We’re just back from Greece, or more specifically, Crete – where we made our fourth visit over the span of about ten years to the beautiful naturist hotel/resort Vritomartis, located due south of Chania. Directions: Leave the airport, drive through the industrial wasteland near the airport, climb over the daunting mountains ever-attuned to dodging stray goats on the winding roads perched on precipitous cliffs, until you reach the sea. Turn right, then left, then take off your clothes.
I keep looking for a word other than quirky to describe this remote naturist destination, particularly since I’ve used the quirky word in the titles of several other blog posts, at least one of which was about Greece. But quite frankly, I simply can’t conjure up another word that does that trick.
I’ll lead out with the ranting part first, which on the flip side turns out to be something of a statement of affirmation. Granted, going anyplace in Europe during the month of June, before schools have let out, puts an immediate and noticeable skew on the holiday destination demographics, but Simpsons fans will immediately relate if I suggest that the clientele of this Greek resort quite closely resembled the residential population at the Springfield Retirement Home. I realize that’s hardly fair, as we, ourselves, are hurdling through middle age at lightening speed, and my typical dismay of seeing Homer in the mirror each morning is slowly turning over to recognizing traces of the emerging Abe Simpson. Now in our late fifties, we are becoming part of that skewed demographic, but golly! There were a lot of folks in the 80+ crowd at Vritomarits this time around. GOD BLESS THEM EVERY ONE! But again… wow!
Bear in mind, getting to the southern shores of Crete is a bit more complicated than finding your way to La Jolla or the Jersey Shore. Even if you can find a direct flight from London, you’re still in for a 90-minute car ride over the goat infested mountains (Actually, we adore the goats!), which involves either a hefty taxi fare, or a demanding drive that requires a good sense of acuity and quick response time. (Again… lovin’ those goats!)
This year, we met Anka, the new animateur from France, who not only led us on the naturist walk down the gorge above Anapoli, but was also charged with doing the morning water aerobics; yet another Simpsonesque scene with an attractive young (naked) woman leading high precision dance-like routines for a wildly un-synchronized group of folks that, even if unimpeded by the viscosity of water, were nowhere close to keeping up with this high intensity workout. Not especially different than when I encounter the water aerobics classes at our local YMCA, conveniently located across the street from a sprawling retirement community, but even there – a bit sobering when the place becomes overwhelmed with the 9:00 am fitness classes donning names like, “You can stay alive another year!” Those folks at the Y are all in swimsuits, but simply put, it’s always something of a mortality check. Like seeing the recent Paul McCartney bit on James Corden the other day – “Damn Paul, you still got it, but dude! You’re getting old!”
I’ve been working on a blog draft of the “Top Ten Places we’d go with our Clothes on,” in an effort to identify places that have amenities beyond what one might expect at the typically more rustic naturist/nudist establishment. We’ve found several places that would make the list, most notably those in Palm Springs, Mexico, France, Spain, Mallorca, and a couple places in Greece. But not surprisingly, at each of these places, we continue to encounter the recurring story of the people who decided to “live life dangerously after that last kid was out of the nest.” We got into naturism in our late twenties, and pulled our kids into the mix through most of their adolescent years, so we’re never quite sure how to weigh into that conversation that leads out with “Do your kids know where you are right now?”
I guess that’s my point. Not that the over-eighty crowd shouldn’t feel at home in their own skin at a place like Vritomartis, and to be sure, that’s a serious part of the affirmation thing. Comfortable in your aging skin is a wonderful testament to the intrinsic value of naturism itself, but naked or not, it presents something of a marketing conundrum for upscale naturist resorts in their attempt to attract a balanced age distribution as most thirty-somethings may not be ready for an exotic holiday in a place where the other prevailing clients are 40+ years their senior. And despite all of the quippy blogs and articles that preach the virtues of naturism as a way of reducing vacation costs, that simply doesn’t hold true if you’re seeking accommodations nicer than a pop-up trailer at a rustic campground. In fact, the expense of getting to a naturist destination, and the implied surcharge of staying at a property with little or no competition in its class, typically means you pay a significant up-charge for the privilege of getting naked, which ironically skews the demographics even more as those same thirty-somethings are likely lacking the discretionary funds requisite for an upscale naturist holiday. Really! A marketing conundrum from most every angle.
As we’ve been to Vritomartis four times already, I suspect we’ll find our way back there within another two or three years. We really do love the place. You can find nearly 800 reviews on TripAdvisor that speak to the various amenities you will find there, and their new website is beautifully designed as they seem to be targeting a more upscale clientele, while making smallish upgrades along the way to create a more international, Club Med environment than what you will find at the parochial little hotels down in the nearby village of Chora Sfakion where you can find a basic room with a sea view for a fraction of the cost. Vritomartis is a must see destination for the discerning naturist traveler.
All that said, perhaps of greatest intrigue is a quick analysis of all the banter about the aging naturist population under the “Doom and Gloom” headers of various naturist forums, as opposed to the proliferation of articles in mainstream media about recent trending patterns for those seeking something different this year – maybe it’s time for a Nakation! Seems to me that, as a whole, there is no immediate danger of the naturist marketing niche dying off anytime soon, (and I mean that as literally as it sounds), but for each eighty-something who simply can’t make it again to some far-flung remote, luxury clothing-optional destination, there will likely be three other fifty-somethings who have just rid themselves of their children, and in doing so, have decided to ditch their inhibitions and clothing as well. Vritomartis, and similar resorts in Mallorca and France, are running at full capacity for most of the season, which provides clear evidence that the naturist population isn’t actually dying off, but rather, it’s just a changing of the guards of clothing-optional recreation. Unfortunately, we’re not getting cadet naturists in the 20 and 30-something bracket one might hope for.
A few years ago, we visited a very remote naturist resort in Brazil (another interesting post I never got around to writing) which featured a funky hotel in the middle or a residential community that once again, has become something of a retirement community that opens its gates to a few adventurous travelers, not terribly unlike the atmosphere of Florida’s Cypress Cove, where the more modern facilities are flanked by rows and rows of little houses where people have settled in for their Golden Years. Our next stop in Brazil was a run-of-the-mill textile resort situated near the entrance to Iguazu Falls, crowded with exactly the holiday crowd you might expect; some older than us, and lots of families a good bit younger than us. I remember sitting near the pool, Caipirinha in hand, wondering if the day would come in my lifetime when we would experience this eclectic mix in a clothing-optional setting. Wouldn’t that be something if the swimsuit simply became a matter of preference rather than something ordained in the name of public decency? But in the meantime, we will continue to pay the nudity tax for our luxury clothing-optional travel endeavors, hoping that as time goes by, the mainstream media will help get the word out that naturist travel is not just for the aged and eccentric. It’s simply a choice to leave one’s swimsuit behind as apparel that is hardly useful and usually uncomfortable. The folks at Vritomartis are doing their part to promote that message. Hoping many more will take up their cause until choosing a naturist destination becomes as normal as deciding between the Marriott and the Westin.