With the first real day of summer sun (not including the extraordinary April summer-in-spring this year), Parisians are heading toward the beaches – or Paris plage for those obliged to stay in town for summer weekends.
First-time visitors to France may be somewhat surprised to discover that it’s acceptable for women to sunbathe topless at most beach resorts (however not necessarily in Paris).
Cleavage in France is no big deal. French female news broadcasters show cleavage. There appears to be a line of demarcation (between what is considered permissable) which is defined by the waist. Everything above the waist is ‘up for grabs’. For many years, the string which graced Brazilian and Florida beaches took a long time to appear on the French beaches (at least, that is, the Normandy beaches). It was big news several years ago when the female weather broadcaster on a major TV channel was filmed from head to toe rather than, from the waist up. If you are interested in reading another perspective about French newscasters, check out Elie Smith’s comments about female French newscasters on africanpath.com blog
In a country that makes a very big deal about how one should dress, how one undresses is also important. Please don’t expect any ‘insider information’ from me on this aspect because my observations have been gained only from trips to the beach. On one occasion, we were invited to spend a weekend in St. Giron in the Gascony region of France. St. Giron located between Biarritz and Arcachon borders the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is complete with sand dunes staving off crashing waves (which makes Arcachon a favorite venue for surfers).
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We ended up stumbling onto a French nudist beach (or naturiste) as they are called here in France. If this should happen to you, keep in mind, that it isn’t polite to laugh and point at people as you walk by….the reason I say this, is because one of our guests literally broke out in guffaws of laughter.
Naturisme is practiced throughout Europe and France has its share of participants. Some consider it to be very liberating – and natural – thus ‘naturisme’. Not everyone agrees with the concept of naturisme – just as in the U.S. France also has very conservative citizens who will remark if the length of a daughter-in-law’s skirt is too short. One thing you can be sure of is that for every lifestyle imaginable, you’ll find a niche in France.
Unfortunately for those who find topless sunbathing to be offensive, you may have a hard time of finding a beach. My suggestion in this case would be to stick to swimming pools and public parks where topless sunbathing rarely occurs. Because of the cancer risks, some smart women are refraining from this practice.
Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2006