I’ve just spent a fantastic five hours lying in the sun at Platja dels Balmins, the beach next door to our hotel here in Sitges. It was bliss. Aside from the uninterrupted sunshine and the light, cooling breeze, I think it was the most civilised beach I’ve been to.
Reflecting on it as I packed up to leave a short time ago, I realised:
- Nobody was playing their music publically, inflicting it on others
- Nobody was cooking anything
- Nobody was shouting or screaming or otherwise causing a fuss
I was struck that the only sounds I could hear were lots of laughter and the waves as they crashed on the shore. Everyone was being sensitive to the needs of those around them, not inpinging on their space and generally being friendly.
I loved it.
And it was in sharp contrast to our time on the beach in South Beach, Miami, this time last year. Golden sands, yes – but also tons of noise and pot-smoking teens blaring homophobic rap music from giant speakers. About as far from relaxing as you could imagine. And of course the puritan-like prohibition of naked sun bathing.
Here in Sitges, at the Platja dels Balmins, it’s a different matter. It’s clothing-optional and I’d say (rough estimate) about 75% of the people on the beach were partaking. But the make-up of beach-goers was the best bit. There were toddlers with their parents, teenagers in groups, very old couples walking hand in hand – all completely naked. And nobody blinking an eye at any of this.
All except for the small group of Brits who showed up about an hour before I left. They were so busy chatting that it was just before they sat down on their towels before they realised that a lot of the people around them were naked. There was some intense, stage-whispered, debate and they grudgingly agreed to stay. But they looked incredibly unsettled by the whole experience.
I smiled, but realised that, before my first trip to an Onsen in Japan, I probably would have felt the same about getting naked in front of so many other people. Now, as long as the weather’s okay, I’ll do it at the drop of a pen. Or a towel 😉
My attitude now is: what’s the worst that can happen? I’ve said before that nudity is a great social leveller. But today, I also noticed the sheer variety of bodies and body types and the absolute lack of self-consciousness that most of the people around me seemed to exhibit. (Yes, there was one blatant exhibitionist – but isn’t there always?)
Man and women of all ages, all sizes and all levels of physical fitness, lying and walking on the beach. I saw huge scars where people had obviously had serious and significant surgery. I saw six-packs. I saw the very opposite of six-packs! I saw breasts of every imaginable size, shape and orientation and it was all wonderful. Not in the least titilating (excuse the pun), but more life-affirming. We all of us had one thing in common on that beach today – a willingness to expose ourselves to one another, be vulnerable and be ourselves.
Oh – and we were all obvious sun-worshippers!
I even managed to get into the sea for a while. I’ll admit – it was extremely cold. It’s only April, after all. But I – and a few other hardy souls – waded in at various points to cool off. I’d promised myself I’d get in, as swimming in the sea is such an occasional treat for me.
It was breathtaking – in a very literal sense – and I emerged shivering and very conscious of how my body automatically responded to the cold. And I wasn’t alone, but thankfully nobody drew attention to that. I think.
I’m now sitting on the balcony of our hotel (the very private balcony of our hotel), typing this, sipping a beer and delaying for as long as possible the moment when I have to put some clothes on to go out for cocktails. I also know that it’ll be some time before I get to do this again, given the UK’s weather and my geographical distance from anywhere you can sunbathe/swim naked.
So this fairweather nudist is going to enjoy the freedom in the sun for as long as he can. Only a few days left before the tyranny of long trousers and shoes recommences. 😜