Reflections on a Naturist Life: La Jenny, France 2019
After an absence of five years, we finally made it back to La Jenny this summer, the place I’ve often cited as the best naturist place in the world. As it goes with the best of anything, such classifications are highly subjective, and even in this case, we’ve wavered a good bit on that assessment over the years, depending on the weather during our most recent visit. A rainy week at La Jenny doth not a fabulous nakation make.
You can read the long version of our naturist saga here, which highlights our first visit to La Jenny in 1997 as a pivotal event in our naked lives. That first time, we only stayed for four nights, but we were immediately smitten with the place, and with the concept of French family naturism in general. (Check out this recent post by Nick and Lins about family naturism in France. Compelling, at least!) We returned for two weeks in 1999 with our pre-adolescent kids, at which point it became a perennial project to figure out how we could manage the airline tickets for a family of five to get back for subsequent nakations. By this time, we had tried several naturist places in America with our children in tow, but they were quickly moving into the “This is really awkward and dumb” state of mind about going on vacation with parents, let alone taking your clothes off. La Jenny was an immediate game changer, and our summers there still live among our most cherished family memories – nudity notwithstanding.
We would return to La Jenny at least a dozen times over the ensuing years, sometimes with kids, then as they were out on their own, sometimes as a couple. In 2014, we even “coerced” some of our naturist friends from home to join us a weeklong visit, but alas, it was one of those iffy weather weeks which left the lasting impression, “This place would be perfect if the sun shone a bit more.” After that, summers got busy with other things to do and places to be, and La Jenny fell off our travel itinerary… until this year.
Though our adult children don’t really consider themselves naturists, they don’t bat an eye at getting naked for a family vacation, especially if it turns out to be an all-inclusive sort of deal where they get room, board, and a free plane ticket. Two of the three took the bait this summer, so we found ourselves – naked – on the porch of our chalet near the La Jenny golf course, playing Uno into the wee hours of the morning again. It felt reminiscent to be back in this charming naturist village, sitting near the pool, watching an entirely new generation of naturist families, providing evidence – in the flesh – that family naturism is a booming business in France.
As a blogger and avid advocate of family naturism, it has occurred to me on many occasion that our naturist travelogue probably seems someplace between irrelevant and unreachable to many a would-be American naturist. I suspect that many feel just like we did back in 1997, saddled with three small children and barely enough money to buy shoes and lunch makings for the coming school week. “Nakation in France? Never gonna happen.” [There’s a whole separate story that goes here about my friend David who taught me how to earn airline miles with a credit card, but I won’t go down that rabbit hole right now.] And I also remember the “Ah-Ha” moment when we realized that a short week in a Disney park carries roughly the same price tag as three weeks in Europe, if we could figure out how to get everybody from this continent to that one.
But as I read so many blog posts, tweets, and reddit musings from frustrated husbands and fathers who simply can’t find a way to sell naturism to their spouses and families, I can’t help but think, “That’s because you simply can’t find a place near the place where you live to replicate the everyday normal naturist experience in France… or Croatia…or Spain.” Family naturism will never feel normal when you’re in an environment where it simply isn’t… NORMAL!” Where the people you see are the pool and the beach and at the restaurant that evening are the same people you would encounter at Disneyland, or Six Flags, or even at the local grocery store or restaurant.
I’ve ranted a good bit in these pages over the years about the “nudist colony” feel of naturist places in the US. Indeed, there are a few places in North America that have broken that boundary, but making a quick weekend jaunt to Toronto or Palm Springs may even be more cost prohibitive than going to Europe. And then there are the family naturism casualties in the US, like Caliente in Florida, which finally gave up on their business plan for family naturism when they realized that catering to those seeking a sexual adventure became a necessity for keeping the cash flow in the positive. Or Desert Sun (formerly Desert Shadows) in Palm Springs, which first opened as a family naturist destination, where many units sold under the banner of “my grandkids can come visit me here,” only later to have children banned from the premises altogether as the potential of aiding and abetting a child predator outweighed the prospects of attracting clients who would pay for a family nakation. We Americans like to think we’re really progressive, but when it comes to intergenerational nudity, we simply can’t seem to figure it out.
Like Nick and Lins say in their piece, the French have totally figured out the formula for making family nakation acceptable, even to those who would rather vacation with their clothes on. (Imagine that! Telling your friends you went family naked on vacation without worrying about getting reported to Child Protective Services!?) France has also learned to embrace mainstream and social media in a way that doesn’t just sexualize or poke fun at social nudity, but portrays it as a viable recreational option for everyday people who simply want to de-stress, snooze by the pool, and walk on the beach, then come home without tan lines.
So now it’s 2019. As I rode my bike (naked) down to the village for croissants and a baguette from the market (also naked), before spending the rest of the day (naked) with my wife, friends, and adult children, I couldn’t help but get a bit nostalgic about that first visit to naturist France some 20+ years ago. I remember thinking, as we were in our thirties back then, “Why did it take us so long to discover this magical place? And how will I ever go on another vacation, anyplace, where clothing is required by the pool or on the beach? Why is that even a thing?”
So I guess that’s the point. Despite the best efforts of the most ardent proponents of social nudity in the US of A, it seems unlikely we’ll ever catch up with our European friends when it comes to creating a place where family naturism not only seems normal, but in demand! Are there safe places to get naked with your family in the United States to enjoy social nudity with your family? A few, scattered across the country. Do any of them measure up even the mid grade places in France? Well… not from what I’ve seen, and I’ve been looking for a long time.
So if you’ve made it this far in these wandering musings from a meandering naturist, and you’re still living in the confines of naked and alone at home, I simply encourage you to find a cheap plane ticket, do a bit of careful research, then go get naked in France. It doesn’t have to be La Jenny; there are over 300 options in France alone. But if you get it right, you’re might end up wrecked… and naked… for life!