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Cap d'Agde (French pronunciation: [kap daɡd]) is the seaside resort of the town of Agde, France, on the Mediterranean sea in the département of Hérault, within the région of Languedoc-Roussillon. Agde can be reached by TGV SNCF train direct from Paris or Lille whilst the closest airports are Béziers-Cap d'Agde en Languedoc, with direct budget airline services to the UK and Scandinavia, or Montpellier-Fréjorgues. Public transport (taxi or bus) is available between Agde and Cap d'Agde.
Cap d'Agde is one of the largest leisure ports on the French Mediterranean. Development as a tourist resort started in the 1970s before which time the only buildings at the Cap were small houses typically used for weekends by local people.
The Musée de l'Ephèbe houses the bronze nude statue known as "l'Ephèbe d'Agde" ("the Youth of Agde"). The statue was discovered in the River Hérault and was housed in the Louvre Museum prior to suitable facilities being made available in Cap d'Agde to house it.
Cap d'Agde has a large family-style naturist resort with about 40,000 visitors on a daily basis during high season (=around 250-350,000 during the whole season)
The Village Naturiste is a large fenced-off part at the north-eastern edge of Cap d'Agde, although it is accessible along the public beach from the east. It is a self-contained town (although sometimes referred to as the "Naked City"), where nudity is legal and common in the whole resort, including its restaurants and shops, day or night. In the evening, when it gets colder, more people are dressed, sometimes in revealing clothes. A local tourist tax is charged per person, per day.
The Naturist Village is a town by itself, with a 2 km (1 mi) beach, a large marina, 2,500 pitches campsite, apartment complexes, hotel, shops, restaurants, night clubs, bars, post office, bank and ATMs, launderettes, hairdressers and other facilities. In all there are about 180 businesses in the village. One can potentially spend an entire vacation without leaving the area or wearing clothes.
A history of naturism at Cap d'Agde
The land adjoining the long sandy beach at Cap d'Agde was owned for many years by the Oltra family who farmed the olive groves behind the sand dunes adjoining the beach. After the Second World War the brothers Oltra noticed that people were coming in increasing numbers to camp on their land, and that many of these people liked to bathe and to sunbathe nude.
The Oltra brothers began to formalise arrangements for campers on their land, and this subsequently led to the creation of the Oltra Club which is a caravanning and camping resort. The camp grew increasingly popular, especially with young families. German and Dutch tourists were particularly numerous.
In the early 1970s the government of Georges Pompidou drew up plans for the development of the Languedoc-Roussillon coastline. Naturism initially had no part in these proposals, but Rene Oltra, one of the brothers, persuaded the authorities to include plans for a naturist resort at Cap d'Agde. In 1973 the beach was officially designated as a naturist beach. Regulations for the new resort were also promulgated. The Naturist Village would be a place where voyeurs and exhibitionists would not be welcome.
The first developments were at Port Nature and Port Ambonne where flats, shops and pools were constructed. Later, Heliopolis and Port Venus were built and Port Nature was considerably extended. The flats were sold and the owners often let them when they did not require them for their own use. The Naturist Village became a controlled zone during the season with regulated access. Everyone entering was informed of the regulations and required to comply with them.
By the early 1980s, the Naturist Village was reaching the limit of its development. Many shops and commercial premises remained empty, ready for sale or let.
The election of the government of François Mitterrand was to herald a cooling off of the French economy which lasted well into the following decade. During this time the Naturist Village continued to prove a popular resort and it developed an easy and pleasant atmosphere. There were so many German visitors that the Post Office even had a designated postbox for letters and postcards being sent to Germany.
The present position
The Naturist Village has rules requiring nudity as the norm, which ban photography, the wearing of provocative clothing and the display of indecent items. Signs on the beach in 2008 warned against lewd behaviour. There are clubs and smaller venues including shops and bars. The nightlife centres on clubs and venues. Many open only at certain times of the year. On 23 November 2008 the British newspaper The Sunday Times suggested fires at swingers' clubs were the work of 'nudist mullahs' or fundamentalist nudists with a grudge against the echangistes or libertines.
In 2009, Rene Oltra, the company which bears the name of the original promoter of the resort, required visitors to its campsite and villas and flats which it lets to belong to a naturist organisation.
In December 2009 the local authority proposed to renovate making the village almost traffic-free constructing tree-lined walkways and promenades, a high-level promenade by the beach, and a hotel. Work is to start in early 2012. Other plans include the renovation of buildings and the construction of new façades.
The naturist village creates employment and revenue in a region of France less affluent than others. It creates income for the local authority through property taxes and admission prices.
The naturist beach
The naturist beach (where nudity is technically mandatory) has a length of about 2 kilometres (1 mile) and is about 30 metres (98 feet) wide. Sand and water are of good quality and between 16 to 22 °C (61 to 72 °F). Two security posts feature police and medical facilities. Lifeguards are on duty at several stations, during most of the day. Six restaurants border the southern end of the nude beach. Only one restaurant is available towards the northern end. Even though Cap d'Agde is in France, most of the service staff speak English.
Heliopolis is the biggest and most prominent feature of Village Naturiste and is a 4-storey round apartment complex with a diameter of around 250 metres (820 ft) located at the beach. Heliopolis has a shopping area with a supermarket at the ground floor. It has approximately 800 apartment units for 2, 4, and 6 people. Built to Le Corbusier principles, the arc-shaped buildings contained an open centre with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and play areas.
In 2005, the local authority, the Mairie d'Agde, granted planning permission for the construction of a large libertine complex in the centre of Heliopolis which resulted in the destruction of the swimming pool and the open space.
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