You really have to have your cultural barometer adjusted when travelling abroad. On my recent trip to the South of France, I took some time out to find some nice beaches dotted along the coastline.
Many stretches of beach in the main towns and cities feature municipal areas at their extremes, with the sections in between often privately owned by the huge sea-front hotels. These feature bars or restaurants which seamlessly bleed into sun loungers, the Mediterranean Sea lapping at the golden sand just a few yards in front of that. Signs along the promenade inform visitors of what awaits on each part of the beach.
One afternoon, I decided to hit the sand with a bunch of samples I had siphoned off back in England to 5cl bottles. I packed my bag and headed off to find a beach appropriate to the samples I had with me and the dram of the day, the whisky I’d chosen to sip in the sun, was The Naked Grouse. This, therefore could mean only one thing. I must find a nudist beach to really put this dram in to context. A quick look in my guide book tells me the loose translation which I should seek out is ‘a la plage nudiste’... so off I wander in the direction of the local beaches.
“Huzzah!” I cry as I find exactly what I’m looking for. Fortunately for me, I had found Plage de Tahiti near St.-Tropez. Apparently one of the best beaches in France for spotting celebrities topless, it was made famous with some rather revealing shots of Brigitte Bardot and now these celebrities were going to get to see me, sans vêtements. Those lucky, lucky people...
As I made my way down the steps towards the white sand my sack, full of liquid goodness, swinging in the midday heat, I felt proud to be a part of the local scene. As the sun’s rays pounded down on my sunburnt head, disaster struck. My bulging sack suddenly split open, revealing my miniatures to shocked onlookers. Children ran screaming to their parents, husbands shielded their wives eyes from the view and seagulls scattered as if Armageddon had arrived.
Embarrassed, I scrabbled around in the sand to recover my smalls, dusting off the sand with a cotton handkerchief and cupping them in my palm for safe-keeping. Trying to front out the situation, I maintained my British dignity, found my stiff-upper-lip and strode off toward a slightly sheltered area of sand. With a combination of sunburn and embarrassment, my head was as redder than Ron Jeremy’s after a hard day in the office. Settling down, I cleaned off my sample of The Naked Grouse and poured it in to my glass which had survived the ordeal.