AUTHOR'S NOTE: This piece is actually several excerpts from a full-length essay I just published on MEDIUM, as part of a bigger book-like project I've been calling Nothing in My Duffle Bag: A meandering naturist's travelogue. I'm still experimenting with scope and format, trying to decide what goes on WordPress, an what goes on MEDIUM. (I'll talk a bit more about that in a future post.) But in the meantime, if you find this post even a little intriguing, I hope you will click through to read the entire story. I've really enjoyed luxuriating a bit in prose, hoping that over time, this project will develop an arching narrative about our naturist experiences over the past few decades. Thanks for reading.
She couldn’t have been a day over…. seventy-eight! Wearing a peach-colored sheer and a cheap feather boa that looked like it came from a party and costume store. The full-length cover-up billowed in the afternoon wind exposing her septuagenarian skin, devoid of tan-lines, while proudly displaying a lifetime of wrinkles and scars. All devoid of eroticism, that was clearly not what she was going for. She was simply singing her best songs and living her best life.
We’ll call her Veronique.
While we’ve only encountered her once over the course of our dozen or so visits to this naturist haven, the sense was that Veronique was a regular and singular staple of the Thursday evening entertainment on La Bazar’s terrace. By 7.00 pm, she had wrapped up her set, and a companion whisked away her portable sound system as she disappeared into the Bohemian landscape of village life on this little-known island paradise.
Just another day on a naked island in France.
By now, I suspect we’ve been to Ile du Levant at least a dozen times since our visit in 2004. That story of that first experience— best told at cocktail parties — has taken on a life of its own as a referential point in our thirty-seven years of marriage. It would be overstated to say I coerced my wife Charlotte to visit this alleged birthplace of naturism in France, but she was most definitely reticent about the whole thing from the get-go.
By the end of the day, I assumed this would be our first and last visit to Ile du Levant, despite the late afternoon snooze on a pleasant little beach where, amazingly enough, everyone was naked! The water was warm and clear, and the atmosphere was chill. We sat on the cliffs overlooking the small bay and watched the boats drift by, also bedecked with happy naked people lazing in the afternoon sun. I was smitten with the place, but Charlotte wore trepidation on her brow.
“I just can’t quite figure this place out.”
There are so many stories to tell about Ile du Levant: the history of the place, the antics of the Libertine (swinger) community, and the ever-present dichotomy inherent in the very ideals of a village set aside for naked people. It occurs to me that most people have unknowingly dreamt about the place at one time another — “Remember that time I went to the grocery store, then suddenly it dawned on me I didn’t have any clothes on?”
But in this case, it’s not a dream.
This is the first section of the first chapter in a series of essays — a book even — about naturism, naturist travel — and the associated idealism, dogma, and stigma related to the concept of social nudity. For an undertaking like that, how could I possibly lead out with a better point of departure than telling the tale of this little village of Heliopolis on an island off the French Riviera.
I have no intentions of writing any sort of a guidebook, nor am I hell-bent on converting people over to clothes-free living. (Though I will be delighted if a few readers find this all intriguing enough to give it a try.) But moreover, Ile du Levant, along with naturism in general, represents so many parts of the fully lived human experience. We believe naturism has so much potential for expanding one’s mind, if only we are able to set aside preconceived ideas about the value systems of people we don’t really know very well. Naturism is symbolic to me in that way. Why should you care if I want to walk along the seaside naked? Why should I care if you want to walk in the woods with a long-sleeve shirt and a big floppy hat?
I wish the people of Levant could know how much we’ve learned from days spent wandering through the village, observing the locals, and bathing in the fresh sea air on our morning ritual walks on that same trail we explored that very first time.
Please click through to MEDIUM and read the entire essay and let me know what you think. (The first few reads on MEDIUM are free, but even then, the subscription is a nominal monthly fee that gives you access to literally thousands of writers.) You may also want to check out the prequel to this piece, called The Train Station Game.