no means a Hilton Garden Inn! In our case, the unit was not quite level, so if you happened to drop a marble… a cheese-ball, or anything remotely cylindrical on the floor, that item would immediately begin rolling toward the northern end of ‘the house.’ Adjusting to living in such conditions was something akin to growing “sea-legs” for those who spend days or weeks on end at sea.
Should you choose to check out the place on Trip Advisor, or some other website that fosters a proclivity toward consumer raves and rants, you’ll find that a lot of the campers get whiney about the nearby high-speed rail line. Seems that not so many people are worried about being seen in the altogether by Spanish rail travelers, but more pragmatically, are simply irritated by the noise of the passing trains. And indeed, we spent a good bit of our stay in the fabulous pool complex where the trains pass by in full view of the pool – say, every 15 minutes or so. Farther down the beach, the tracks cut through a rock formation and pass so closely that even the most prudish of passengers would have to use significant restraint to avoid seeing the naked people frolicking on the beach. We consider ourselves ANYthing but voyeuristic, but it was difficult to resist the temptation to ‘moon’ the passing trains, simply for the privilege of the right to do so. This would never go on the Jersey shore!
If you’re inherently modest, (an oxymoron for a true naturist, I know) you really have nothing to worry about at the pool (except for that guy on the train with the super-high-speed lens) and there are plenty of places on the beach where you are well out of sight of the passing trains. (I have been formulating an entire ‘sermon’ about naturism in the age of facial recognition photography, but I’ll save that for a later pst!)
During our stay, the vibe on the beach was laid back and easy! There’s a great beach bar/restaurant (not connected, at all, to El Templo del Sol) that does a brisk business during the middle of the day. No shirt, no shoes, no shorts, no swimsuit = NO PROBLEM. Getting a table, however, is a problem, as the locals tend to hang out eating and drinking the afternoon away. It’s a good life.
Compared to places we have visited in France and Croatia, there are a few peculiarities about El Templo del Sol. My sense is that both entrepreneurship, and the naturist business, is still a bit new amidst these formerly autocratic regions of Europe, and they’re still scrambling here and there to figure out the customer service piece. We have a few awkward stories about checking into French naturist places as well, but none of them are quite as stilted as our arrival at El Templo del Sol. And of course, every time, you check into a new naturist venue (meaning, new to you,) you have to figure out the implicit laws of the land. “Do I dress to go to the pizzeria? How about the grocery store? Or the path to the beach?” Every place has a different set of rules, naturist or not; which is the best reason I know for going back to the same place year after year. Figuring out the rules is like a perpetual game of Tetris – which in the last place, detracts from the basic concept of going on holiday. “Lose your clothes. Lose your worries.”
That’s an excellent segue back into the “life near the pool” thing, which will likely provide enough fodder for two or three blog posts all in itself. Such postings could include “Hey, the naked camp counselors are all speaking English,” or “Wow… those people on the train get to see everything,” or the most poignant of all, “Take a picture of the empty pool and piss off the life guard!” We have the picture to prove it, and indeed, it’s the only time we heard the lifeguard blow his whistle over the course of the week.
Kids running on the slippery tile? Not a problem.
Mean Dutch kid bullying sweet little French kids? Bien sur! (We have come to find European parents to be incredibly ‘hands-off’ in these situations, but that, too, is another blog post.)
Take a picture of the pool with the Mediterranean in the background. RED ALERT! No repercussions – we just learned another one of the implicit rules.
I get that… really. And quite frankly, appreciate the diligence to assure the clientele that this is a safe place to get naked without the fear of turning up on the Internet au naturel. But quite frankly, (Again, yet another blog post in the making – I have lots of catching up to do!) therein lies the most convoluted perplexities of the 21st century naturist experience. We would have never found El Templo del Sol without the aid of the Internet, and it’s a place we would happily return to, but at the same time, the Internet turns out to represent the underbelly of the naturist experience wherein the devious could easily devise a way to capture unauthorized images, and who knows where those will turn up? On the resort, on the beach, near the railway – if you’re gonna get naked in public, your bare ass may show up on the web.
That’s sort of a twisted spin for the end of this post, but if you’ve already reconciled with the concept of total exposure, El Templo del Sol is an excellent place to do so. I’m confident our days there will inspire many of the musings that have yet to bare themselves out.
Just as a sidebar… as we’re working our way through the South of France, we have come to enjoy afternoon adventures in the markets and villages of each surrounding region. The village near El Templo del Sol, L’Hospitalet de l’Infant, is a rather unattractive – almost to the point of depressing – urbanization that is hardly a holiday destination unto itself. Other nearby villages may be more charming, and you can easily navigate a two hour train ride into Barcelona for about 16 euros round trip, but if you’re hell-bent on sight-seeing, this might not be the optimal home base.