Memories of St Tropez in the Seventies – Virgin on the Ridiculous
Prince Charles, St Tropez’s nudist Liberty Beach and Brigitte Bardot – believe me, they are all connected.
In the late sixties and early seventies, the Côte d’Azur was the playground of the rich and famous; the esplanade and marina the promenade of celebrity and the nudist beaches, the epitome of the freedom this era enjoyed.
Totally innocent to all of this, I found myself at the aptly-named Liberty Beach amongst a sea of body parts I’d not ever imagined, let alone seen! Browned by years of applying Ambre Solaire and wrinkled from too many years in the sun, male and female sellers of sandwiches, drinks, and cigarette lighters to hang round your neck – well, where else were you going to put them – weaved their nakedness through the crowd. No one had anything on! It was not the place to have clothes on – you stood out.
Now that’s confronting to someone who’s never taken their clothes off in public before. It took me all of the first day to dispense with my bikini top and all of the second harrowing day to finally, finally, get the courage to take the bottom off.
And then it was so hot I had to go for a swim – easy on the way in, because I walked into the water with the crowd behind me; but, after that fabulous sensation of skinny-dipping, I had to face the crowd to walk back to my spot. I’ll never forget that. I felt so exposed – literally!
Or the moment when two fully-clothed guys we had met the day before spotted us on the beach and walked over to say hello. What do you cover up first in that situation?
I got the highly-sought all-over tan in a short time, no doubt by slathering Ambre Solaire OIL on, especially on those white bits. I slept on the beach, for the heck of it, and almost got collected by the beach grader – works well as an early morning wake-up call.
My skin blistered and peeled in sheets from parts never before exposed. I still check my body very carefully for any new spots as a result of that one incident.
The bravado over, I went into St Tropez to shop and bought myself a Bridget Bardot-style outfit – apple-green washed cotton lace-up bodice top with a long skirt, frill at the hem. I’d made the grade: strutting my stuff on a nudist beach; owning a Bridget Bardot outfit; promenading the St Tropez marina like a local. I was in my own little French movie.
Little did I know then, that my next leap would be to meet Royalty, and Prince Charles no less, just two years older than me, and still single.
At Government House, Hobart, in October 1974, I wore that apple-green outfit, brazenly laced up over that all-over tan. Prince Charles came up to our group, looked up and down that lace-up bodice and all over tan, straight into my eyes and said, “I believe there’s dancing afterwards?”
I squeaked a weak “Yes, sir.” I froze on the spot, and must surely have conveyed morbid fear all over my face. The bravado of Liberty Beach had vanished and the shy innocent girl who left Hobart 15 months prior was back again. I made my way to the buffet and when I returned, the Prince of Wales, in his black velvet Fleur de Lys dancing slippers, was having the last dance of the evening with a local socialite.
What would have happened if I’d just had a bit more confidence? I may well have ended up the Princess of Wales, and look what happened to her!
Thank you Margaret for this Guest Post.Image credits
1,2 via Margaret Watson