This year marks a personal milestone. I will be celebrating my fortieth! Birthday? No, that has long passed! This year is my fortieth anniversary of becoming a Naturist!
I did not want this celebration to pass unrecognised, so I asked my husband if we could retrace my steps and go to where I first stripped off and ran into the sea, so I could do it all over again. But as an older lady, I must admit, I did not run as fast as last time!
Four decades ago, I was a staff member on a secondary school exchange, a young French teacher, staying with the PE teacher and her family at a school in the district of Mayenne. I was invited by my host if to visit their beach house, on the island of Noirmoutier. Prior to the excursion, a conversation took place where it was explained to me that they were Naturists and they asked me if I would feel happy to join them in this activity for a few hours. Now the translation of the word Naturist to a young, naive twenty three year old somehow was missed and I mistook that they were naturalists. I therefore thought that they were going to go sealife or birdwatching, so I agreed. When we arrived at La Plage De Luzéronde, my host, her husband and their two children were met by her parents. So, in total, seven of us. A pique-nique had been planned.
To my surprise, after walking round a promontory, and reaching a pleasant spot just around the headland from the village of L’Epine, all six of my French companions stripped off. I was flummoxed as to what I should do. I decided to strip and run into the sea until I recuperated and got the nerve to join them. My stomach played a big part in this, as they all began tucking into the food so I decided I was not going to miss out on lunch.
The rest is history, literally. I was immediately hooked on this new lifestyle, and socialising. All three generations were completely at ease with their bodies being on view in front of each other, and I became another convert, who sought out British Naturism on her return to the United Kingdom.
This year, tracing those tentative steps, we travelled to the district of Mayenne, and I viewed the school and small town where I participated on the exchanges. The staff I knew then had moved, retired etc. and so I was unable to trace anyone who was still around in that small town. Instead, we moved on to Laval, and we organised a stay at Mayenne Nature, a French club, who made us welcome for a couple of days.
We then travelled to Noirmoutier, and to my delight, La Plage De Luzéronde, is still a designated Naturist beach, and it has not changed much. There is tarmac nowadays, due to its popularity, that allows an easier walk to the beach, or you are able to drive and park. From the end of the tarmac the path is little changed and you step down and onto an expanse of golden sand. The naturist beach is official and advertised on a billboard prior to arrival on it. There seem to be more campsites than I remember. After doing my famous strip and run into the sea we spent two glorious days on the beach.
Mission accomplished, and with two weeks left of our trip we decided to travel to more French naturist places and so continued to Euronat for a week. Surprisingly for a lady with 40 years of naturism I had never been, so it was a bucket list item ticked for me. The beach was similar to Luzéronde; longer but with the same golden sand. Everywhere, everyone was naked, which was wonderful to experience.
We decided after a week, to travel inland from Bordeaux to the Dordogne to visit Le Couderc, which we had found and enjoyed the previous year. It is Dutch run and the staff are very friendly, helpful and accommodating. It is quite large with plenty of pitches, and once again we did not need to book in September. You do not need to leave the site because there is a restaurant, a bar, a cafe and a well stocked shop that happens to be run by an English lady. The outdoor pool is warm and clean, but also there is a superb sauna and steam room if the weather is inclement such as we experienced late September.
It was time to begin the trip north, but miraculously, thanks to Google, I found the name of a couple of the teachers I worked with 40 years ago and we had an emotional meeting at their home, resulting in dinner, an overnight stay and too much wine being consumed, but it was worth it!
I had one last “bucket list” to tick, and so on our way up to the shuttle we stopped for two days at Berck to visit Berck Plage. I remember reading about this beach in one of the first BN magazines I received and had always wanted to go. We got sandblasted, unfortunately due to the remnants of a hurricane in the Channel, but naked long enough for a photo. We stayed at one of the several campsites within walking distance from the beach. Once again it is a designated beach and billboards are visible announcing its location.
And so, a celebration of my introduction to this wonderful lifestyle of freedom took place by retracing my past links, and visiting places that I had always wanted to go. Would I have changed anything and not become a Naturist, and a very passionate one at that? Hell no!
Janet Fleuty (2019)