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Naturism: Why foreigners (including Brits) flock to France to get naked

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Naturism: Why foreigners (including Brits) flock to France to get naked
All photos: AFP
12:20 CEST+02:00
Naturism in France is enjoying a boom, and it isn't only the French who are prepared to let it all hang out in public.
For the past few years, naturism has become an increasingly popular pursuit in France, and as a result it is becoming more and more visible. 
 
Museum visits, nights at restaurants reserved for those prepared to bare all, and even club nights dedicated to those who practice the past-time, are popping up all over the country. 
 
But it isn't only the French who are taking part in this naked revolution, foreigners are also keen to get involved. 
 
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Naked ambition: Understanding the naturism boom in FrancePhoto: AFP
 
At the second annual Parisian Day of Naturism (Journée Parisienne du Naturisme), which took place on Sunday at the Bois de Vincennes in the 12th arrondissment of the French capital, naturists gathered to sunbathe on the grass, as well as for picnicking, yoga and nude fitness, and body-painting. 
 
Hundreds of people attended what has become the largest public event for nudists in France, and among them were many foreigners, including British people, who had travelled to Paris expressly to attend the event.
 
So why travel all that way to get naked?
 
"At the end of the 19th century France became the birthplace of naturism," Julien Claudé-Pénégry, spokesperson for the Paris Association of Naturists (Association des Naturistes de Paris - ANP) tells The Local. 
 
"France is the top world destination for naturists and the community here is very well organised," he said, adding that there are around 150 nudist associations across the country. 
 
"People find a lot of variety here - they can experience naturism in the countryside, by the mountains or the sea, or they can take part in the many cultural events that are held for naturists."
 
In France, nudist events aren't exclusively reserved for the summer, which means that naturists can visit all-year-round to take part in events, Claudé-Pénégry says. 
 
The country's reputation as a hub for nudism is well deserved, if figures from the French Federation of Naturism are anything to go by. 
 
According to the naturism association, France is the world's leading nudist destination, with 3.5 million regular practitioners flocking to spots reserved for those willing to go au naturel every year, and there are 88,000 naturists in the French capital alone.
 
And while there are 1.5 million naturists in France, two million foreigners come to the country each year to practice naturism, with a growing number of British naturists heading here for a naked holiday.
 
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Photo: AFP

"We offer the chance to reconnect with nature when most people lead a very hectic lifestyle, naturism is the chance to experience calm," says Claudé-Pénégry.
 
But what's behind the recent naturism boom?
 
Claudé-Pénégry argues that it's all about the community's communication strategy.
 
"Previously we were marginalised and naturism was seen as something deviant but now people are seeing that it isn't that at all," says Claudé-Pénégry.
 
"It's simply about 'the art of living'. We need sun and feeling it on your skin without clothes feels magical.
 
"Naturism is about respecting oneself, others and your environment. Clothing puts you in a cage but with naturism you are simply yourself."
 
The kinds of people flocking to France's naturist spots is varied, according to the naturist spokesman. 
 
"All kinds of people come to naturist events - fat people, thin people - these are non-judgmental spaces. There is no 'type of person' that joins in these events, they are for everyone. 
 
"The people that go to naturist events is a reflection of today' society, so you get old people, young people, as many women as men. You can even go to family events."
 
French nudists bare all for trips to 'no clothes' theme park and museumsPhoto: AFP
 
Claudé-Pénégry says that for the clothes-free event at the trendy Paris museum Palais de Tokyo in May last year, 30,000 people tried to sign up, many of them women. 
 
Meanwhile those who want to practice naturism in the great outdoors of the French capital can visit the area reserved for nudists at the Bois de Vincennes which is open until October. 
 
Since the space was opened back in 2017, it has proved very popular, with 400 visitors on sunny weekend days, and 100-200 during the week, according to the Paris naturist association. 
 
"It's amazing to release your body," Pierre-Emmanuel, a 44-year-old Parisian who has been a dedicated naturist for 20 years told Le Parisien. "And, I'm lucky: the only pool in the capital that reserves times for naturists is in the 12th arrondissement, next to my home! Here, in nature, naked, I feel like I'm on vacation."
 
Similarly Rémi, 40 years old and a practicing naturist since childhood, said: "I started with my parents. I have a disability, and being naked without anyone making any judgments helps me a lot. It is unfortunate that some confuse our approach with libertines, whereas it is just the acceptance of the others and of oneself."

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