petite anglaise

September 12, 2007


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 6:46 pm

In the course of our holiday we spent a few days on four islands in the south of the Cyclades: Santorini, Naxos, Ano Koufonissi and Amorgos. Each island was very different in terms of size, landscape and the nationalities of the tourists we encountered, and every time we boarded a boat to move on, it felt as though our holiday was starting all over again. Multiple leaps into the unknown added to the excitement. Never before had a two week holiday felt so deliciously long, so limitlessly elastic.

Some things, however, were constant wherever we went. Villages, their white buildings like cubes of feta flung from the sky by the gods, clinging to the slopes of mountains, teetering on cliff edges, nestling in arid inland valleys. Hundreds of chapels with dark blue curved roofs and a collection of different sized bells hanging from a frame adjacent to the entrance. Stray cats of all sizes and colours begging for scraps from our plates when we sat down to eat. The ubiquitous greek salads, saganaki, moussaka, stuffed tomato and aubergine which cropped up on every menu.

And the fact that the further we drove away from civilisation on our rented moped to seek out ever more secluded beaches, the likelihood of encountering people wearing little more than sunscreen increased proportionally.

Having led a somewhat sheltered life, I’d never taken my bikini top off in public before, let alone watched a man snorkelling in a tiny bay, his scrotum bobbing insouciantly on the surface. Under cover of my sunglasses, peering over the top of my book, I looked around with interest at naked bodies of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Once I’d finished marvelling at how asexual this public display of nudity seemed to be, I began conducting informal surveys. My conclusions were as follows: female nudists tend to go for the natural look in terms of pubic topiary, rather than reaching for the wax; elderly people do not necessarily have matching collars and cuffs; absolutely everyone, however skinny, gets folds on their tummy when sitting; there is a very disturbing breed of Italian women who have the lithe bodies of twenty-year-olds, but sun damaged, puckered faces which look decades older.

As for yours truly, my bikini briefs remained firmly in place, which means I am now in the possession of a glow in the dark bottom. But even though my bikini top spent most of its time in my beach bag, I never quite got over my innate British prudishness, nor did I manage to overcome my morbid fear of burnt nipples. (The only flaw in my other holiday book, in my humble opinion, is that a character uses beer bottle tops to protect her nipples while sunbathing on a Greek Island. Surely, being made of metal, they would heat up in the sun and turn into branding irons?)

And so it was that even on day fourteen I found myself instinctively crossing my arms across my chest as I emerged from the water and stepped gingerly across the pebbles to my beach towel, much to the Boy’s amusement.

You can take the girl away from her island and transplant her onto the “continent”, but you can’t, it seems, flush the prudishness out of the petite anglaise



  1. You tease!

    Comment by Jeremy Jacobs — September 12, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  2. So how did you keep your nipples from burning? Did you wear the white sunblock you sometimes see on cricketers faces, or did you go for the comic effect, fingers on nipples look?

    Comment by Jeremy — September 12, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  3. Bottle tops eh ? So that’s what Janet Jackson was wearing in the famous wardrobe malfunction moment …

    Comment by Mark — September 12, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  4. Did you notice that a lot of nudists stand up a lot and avoid sitting on the sand? It’s something I noticed when I lived on a boat in the Med. There are very good reasons – everything I say has a grain of truth in it………. or not.

    Comment by Daddy P — September 12, 2007 @ 8:17 pm

  5. I’m an American, and seeing the (at the very least) topless bodies on French beaches has taken some getting used to. I recently went to the beach in an all-white, two-piece bikini, and I was so proud of myself for having the courage to venture out in public sans a standard one-piece maillot.

    Here, topless on the sand is par for the course… Not sure if I’ll EVER have the courage to go out topless.

    Comment by Mlle Smith in France — September 12, 2007 @ 8:18 pm

  6. Years ago (and I mean a very long time) I ventured walking on a deserted beach wihout my bikini top but it was my husband who was panicking that someone might see me.
    However, I would never have had the courage to go totally starkers.
    Nowadays I wince if I catch a glimpse of my excess folds in the mirror in the bathroom.

    Comment by sablonneuse — September 12, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

  7. Pubic topiary, my but you do have a way with words. lol
    As for beer bottle caps on the nipples what a silly idea–the human race: what a collection we are.
    As for your “prudishness: I wouldn’t quite call it that. Nor is it terminal modesty :-) All in all it sounds as if you had a wonderful time.

    Comment by Beau — September 12, 2007 @ 8:38 pm

  8. ‘let alone watched a man snorkelling in a tiny bay, his scrotum bobbing insouciantly on the surface’. LOL.

    Q. How else would it bob? With ferocious anger maybe, or with gay abandon?

    Your outer shell may now appear to be French, but your insides (brain especially) are still English, (cue a verse from Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory), as you bound up the beach (all bits covered)!

    Comment by Steve... — September 12, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

  9. Lovely photos, I tried to click on the top one to see if I could spot any battys but that’s just the perv in me.

    Comment by Caribbean Colors of Belize — September 12, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

  10. Bon courage, Petite!

    Braver than I to remove your top, but if it were me, I would have use plastic pop bottle caps. I am not sure of metals that conduct heat, but I am sure the plastic probably wouldn’t melt to my breast!

    Comment by reavolution — September 12, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  11. Oh, believe me, I am the same, which MindReader (my boy’s universial blog pseudonym) smirks at. Also, folding your arms makes them look bigger.


    Comment by Billygean — September 12, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  12. Sounds like a great trip. Au natural or not.

    Comment by Mad William — September 12, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

  13. What no comments? Is everybody so shocked? I think if Tadpole had been there you would have discovered that nudist beaches are great fun for small kids (who get a lot of their questions answered without bothering you for the answers), and the amount of clothes washing is vastly reduced.

    However the population of the beach can be a problem. Last Sunday we discovered a river beach in the middle of Belgrade, populated by lots of ugly old men and a few attractive young girls, not obviously together. That was not nearly so natural as on a Greek island.

    Comment by varske — September 12, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

  14. My parents used to drag us on nudist campsites in yugoslavia when we were kids and I will never forget going to the campsite supermarket seeing men’s dick on the same level of their shopping basket…

    Comment by sylvied — September 12, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

  15. Love your choice of metaphors in this post, but one correction in defense of the over-40s: not all 40-somethings have the saddle-bag leather faces. I certainly don’t… of course that’s because I don’t (can’t) tan!

    The first time I saw someone naked on a beach was in the Bahamas. I was taking a walk from the Club Med where I was staying, and apparently wandered across a beach owned by a nudist resort (nude sunbathing on public beaches being illegal there, actually) and was startled to realize there was a man up ahead of me, doing naked yoga right at the water’s edge! Trying to resist my own puritanical impulse to FLEE (I was only 23 at the time, and more easily shocked in those days), I stopped in my tracks but tried to make it look casual… like I wanted to pause and look out at the water for a moment or two, before turning back the way I came. I just could not bring myself to walk all the way past him!

    When I was in my early 30s, I went to Martinique, and yes, I did remove the top of my bathing suit, even though my body was frankly in worse shape than what Britney Spears is getting criticized for after her recent MTV performance. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but after a while it was really very freeing, and I was glad I made myself do it, at least once in my life.

    And you’d better believe I used LOTS of extra sunblock on the interesting parts. I’m very fair to begin with and THOSE parts had never seen the light of day before.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — September 13, 2007 @ 1:04 am

  16. proof, if proof were needed, that england the e.u. are hopelessly different. coridal, of course. but have no business being forced into an unnatural union.

    Comment by coffeesnob — September 13, 2007 @ 1:15 am

  17. Great pictures! It’s deathly being back in Paris after lounging on the beach for the last few weeks! Unfortunately I’m hardly tanned because I was obsessively using SPF 60 every day!!! No problem taking off the bikini top tho!! lol


    Comment by Girl and the City — September 13, 2007 @ 2:13 am

  18. Ugh! I couldn’t do the sand encrusted beef curtains….Ooh la la! That’d be too much for me, but I have gone topless (oh such a long time ago) and loved the feel of the breeze on my nipples.
    And, I take umbrage at mention of the parchment faces of the 40 year olds with the bodies of 20 year olds….I’m in my 40s and, maybe because I haven’t burnt anything to a cinder, my face isn’t THAT bad…um and no complaints on my body that is lithe after 5 children. (Where else can I blow my own horn?)
    I truly love the pictures, the scenery is just breathtakingly gorgeous! (I was born in Cyprus and you’ve really made me want to visit that corner of the Mediterranean…as an adult). I’m glad you had a wonderful time!

    Comment by Karma — September 13, 2007 @ 3:58 am

  19. As an American, it took me a while to get used to casual nudity on the beaches. Now I’m so casual about it, but for others and not myself. I did go topless about 30 pounds ago, but those days are long gone.

    Comment by Peggy — September 13, 2007 @ 6:22 am

  20. Hee! I’ve gone topless on Australian beaches without feeling uncomfortable, but I don’t think I’d be happy going without bottoms – too much uncontrolled sand just waiting to be lodged in my nethers.

    Love the photos – I now have a renewed determination to make it to the Greek islands within the next year!

    Comment by Allie — September 13, 2007 @ 7:09 am

  21. oh dear – didn’t my book make it into your holiday reading pile? x

    Comment by rivergirlie — September 13, 2007 @ 10:22 am

  22. beer bottle tops???? ouch! i always use shells myself… (limpet shells are ideal)…

    Comment by kitikat — September 13, 2007 @ 11:08 am

  23. Oh it looks lovely – the perfect destination! Great photos! I totally sympathise with your sentiments: having been encouraged by my other half to take my top off on holiday, I then spend the whole time with my arms across my chest, though no-one cares one jot (and I’m old enough to know better, in theory!)

    But there was one exception – when we went recently to Antigua, my first taste of the Caribbean, and flew, at dawn, in a tiny plane across the sea to its neighbouring island, Barbuda, which is tiny. A guide took us to a completely deserted, white sand beach dotted with coral and, with a casual sweeping gesture, invited us to enjoy it….I’ll never forget running and running across that empty expanse of sand and (as soon as the guide was out of sight!) tearing off my bikini and plunging naked into the sea – WOW! So liberating! Feels like a dream now, I can tell you….

    Comment by Lindy Stocker — September 13, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  24. Lovely post, but I have to agree with The Bold Soul and Karma…this 48 year old will give you 30- somethings a run for your money and your smooth skin any day!
    I remember the first time I went topless on a long, golden, deserted beach in Crete. You put it so well. It does go against our English instincts at first, especially if we’ve accumulated 30’s of “modesty”, but so liberating…
    Metal bottle tops sound lethal. Factor 25+ the solution.

    Comment by Jude — September 13, 2007 @ 11:12 am

  25. and there’s nowt wrong with that!

    Comment by tinylondon — September 13, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

  26. When swimming in the Med, I find it always preferable to encounter an insouciantly bobbing scrotum than a poisonous jellyfish or other nasty flotsam…

    Mya x

    Comment by Mya — September 13, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

  27. I don’t get this obsession people have with tanning, given all the knowledge we have about links to premature aging, and more seriously to skin cancer. I don’t even think tans are that attractive (give me a Dita Von Teese or Nicole Kidman any day over a Posh Spice or Paris Hilton) – but there are really good fake tans around for those that do. Why, oh why do people – especially in Western Europe – insist on slowly baking themselves? It just defies all logic.

    Comment by Nikki — September 13, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

  28. I have to say that a woman of a certain age is a damn lot more intriguing than some 20 yr old ditz. So you got a few wrinkles–so what. That makes things all the more interesting. The English and the Americans are a funny race. I first saw a topless beach way back a long time ago on the Ile de Re. The women were lovely and I was oh so young and thank the gods I was with a woman, not a girl.
    On my yes. :-) So get nekkid and have some fun. Clothes are such a bore at certain times.

    From Seattle with amusement at human silliness (mine included)

    Comment by Beau — September 13, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

  29. oh petite, you give me hope! I thought I was the only one who had a glow in the dark bottom!

    Comment by running thread — September 13, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

  30. At least Ze Boy will know where to grab at night.

    Comment by blueseaurchin — September 13, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  31. That prudishness is bone deep. I know. A trip to a doctor’s office is traumatic for me-no gowns and puzzlement about why this bothers me. I’ve never gone topless and I know I never will-just can’t.

    Comment by Linda — September 13, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

  32. That’s still braver than my American ass would’ve been. I’d have kept my entire bathing suit on, no matter how naked everyone else got.

    Brava :)

    Comment by Georgie — September 13, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  33. Speaking of prudishness…

    I’m going to be moving to France soon, and will need a medical examination for my carte de séjour…how “invasive” are the exams?

    I’m fearing for my life here!

    Comment by Georgie — September 13, 2007 @ 6:50 pm

  34. If only the press had known…”Famous author goes topless” would be the headline.

    Comment by Jean-Luc Picard — September 13, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

  35. Now, you KNOW a man wrote that book, without even checking the author’s name. I’d like to see him protecting his goolies from the sun with a metal disk.

    Comment by cak — September 13, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  36. When I was thirty something, and as thin as a rake, I decided sadly that I was too old for a bikini. Now, in my 60s (yes, that’s right) I happily go topless on French beaches. I am a lot of pounds heavier, and a lot of years older, and I simply do not care. It is very liberating. With all the young flesh on view, why should anyone look at me, and if they do, and don’t like it, tough. I often think that it might be disconcerting to meet someone who normally knows you clothed, though.

    Comment by Mo — September 13, 2007 @ 11:14 pm

  37. I did not know nipples could burn!?! Not that I have to worry, as mine are not going to see the light of day anytime soon. My question is: Can bobbing scrotum, or other boy parts burn??

    I have to agree with Mo (#36) that age liberates us from worrying about what other people think of our mature bodies. But my liberation is limited to all the wrinkles and sags escaping the bathing suit. We scarcely do naked beaches in the US, but there are some special beaches where it is quietly allowed.

    There is also the possibility of going au naturel if your home happens to be secluded by woods . . .


    Comment by PJ Carz — September 14, 2007 @ 3:57 am

  38. You wrote:

    But even though my bikini top spent most of its time

    This post is quite worthless without an illustrative photograph or three.

    Comment by John Bullshit — September 14, 2007 @ 5:24 am

  39. No kidding! My only foray onto a nudist beach was in Gran Canaria – lots of energetic Germans (bat and ball, snorkelling and my personal favourite – handstands. No way I was stripping off. My friend went the next day and sustained a nasty burn on her “mound of Venus”! Serves her right if you ask me

    Comment by em — September 14, 2007 @ 6:32 am

  40. Reminds me of Trondheim, Norway.

    My first time in a sauna was at the Studenterhytta.
    The sauna was mixed-gender, and people were naked.
    I did so myself, and also took part in the running in the corridors to go fall in the snow and run back still sweating to the sauna.
    I felt that it mostly depends on how people look at other people’s bodies.
    Up there nobody had any trouble with his/her own body being all exposed as no one had a perv or excited attitude, we were just all casually undressed and chatting (and fighting the hot air).
    Hopefully I’ll see another place like this some day.

    Comment by JBL — September 14, 2007 @ 8:34 am

  41. I LOVE naturiste beaches! But I do prefer to keep the bikini bottom on as well, only because I don’t like all that sand to get in my behind. The Frenchman complains that it’s not fair to others if I don’t take it all off (because then they feel self conscious being naked because I am not). re the Italian women, they have been running around on the beach with almost nothing on since the age of 9 months, so yes, there skin does look a bit leathery by the age of 40.

    Comment by Caroline in Rome — September 14, 2007 @ 9:31 am

  42. Just wondering how the chap could be both snorkelling & airing his scrotum at the same time? Cos, surely, the one requires to be lying face down, & the other face up.

    Comment by Sharon — September 14, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  43. Reply to Sharon:

    Unless the chaps you know have their bits on back to front.

    Comment by Jude — September 14, 2007 @ 2:48 pm

  44. David Sedaris had a wonderful quote in one of his hilarious books after going to a nudist beach that the last people you’d want to see naked are those people who frequent nudist beaches…

    Comment by Chris — September 14, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  45. Being naturally dark skinned, it has never really bothered me to sunbathe nude. But in private. Where no one but hubby might see me. Behind a tall privacy fence, turned away from the gate and the street. Alone. I think you get my drift.

    You’re very adventurous, Petite.

    Comment by Kaycie — September 14, 2007 @ 6:52 pm

  46. “glow in the dark bottom…”? A very minor problem, I assure you! When I go swimming, spectators reach for their mobiles to call in iceberg alerts………… or the whaling fleets to report a new species that needs “researching”…………

    Comment by Bryn, N.Wales — September 14, 2007 @ 8:13 pm

  47. I love Santorini! I went there alone (how sad!) a few years back and visited beaches of every color of sand (well, to be truthful, red, black and beige). Somehow, out on the town one night I was “adopted” by a young French couple on honeymoon and that made the trip loads more interesting ….

    Comment by Lost in France — September 14, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

  48. #36 wrote: “I often think that it might be disconcerting to meet someone who normally knows you clothed, though.” One of the few times I went publicly topless, was when I was invited to Japan. I gave my seminar in front of the scientists, and then they invited us to an onsen (hot baths) resort in the mountains for spa and fancy dinner. Hell, yes! Only problem, was that part of the normal ritual is that I had to strip down naked, soap up in front of the female half of my audience and bathe with them. I was more than a little weirded out. Of course, they were naked, too. This was not reassuring, as they were pretty much all under age 25. At least, I surmised, they were unlikely to cross paths with me again. I won’t even get into the topiary aspects. On the La Concha beach in San Sebastian, it’s a lot easier (and bottoms stay on).

    Comment by Alethea — September 15, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

  49. If you haven’t seen it, you might enjoy renting Mediterraneo (’92 Foreign Film Oscar winner). It’s Italian, but about a ragtag group of WWII Italian soliders finding themselves beached on a Greek Isle. Una faccia, Una raza …

    Comment by clarissa — September 15, 2007 @ 7:40 pm

  50. When working a summer season in Cap d’Agde in the 80’s I remember being very amused and even shocked that on a cold May day( when even most of the nudists were well wrapped up) a die hard few were wearing thick pullovers but naked from the waist down.It looked rather ridiculous somehow.

    Comment by Carol — September 16, 2007 @ 1:09 am

  51. Tee hee, that tickled me somewhat, lol!

    Comment by Nin — September 16, 2007 @ 3:32 am

  52. chris (#44) and david sedaris are right, in my experience.

    Comment by franko — September 16, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

  53. The sand-entry issue is solved by Le Minimum as French naturists call it, also worn when menstruating, OK? I am fairly reliably informed that womens’ parts are self-cleansing. Let’s face it, mammals, which most women I know are, descend from sea dwellers so no surprise there.

    Comment by andrew — September 17, 2007 @ 1:37 am

  54. Tsk. Why is baring one’s bits on a beach so much more of a problem than baring one’s soul on a blog?

    Comment by Autolycus — September 17, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  55. I observed a girl in Spain recently who cleverly collected 4 shells of similar size, 2 for her eyes and 2 for her nipples on the beach. Seemed to work…

    Comment by anna — September 17, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  56. You should read ” Corps de femmes, regards d’hommes” from Jean-Claude Kaufmann. A funny little sociology book on naked breasts on a beach in Britany. Really interesting.

    By the way, congrat’s for your book!

    Comment by Adrienhb — September 17, 2007 @ 9:25 pm

  57. arghhhh memories of nude sunbathing in Crete pre motherhood days pop back deliciously to my mind

    Comment by Enigma78 — September 19, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

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