Photo Credit: Leonard Mc Lane
Traveler Story: I Dined In The Nude At The Only Naturist Restaurant In Paris
Have you ever dined in the nude? I’m not referring to doing it at home with your honey or a few friends with nobody to see you but four walls and your pet cat. I mean going to an actual establishment designed for patrons wearing nothing but a birthday suit. I have, and not only is it freeing, it’s an exercise in self-love and vulnerability.
In the good old days, before the pandemic yanked the plug, I went to Paris alone and fell right into stride. There was no culture shock, I spoke French fairly well, and getting around on foot or by the Metro was a breeze. There would be plenty of time for spontaneity, but I had a few solid plans locked in, including dinner at O’Naturel, a naturist restaurant.
It was the only one of its kind in the city, which surprised me, seeing how blasé the French are about nudity. In any case, I loved the concept, and was looking forward to eating in the buff.
It was chilly when a cab took me from my apartment to the restaurant, which was somewhat out of the way in the 12th arrondissement. The exterior bore the name, but was otherwise nondescript, and curtains were pulled closed to keep people from peering inside. The host greeted me warmly, handed me sandals and a robe, and showed me to the locker area. It was at that moment that excitement set in, and if I’m honest, there were some jitters, too.
Overall, I was happy with my body, but there were some things about it, I didn’t care for, like the cellulite on my thighs or how my stomach folded when I sat. But it was strong and healthy, and that’s what mattered.
The dining area was behind a curtain, and of course, cell phones weren’t allowed. I put mine in a locker with my other belongings, pulled on the robe, and slipped on the sandals. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was going in for a spa service. When I entered the dining room, the first thing that struck me was how ordinary it was; no gaudy colors and decorations, which was strangely endearing. The fabric that draped the chairs was changed after each guest left. There was room for about thirty people, but that night there were only five, probably because it was in the middle of the week. I saw two women about my age in a corner, and three older adults in the middle.
All the staff was clothed, including the host who showed me to my table, the waiter who met me there, and the cooks in the kitchen, which was partially visible. I took off my robe, draped it behind my chair, and sat down completely nude.
The music was soothing, again, reminiscent of a spa, and as per French custom, the waiter didn’t push me to select a wine quickly. I settled on Sauvignon Blanc.
There was the gentle click of silverware against plates, and chatter from the other tables. The menu had much of the expected fare, but I settled on the braised lamb shank with port wine sauce and rosemary.
There was a laugh, and I looked up when I heard a recognizable accent.
“Excuse me?” I asked the sole male diner. “Are you American?”
Indeed, he was- a resident of California, as was his wife and their friend. I’ll give them aliases out of respect for their privacy. “Edward” invited me to join their table, pleasantries were exchanged, and such was the start of what would be a colorful and unusual friendship.
Edward was a doctor, his wife “Kathleen” was a retired nurse and their friend “Sarah” coordinated art workshops in San Francisco. We made for an interesting quartet; they were decades my senior, and I’m sure they were surprised that a 30-year-old woman took them up on their invitation to dine. But I liked listening to the wisdom of those who had seen more sunsets than I had, and the only lull in conversation happened when we were eating.
I was very pleased with my lamb shank, the sauce was divine, and the portion was reasonable. I don’t know who was calling the shots in that kitchen, but everybody understood the assignment for sure.
My dining companions asked why I came to a nudist restaurant alone, which I was happy to answer. I needed to color outside the lines more, and catch up on the decadence I mostly avoided in college. In the years since, I’d gone to BDSM events and sex parties, so a naturist restaurant was the logical progression for me. As for why I came alone? Even if I’d come to Paris with friends, I still would have insisted on getting into some business without them.
There were moments when I forgot I didn’t have any clothes on; reaching to adjust a button on my pants to discover there were no pants or buttons. Aside from a few trips to Gunnison Beach and one nude dance class, I wasn’t exactly a veteran of naturism. I don’t know if Edward, Kathleen, and Sarah would call themselves naturists, but they obviously had no qualms with eating while nude.
We are friends to this day, and continued our dining fun at a restaurant in The Bay Area in early 2020, though it wasn’t nude. Our paths probably wouldn’t have crossed without O’Naturel, which sadly went out of business a year after opening, in spite of strong reviews.
If it does reopen in the future, I hope the owners might consider a more frequented area like St. Germain or Le Marais, where it might really take off. It wasn’t the kind of place you’d think to walk into from off the street, and it might benefit from having a covered terrace or courtyard, shielded from the public by curtains or hedges.
Are there any other out of the box dining adventures I’d travel to have? Yes. I’m curious about “dark dining” which is pretty self-explanatory, and there are spots in Las Vegas and Toronto for that. I have no fear of heights, so I’d love to try a Dinner In The Sky experience. Lastly, when the pandemic is behind us, I might try a restaurant offering Nyotaimori or Nantaimori, the ancient Japanese art of eating sushi off a nude woman or man.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, their private areas are covered.