The naked truth!
One holidaymaker reveals what it's REALLY like at a nudist resort as she dares to bare all in Croatia
Writer stayed at the four-star Hotel Istra at Red Island, near Istria's Rovinj and was introduced to nudism at the beautiful Solaris Naturist Resort. Nudity is compulsory in most areas, but not the dining rooms.
In my worst nightmare I am walking naked through the state apartments at Buckingham Palace.
Sometimes it's the ballroom at Claridges, the dining room at the River Cafe or perhaps just a busy branch of Sainsburys.
No matter where, strangers are staring at me and my birthday suit with a mixture of disgust, horror and derision. I wake up in a cold sweat.
Yet now, here I am, wide awake and warm as toast wearing only my wedding ring and a pair of earrings in full view of every passing Tom, Dick or Harry. And I don't give a monkeys.
I am lolling naked under the shade of an oak tree preparing to have a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic on a very public beach in sunny Croatia. I haven't a care in the world. And neither has my husband who has similarly stripped off.
We are indulging in that very un-British of activities... sunbathing au natural. Not just topless but bottomless, too.
Have we gone mad? Certainly, my grown up children who wouldn't dream of coming with us think so. But, as we were soon to discover, there is an extraordinary exhilaration and sense of freedom when you do away with your glad rags, be they Giorgio Armani or M&S.
This, I suppose, is what naturism is really all about. Without your defining clothes, you are classless. You can't tell a pauper from a prince. And that is enormously liberating.
Our sojourn into the curious world of naturism began at the four star Hotel Istra at Red Island, a 15 minute boat ride from the picturesque port of Rovinj in Istria.
The hotel with its idyllic beaches, gourmet restaurant and sea views from every room is linked by a causeway to a second more secluded island which has become an unofficial nudist retreat. It was there we first took the plunge, so to speak.
And it was also there where I had what can only be described as a 'Shirley Valentine' moment.
While my husband was lingering over a post-lunch coffee at the restaurant, I walked back along a rocky path to our spot in the sun (fully clothed), only to be chatted up by a handsome young local offering me a boat ride and a massage. Only problem, he wasn't wearing a stitch. I showed him my wedding ring, he smiled and flip flopped of. Phew.
But for the real naturist McCoy, we headed north to an apartment at the beautiful Solaris Resort on the coast near the fishing village of Tar, a 40 minute drive from Pula airport and 90 minutes from Trieste in Italy.
The resort has two kilometres of delightful - albeit it rocky - beaches with numerous man-made entry points into the water, plus restaurants, tennis courts, swimming pool, all set amid woods teeming with oak and pine trees and bushes of lavender, rosemary and jasmine.
It is exceptionally laid back and peaceful: As the beach masseuse announced as she began a half- hour pummel of my back: 'I can tell you have just arrived because your muscles are still so tense.'
Despite the refreshing sense of freedom, however, there are disadvantages to nudism:
1) It costs a small fortune in extra sun cream to cover those parts which are usually permanently shaded.
2) You find yourself worrying about getting wrinkles on the below-deck cheeks and judging by the gnarled brown backsides of my new companions - there is room for up to 4,000 fellow nudists at the resort - this is no idle concern.
Prestige Holidays (01425 480400) is offering a week's stay from £638 per person in September in Croatia, based on two sharing, and comprising return flights from London Gatwick with Norwegian to Pula, a Group B hire car from the airport, three nights at Solaris Naturist Resort in a pavilion room on half board, followed by four nights at Hotel Istra on Red Island, Rovinj on BB.
3) Without a bathing costume, there is no hiding from the realisation that everything is beginning what is euphemistically described as 'the long journey South.'
There are certain rules, too. Cameras are banned and you are supposed to be undressed everywhere except the restaurants. However, somewhat embarrassingly, I was the only person to arrive without clothes for an early morning Tai Chi class. Everyone else was in shorts and T-shirts. Oh dear...
Then there is the tricky question of whether or not to draw the blinds in your apartment to get dressed for dinner. Given that during the day I have let it all hang out, it hardly seems to matter - yet it does somehow.
Should you get bored with the novelty of acquiring an all-over tan, the area around is rich in ancient buildings, churches, beautiful countryside and there is even an archeological site at the resort. It consists of a fenced off area covered in dinosaur footprints. There were apparently even more dinosaurs treading these rocks in pre-history than present day naturists.