Heliopolis Cap de'agde

Vetti, Manni (Manfred) and Anna Marie at the airport and outside our apartment at the Heliopolis, Cap d’agde

We never really thought of ourselves as nudists. It was not a culture, a philosophy, or a religion–it was just a place, a place where everyone thought it just fine not to wear clothes–and that’s what we did. 

Whenever I tell someone that I used to spend my summers on the nude beaches of southern France, their questions make it plain to me that they’ve never experienced anything even remotely similar. “It’s not really what you think,” I tell them. Then, even after giving it my best effort, most still do not overcome their stereotypical views of what it must have been like—a few do understand, however.

It was 1973. I was living and working in Bremen, a harbor town in northern Germany, not far from Hamburg. Although I had lived in numerous other places in Germany while a U.S. Army dependent, this was my first year in Germany by myself. My father had retired to the States the previous year; and now, both my parents and my siblings were there to stay.

Although my mother was German and I was born in Germany, I was relegated to guest worker (Gastarbeiter) status, being an American citizen. I worked alongside other non-Germans—Dutch, Danes, Swedes and Fins, mostly, being up north—all of which had come to the country because of the better economic opportunities Germany offered at that time. There were always several Turks working with us, but they generally kept to themselves. That was OK with us; we really had no desire to associate with them anyway. Being a guest worker destined me to doing the low-paying grunt work that was beneath what most German citizens wanted to do. But, what the heck—I was 20 years old and free. If you lived with someone, and lived smart, you could make it, no problem.

My German uncle and aunt, living in Muenster (like the cheese), Westphalia, invited me to stay with them for a week. My female cousin, Hannelore, was there also, living with them while attending medical school in the same moderate-sized college town. I had met all of them before on several occasions when younger, but I didn’t know any of them well. While there, Hannelore, who was older than me by a year, showed me around; and, after only a short while, we became good friends. She asked me if I would like to join her and several of her friends in the south of France for the summer—a place called Cap d’agde–a place where no one wears any clothes. She told me a little about it and assured me that my uncle, a well-to-do doctor, was willing to carry me as far as expenses—they had discussed it and he had already agreed to foot my costs. I was actually dumbstruck for words; but then, as a surprise even to myself, I quickly agreed. Of course, I was much younger then, but even with my youthful philosophy of open-minded liberalism, which I proudly touted, this was going to be something truly different, the likes of which I would never have thought to do on my own. Thinking back on it, it’s not that Hannelore would have thought any less of me had I declined—it was just that, to do otherwise, I would not only have felt like an ingrate, but like a coward as well.

I went back to Bremen and worked another month, when, in the middle of June, Hannelore called and said we would all be meeting that week in Cap d’agde, as coordinating everyone’s schedules to facilitate traveling together would be impractical. When I asked her if my aunt and uncle were going, she just laughed. She said that besides she and I, going would be her boyfriend, Udo, and two French girls, Vetti and Anna Marie, with whom she attended school there in Muenster. She said we would encounter yet others, once there, regulars who vacation around the same time as they do every year.

Well, I quit my job, got what little money I had out of the bank, and headed out the next day by train. After a scenic three-day ride, I arrived in the city of Bezier, where, after a phone call, Hannelore came up by cab and escorted me to our destination. After going through the gate, we were in the quartier naturiste, or naturist quarter of Cap d’agde, a section of the city completely fenced off from the rest of the town. Right away, I saw people, completely naked–men, women and children–individuals, groups, couples and families.

We walked for a ways along a waterway, like a narrow harbor, lined with docks and marinas at which a multitude of sailboats was moored. On the other side of this waterway were other marinas, large apartment complexes and shops. Some of the people we encountered were clothed, like us; others were partially clothed; but most were completely naked.

After a short walk in the direction of our digs, Hannelore suggested we take off our clothes before we arrived at the apartments, as it was proper decorum not to be clothed there, and that clothes were not at all allowed on the beach. I think I dreaded this moment most of all while on the train, thinking about the two of us–persons related by blood and of the opposite sex no less—seeing one another naked. But, we quickly stripped off our clothes while sitting on a grassy incline near the waterway, putting our socks and shoes back on our feet. I stuffed my clothes into my suitcase while Hannelore carried hers. I never looked down at her once for the first hour I was there. However, I soon found walking around without clothes to be quite liberating.

As we walked along the harbor walkway, apparently sensing my nervousness, Hannelore made small talk and explained some things about the town in an effort to calm me. Whenever we encountered other naked people walking the opposite way, we would exchange with them friendly nods and smiles. It took considerable effort for me to make only eye contact and not follow my natural instinct to look down and stare. It soon became evident to me that both they and Hannelore were completely at ease with being nude and that they did not at all share my disquiet. We continued walking until we came to the place we would be staying–a huge apartment complex comprised of several stories in the shape of a circle—it was open at one end, the end facing the beach, forming a horseshoe-like shape. Called the Heliopolis, it had within the perimeter of the circle a number of shops, swimming pools, and landscaped areas.

After dropping off my suitcase and Hannelore’s clothes at our respective apartments, we headed out to the beach. There, she introduced me to her boyfriend Udo, and to Anna Marie and Vetti. Suddenly, another moment of considerable consternation, as both young women, girls really, were exceptionally good-looking and I had everything to do to keep from staring at them. Anna Marie, seeing my discomfort with my new surroundings (or seeing me vulnerable for her own purposes), immediately took me under her wing; she gently eased me into the swing of things over the next day or so. We soon became boyfriend and girlfriend—which lasted a whole six weeks. That’s just the way she was, I later found out. After this fleeting relationship ended, Vetti and I became boyfriend and girlfriend—for the next six years! The two women, however, best friends since childhood, would never have thought to harbor any sort of animosity toward one another about that sort of thing—I think we all prided ourselves on being such liberated freethinkers back then.

Hannelore and Udo didn’t stay for more than a few days that first week, and would come and go all summer, traveling back and forth between Germany and Cap d’agde. Vetti, Anna Marie and I, however, stayed for the duration, until the end of August, when I turned twenty-one. We were naked all the time and wore clothes only on cool nights or whenever we dressed up to go to the disco, of which there were several in the immediate area. For us, it was a chance to dress up and what not—something different, if you run around naked all the time. After a while, we did the disco scene only about once a week. To save money (even if it was my uncle’s), the three of us moved into just two apartments; and whenever Hannelore and Udo would show up, we would give them the one, while the three of us shared the other. Anna Marie was usually not there nights anyway, as she would spend them with whatever boyfriend she was currently keeping at the time—and, who she would generally replace once every six weeks or so, remaining true to form.

There were several other young men and women, those regulars who came back every year, all around our ages–Germans, but also Dutch, Danes, French, and a few from the northernmost Scandinavian countries—all of whom were a part of our circle of friends. Even though we were in France, German was the language most spoken at the apartment areas and the beach. The French, such as Anna Marie, indigenous to this particular region of France, have dark hair and dark eyes; and I, being part American Indian, was often mistaken for being one of them. I never ran into any Americans there; although I’m sure there must have been some. There were a few English; you could sometimes tell them apart from the others, as some of their men were about the only ones you ever saw circumcised back then.

The ages of the population at any given time varied from infants, to teens in various stages of puberty, to old people. Of course, 30 or 40 was old back then. The majority of the population consisted of teens and twenties, students on summer vacation, with quite a number of families with kids coming there for shorter stays.

Whenever I think of Cap d’agde, I think of ice cream cones and silver jewelry, which was worn by nearly all the women and most of the men, I being the rare exception. I concluded that women especially, whenever naked, needed to adorn themselves with something—necklaces, bracelets, ankle bracelets, rings–something.

Vetti and I went back to Cap d’agde year after year to meet up with the same gang. We would get there in the middle of June, with July and August being the months when the population of the town swelled to the tens of thousands. My uncle, or one of his colleagues, owned interest in several of the apartments in the Heliopolis and in the apartment complex next door, Port Nature. Cap d’agde is not the ritzy French Riviera that one generally envisions; it was more like the middle-class part of the Riviera. However, had my uncle not taken a liking to me, such as he had, I could never have stayed there for more than a few days. Not only could I just plain not afford it; I could not have done without the money I needed in the interim just to live.

My last year in Cap d’agde was also my last year in Europe—1978. I came back to the States at the end of that year, found a job—and found a new girlfriend. Although Hannelore, Anna Marie and some of the others implored me to join them for several summers thereafter, I never did make it back. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have turned out HAD I gone back—I think we all truly believed back then that those days of eternal sunshine and warm nights of wine would never end for any of us. I still feel bad about abandoning Vetti the way I did. She was a good kid and deserved better. She ended up marrying some French guy. Anna Marie married and divorced, and ended up working for the French government. Hannelore married and divorced, and is now working for the German government, something to do with medical disability claims. The three women still see one another on occasion.

Hannelore went back to Cap d’agde in the mid 90s. It had become a meeting place for swingers and homosexuals, with numerous places in town offering live sex shows and the like—not really what we were about, way back when. She didn’t stay for more than a couple of days. She said there were still families to be seen at the beach—but mostly, our paradise was gone.

As I said at the outset, when I try to explain to people what it was like, they generally cannot conceive of such an experience. If I think about it now, had I never been there myself, I would probably feel the same way. It’s the strangest thing really. For example, neither Hannelore nor I would have felt comfortable taking off our clothes in front of one another, say, in the bathroom at my uncle’s house; but once we got to Cap d’agde, it’s as if someone had declared the rules as having changed, and that this same nudity was now acceptable. 

I liken it to a gathering at a Tupperware party, one with only women present. If one of the women suddenly took off her clothes and started gallivanting about naked in front of the others, all would most likely feel uncomfortable to some extent. However, this same group of women wouldn’t think anything of it were she walking around naked in front of them in the shower room of the local health club. So, what has actually changed? What’s different is, she’s naked in a place where you are supposed to be naked—that’s how it was in Cap d’agde.



This blog originally posted Wednesday May 24, 2006 – 10:57pm (PDT) to Yahoo! 360 at http://360.yahoo.com/manfred8090


nylabluesmom wrote on Oct 7
LOL it sure has been downhill from here since I turned 50….I did manage to “hold on” to my figure til then…now I am a bit chunkier (thak God for breasts & hips, so I LOOK like I have a tiny waist; I LOVE illusion)…..I think scars & tattoos are interesting….I think I would like to have that feeling of “ah so what”….Now I have the feeling of ” Where did my size 8 body go??” (It’s now asize 10-12 depending which part you are looking at…)</p></body>


knightstar wrote on Oct 2
Thanks for commenting, Sherriellen.I’ve always contended that human bodies really only look good in their teens and twenties, and that it is all downhill from there.In Cap d’agde, you would see many people 50+,60+, with not many of those bearing any resemblance to Adonis or Aphrodite. There were also many younger people who were overweight or with operation scars (such as I have).It’s not that no one ever looks, but with so many people on the beach in the summer at any given time, no one is going to spend a very long time looking at any one person. What is really amazing is how quickly the human mind can adapt to just about anything. It’s just not possible, mentally, to keep a heightened awareness of one’s own nudity for more than a couple of hours that very first day, before you just end up saying–ah, so what. lol~M


nylabluesmom wrote on Oct 2
What a fabulous blog….I have always had body issues & was scared to disrobe in front of people….(I remember doing a tow call in a Nudist camp back in ’75…so many naked people & I was pretty shaken up). Now as a “grown-up” I think I would be far more mature about the Naturist issue….I DO miss the days of skinny dipping tho’….:)


nikkirhoades35 wrote on Jul 30, ’10
I can’t say it’s something I’d want to do…I just wouldn’t be comfortable being naked in front of a bunch of other people, but overall sounds like an interesting experience..on you’ll never forget, lol.
Comment deleted at the request of the author.


knightstar wrote on Jul 29, ’10
Hi Wad–I’ve often wondered if it isn’t just the natural progression of a nudist culture to change from its original pure intent to morph into bacchanalian hedonism over time. This is not to say that we never indulged privately in whatever capacity, it is just that, publicly, there was an innocence to the entire Cap d’agde experience, way back when.Thanks for commenting.–M
Comment deleted at the request of the author.


seducedslowly wrote on Sep 6, ’09
I can assure you that it was never on your list… Although, for us ‘cool kids’ …we all took it.


knightstar wrote on Sep 6, ’09

I have paracetamol 

Paracetamol? Hmm–doesn’t sound like something I used to take–let me check the list.–M


seducedslowly wrote on Sep 6, ’09
I am as virtuous as a Saint, M… *blinks innocently*You have aspirin… hmmm… I have paracetamol… maybe I am on the Dark Side.


knightstar wrote on Sep 6, ’09
No, no, we don’t want to do the drug thing. These days, I turn over an aspirin three times to decide whether or not I actually want to take it.Hey, there must have been some darkness there somewhere–not that I want to break mood and start having you explain things at this time, you understand.–M


seducedslowly wrote on Sep 6, ’09
There… there, M… I hear drugs help. Wait. No… hmmm… I believe you told me they don’t. Not that I could help you as I am one of those dreadfully straight individuals who never really delved on the Dark Side.(Strange… I can hear Darth Vader breathing)


knightstar wrote on Sep 6, ’09

I wondered what it would have been like being where you were, experiencing just that. 

I’ll tell you, it’s not what I initially expected. After a week or so, it’s like I’d always been there–like I belonged. Of course, I was young then–it’s one those youthful things that you really can’t recapture again, either.–M


seducedslowly wrote on Sep 6, ’09
Hedonistic debauchery… I must remember to tell my gay friend that. It’s not like I haven’t mentioned to him that what he does is wrong on too many levels to quote. *grins*I can assure you, M…words do not fail you, because I have read your blog and you captured a moment in time and shared it with your readers , and I wondered what it would have been like being where you were, experiencing just that.


knightstar wrote on Sep 6, ’09

I have nothing to compare this to, it sounds intriguing and I have no doubt that in my late teens I would have simply joined the throng, so to speak.

Time never does return to a time and a place… It simply goes on. 

Back then, there really was a true innocence to it. Today, as I referenced in my blog, many of these places have become no more than meeting places for all sorts of hedonistic debauchery. LOLThese were some of the best times of my life and I really, really miss how we were back then–I wish there was some magical way to recapture it all–words fail me.–M


seducedslowly wrote on Sep 6, ’09
I have nothing to compare this to, it sounds intriguing and I have no doubt that in my late teens I would have simply joined the throng, so to speak.Time never does return to a time and a place… It simply goes on.


dangermouse007 wrote on Dec 10, ’08
Yes, people do have strange ideas about what it is like to be a naturist. My family were naturist from when I was 9rs old. We went to a club in North Yorkshire England. You were perfectly at liberty to be dressed or undressed. No-one cared either way. You didn’t have to “hand in your clothes at the gate”. The obly steadfast rule was “No erections”I went to Cap d’Agde not long after you in ’81. There was no clothing ban when I went. I remember the English bar was called Waiikiki Bar.I have to say though, I think you may be mistaken about the English men being recognised by their circumcisions. I have seen hundreds of Englishmens penises and it is extremely rare for one to be circumcised.My time as a naturist is one of the happiest memories of my life. I wish I could still do it now but it’s too cold here!


co4life wrote on Jan 17, ’08
It is very interesting to read about people’s first experience dealing with naturism especially by someone who can write well. I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs. I, too, have made the switch from 360. Multiply is more accomodating to our interests by individually sharing our blogs as we so choose.I’ve been stationed in Germany and I have visited England, Spain, Austria, a mere brief moment in France, and other countries. This, unfortunately, was before I discovered naturism as I know it now. Still, if I had known about Cap d’agde then, I probably would have taken some of my leave time there and probably would have gone alone. The topless beaches served as an introductory adventure for me.I have a section on my page for links to first time experiences. I would like to ask your permission to add a link to this blog entry. Please let me know.Thanks,Brian