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Taking Flight: Using Google Earth

All About Placemarks
Stand-Alone Placemarks
Placemark Clusters
Example: Plage du Cap Taillat
More Tips for Using Google Earth
Avoiding Clutter
Showing Only Selected Placemarks
Using Google Maps in Conjunction with Google Earth
Closing Google Earth
Using Google Earth without an Internet Connection

Google Earth can be downloaded from You do NOT need to buy anything. The free download is all you need. If you have never used Google Earth, you'll probably want to return to the Google Earth website and look at the video tutorials.

The purple bar near the top of every page on this website has a downloads option. There are currently twelve files you can download.

All About Placemarks

First, download one of the files listed on the downloads page. For this tutorial, we use France as an example, so download the file for France if you'd like to follow along. The image that takes up most of the screen should look something like this:

click the image for a large
view in another window

On the left side of the Google Earth screen, there is a sidebar divided into three compartments: Search, Places and Layers. (If there is no sidebar visible, click View at the top of your screen and make sure Sidebar is selected.) Notice that the file you have opened, nakedplaces.net_FRANCE.kmz, is in the Temporary Places folder in the Places compartment. The Search compartment should be defaulted to Fly To. If it isn't, change it. The navigation control on the upper right side of the screen allows you to zoom in and out, and simply holding your mouse anywhere on the image screen allows you to move the image.

We're almost ready to take flight, but not quite. Whenever you enter a site's latitude and longitude, you will fly to that site's PLACEMARK. There is a list of placemarks below. If you are flying to a commercial establishment such as a resort, campground or other business, there is a single placemark, which we call a stand-alone placemark, for that particular establishment. However, nude beaches have a cluster of associated placemarks. The primary placemark contains a general description of the site. Secondary placemarks provide driving directions and pinpoint parking lots, hiking trails, landmarks and so on.

Stand-Alone Placemarks
icon icon name type of location
hotel ahotel, resort, guesthouse, etc.
tent acampground / rustic retreat
pushpin a, bmiscellaneous
purple soaking pool commercial soaking establishment
sailboat sailing trips / boat charters
"X" paddle cformer nude beach
a  Hotel, tent and pushpin placemarks come in five colors. These color codes are explained in More About Nudist Resorts.
b  The pushpin placemark is for a small number of establishments that are not easily categorized.
c  This information is available only for sites in North America.

Placemark Clusters
Primary Placemark
icon icon name type of location
red "N" paddle nude beach
Secondary Placemarks
icon icon name notes
red paddle nude beach (a different area of the same beach pinpointed by a red "N" paddle)
green paddletextile beach
blue cardriving directions, from a pinpointed starting point
transitpublic transit: bus, rail/subway, ferry
parkingparking lot or other parking
hiking dwalking directions
various other infrequently used placemarks
d  The hiker placemark is omitted in cases where walking directions are obvious from the description under the primary placemark.

Now we're ready to take flight. Let's use these coordinates as a tutorial: 43.1724, 6.6397. This is the latitude/longitude for Plage du Cap Taillat near Saint-Tropez. Type (or cut and paste) the coordinates in the Fly To box in the upper left corner of the Google Earth screen, then click on the magnifying glass icon.

click the image for a large
view in another window

You'll land on the primary placemark, which in the case of Plage du Cap Taillat is a red "N" paddle. Notice that the GPS coordinates are superimposed over the primary placemark. To make those numbers disappear from your screen, click the "clear searches" box, which is the "x" at the bottom right of the "Fly to" field. Now click on the placemark for a pop-up window with a description of the beach. The bottom line of the window lets you know how many total placemarks there are for this site.

Cap Taillat has eight total placemarks. Zoom out until you can see the thin yellow line that encircles all the placemarks. Your screen should look like the image above. When you are ready to plan a trip to Cap Taillat, you'll want to click on the secondary placemarks for directions and other helpful information. Generally, you'll want to start with the placemark that is farthest away from the primary placemark and work your way closer to the primary placemark. In this case, start with the blue car placemark. The blue car placemark is the starting point for most sites. The chart below illustrates the logical progression:


1  As with most sites, the blue car is your starting point. In the case of Cap Taillat, the blue car is pinpointed at the junction of a departmental highway and the minor turnoff toward the beach. Clicking the placemark tells you the name of the highway, the name of the turnoff, and the location of the junction relative to nearby landmarks. After that, you are given directions from the starting point to the parking areas. The blue line draws the route between the starting point and the parking areas.

2  The parking placemark pinpoints where to park. In this case, there are two parking placemarks. The first pinpoints a large parking lot with several rows. The second pinpoints a small parking area closer to the nude beach but more likely to be full. All parking placemarks contain GPS coordinates, so you can set your GPS device to go directly there.

3  The green paddle pinpoints Plage de l'Escalet, which is a textile beach adjacent to the large parking lot. (In France, "textile" means bottoms are worn. Topless bathing for women is commonplace on many beaches.)

4  The hiker placemark tells you which way to head from the parking lot. In this case, the hike is rather long, but the trail is obvious and the instructions are simple and brief. In other cases, walking directions are evident from the visual imagery, so there is no hiking placemark. In this case, the walking route is drawn by a green line.

5  This is the other parking area mentioned under "2." If you can find parking here, you will pick up the hiking trail a little south of Plage de l'Escalet and have a somewhat shorter hike.

6  A blank red paddle is sometimes used in conjunction with the red "N" paddle. Sometimes this placemark indicates the end of a long nude beach. Sometimes it indicates a secondary or separated nude area. In this case, the blank red paddle is pinpointed at a collection of small coves where nudity is common. You'll pass by these coves on your hike to the main nude beach.

7  The primary placemark gives you descriptive information about the beach. In this case, you'll learn that the beach is an isthmus with water on both sides in an incredibly scenic location.

8  The flag placemark is for landmarks. In this case, it pinpoints a prominent headland connected to the beach.

Cap Taillat is a case where a comparatively high number of placemarks is necessary to plot the lay of the land. Many other nude beaches in France are more straightforward. In the case of Plage de Maez an Aod (fly to 48.7362, -3.5506, see image below at left), only three placemarks are necessary.

There are a number of cases where a naturist resort is located next to a nude beach that is associated with the resort but is public. In these cases, the yellow lines are drawn to include parking placemarks and other placemarks associated with the nude beach but to exclude the naturist resort. We do this just to reinforce that the nude beach and the naturist resort exist as separate entities. For example, the nude beach at Sérignan-Plage (fly to 43.2597, 3.3229, see image below at right) abuts two side-by-side naturist resorts, but the beach is available to everyone.

click either image for a large view in another window
Plage de Maez an Aod

More Tips for Using Google Earth

Avoiding Clutter
Google Earth potentially displays more information than you need or want. Learning to manipulate Layers at the bottom left of the screen will let you add or take away information. Of the options under Layers, the three options Panoramio Photos, Roads and More have the most potential to both enhance and detract from your Google Earth viewing. (The other options under Layers can be useful but are not as relevant to this guide.) You can easily turn any option on or off as needed.

To see what we mean, try this:

First, make sure the nakedplaces.net_FRANCE.kmz file is opened in Google Earth.

Next, go to Layers and check these three options: Panoramio Photos, Roads and More.

Next, type Cassis, France into the Fly To search field and click the magnifying glass icon.

Image A
Image B
Image C
click any image for a large view in another window

Your resulting screen should look something like Image A. There is a nude beach on either side of Cassis, and there are two clusters of placemarks in the image. However, there are a number of Google Earth's placemarks competing to draw your eye. These places—geographical features, public transit information, restaurants, gas stations, etc.—are potentially very useful information, but not necessarily at first since they can interfere with our placemarks. Go ahead and deselect More.

What you are left with should resemble Image B, and you can see that our placemarks stand out much better. The blue squares scattered on the screen are the result of having Panoramio Photos turned on. The blue squares represent links to photographs submitted by Google Earth users and hosted on Google's Panoramio website. Again, this is potentially great supplemental information, but it is also a potential source of aggravation. In many cases it is easy to click on a blue square when you are trying to click on a placemark. Go ahead and deselect Panoramio Photos.

What you are left with should resemble Image C. In this image, the only information displayed besides our own placemarks is the street grid with the street names labelled. More street names are visible the farther in you zoom. The Roads option generally does not interfere with your viewing, but you can make the street grid disappear as well if you'd like.

Remember that it is useful to turn various options on and off for each site that you view.

Showing Only Selected Placemarks
Naked Places placemarks are organized into a multitude of folders. If you are interested in exploring sites by location, type or both, you can manipulate these folders to zoom in on certain information while making everything else disappear.

In Google Earth, look on the left sidebar at the Places compartment. The file nakedplaces.net_FRANCE.kmz should appear in your Temporary folder. Expand this file by clicking the little triangle to the left of the file name. When you expand the file, a folder of the same name appears. Expand the folder, and two sub-folders appear:

     Nude Beaches
     Naturist Retreats/Places to Stay

Okay, now say you want to play around on Google Earth to find some locations but you find the number of placemarks on your screen daunting. Get rid of them.

Uncheck the box next to Naked_Places_France.kmz. All of the placemarks will vanish. Now, you can start opening folders to do a sort of targeted search. When you uncheck the KMZ file, all the folders will be unchecked as well.

Let's walk through a few examples. Say you want to view nude beaches in Brittany but nothing else. If you have unchecked the KMZ file, you should be looking at a blank Google Earth screen. Expand the KMZ file as follows:

               Nude Beaches

Once you have expanded the Nude Beaches folder, you'll see 15 alphabetized sub-folders. Check the box to the left of Bretagne. Your screen should look something like the image below on the left. Instead of expanding the Bretagne folder, DOUBLE CLICK ON THE NAME OF THE FOLDER (or the folder icon). This causes the screen to adjust so that all the placemarks in that folder appear on the screen. The result will look something like the middle image below.

You can also narrow your search even farther. Say, for example, you know you will be traveling to the Morbihan department (i.e., sub-region) of Brittany. Open the Bretagne folder and you'll see four sub-folders, one of which is named Morbihan. De-select the Bretagne folder, the select the Morbihan folder. The result will look something like the image below on the right.

just Brittany (Bretagne)
Brittany, zoomed in
just Morbihan,
one of four subdivisions of Brittany
click any image for a large view in another window

When you are ready to turn all the placemarks back on, just go back to the KMZ file. You'll notice the box to the left of the file name has a dash through it. Click the box once to make the dash disappear then a second time to make all the placemarks in the file reappear.

Okay, here's one more example of how you can manipulate folders. Say you would like to randomly browse naturist resorts and other places to stay and you'd like to clear the screen of non-relevant placemarks. As with the above example, uncheck the KMZ file. Next, expand the KMZ file as follows:

               Naturist Retreats/Places to Stay

Once you have expanded the Naturist Retreats/Places to Stay folder, you'll see two sub-folders: General and Gay. Depending on your preference, you may opt to select only General, which will yield a screen that will look something like the image below on the left. The preponderance of the color yellow in this image means that these are mostly family-oriented establishments. Likewise, you may opt to select only Gay, which will render a screen that looks something like the image below on the right.

click either image for a large view in another window

Using Google Maps in Conjunction with Google Earth
Google Maps is a phenomenal online mapping program that is an adjunct to Google Earth. Virtually all of our blue car and parking placemarks are linked to Google Maps to facilitate planning your trip. To get an idea of how it works, fly to this location in Google Earth:

          43.0639, 5.8686        Plage du Jonquet

Once you are there, zoom out until you can see all the placemarks (encircled by a thin yellow line). Start with the blue car placemark. Open it, and the first few lines read:

To get directions to this point, go to Google Maps, click Get Directions, choose your departure and make your destination:

    Fabrégas, La Seyne-sur-Mer, France

[followed by detailed directions]

The Google Maps link is already encoded with the information to get you to the location in bold type. Just click the link. When you map this location in Google Maps, the bubble that appears over the center of the map contains a 360° photo of the location, and you can expand that photo to fill the entire screen. This gives you a superb visual prompting of what to look for en route. (However, panoramic photos are thus far available for just a small number of places in France.)

In this particular example, the location takes the format village, commune, country. No street address is given since Fabrégas is small, and the map defaults to the roundabout that is the only major junction in the village.

Assume, just for example, you are starting at the TGV station in Toulon (address: Place de l'Europe). Once you open the Google Maps link and see that your destination is Fabrégas, La Seyne-sur-Mer, France, click Get Directions, enter Place de l'Europe, Toulon, France, then click the "Get Directions" button. The resulting map will look like this.

We provide written directions starting with the location of the blue car placemark. However, you can also map your own directions all the way to the parking lot.

There are three parking placemarks for Plage du Jonquet. Click the one farthest from the blue car placemark and you'll get this information:

GPS: 43.0608, 5.8619 (Map It)

Clicking on "Map It" will map the parking area. Assume, again, that you are coming from the TGV station in Toulon. Once you open the Google Maps link and see that your destination is GPS coordinates 43.0608, 5.8619, click Get Directions, enter Place de l'Europe, Toulon, France, then click the "Get Directions" button. The resulting map will look like this.

Closing Google Earth
When you quit the Google Earth application, you'll get this message: You have unsaved items in your "Temporary Places" folder. Would you like to save them to your "My Places" folder? We recommend you select NO. Saving an excessive number of placemarks in your My Places folder can cause Google Earth to load and perform slowly, and the nakedplaces.net_FRANCE.kmz file contains hundreds and hundreds of placemarks. Depending on your computer's speed and general performance, you should avoid saving large KMZ files to My Places.

Using Google Earth without an Internet Connection

Google Earth can partially function offline. To understand the offline abilities of Google Earth, you need to understand a little about how cache works. Say you are browsing the web one evening and you go to a particular website that has a lot of graphics that are a bit slow to load. So you browse the internet for a while, power down your computer and go to bed. The next morning, you revisit the same site that loaded slowly the night before and, voila!, the graphics load instantly. The reason the site loaded quickly the second time is because the first time you browsed it, the information was saved in a cache file on your computer. Your web browser took a short cut and loaded the graphics from your cache rather than accessing them over the internet. It is a time-saving device. A cache file can hold a certain amount of information. When a new bit of information gets stored, the oldest bit of information gets tossed out to make room, so nothing remains in your cache indefinitely. (You can also manually empty your cache.)

Google Earth likewise uses cache. To illustrate how cache works and how it can be useful for offline browsing, consider these four popular nude beaches:

Plage des Sables d'Opale50.4321, 1.5669
Plage de Kerminihy47.6332, -3.2016
Plage du Layet43.1483, 6.4202
Plage des Templiers44.3400, 4.5031

Note: For this demonstration to work, the last two sites in the above list need to be places that are not already in your cache, so if by chance you have already zoomed in on Plage du Layet or Plage des Templiers, then choose some other location. Any place will do as long as it is some place you have not viewed in detail.

Cut and paste the GPS coordinates for Plage des Sables d'Opale into your Google Earth "Fly to" box and go there. You should get a fantastic, detailed aerial view. Now, do the same with the coordinates for Plage de Kerminihy. You'll also get a wonderfully detailed aerial view.

At this point, browse no further. Go ahead and quit Google Earth (remember that, as indicated in the section above, we recommend you select no when you are asked about saving items upon exiting the application). Now, disable your internet connection, then relaunch Google Earth. It will probably take a lot longer to load since you are offline, and you'll get a message related to the fact that an internet connection cannot be established and that only information saved in cache will be viewable. Once Google Earth has loaded, reload the nakedplaces.net_FRANCE.kmz file.

Revisit the first site on the list above—Plage des Sables d'Opale—by flying to its GPS coordinates. You should see an aerial view comparable to what you saw when you were online. That's because the detailed aerial information for Plage des Sables d'Opale and its surrounding area is in your Google Earth cache. You should be able to view Plage de Kerminihy in detail as well.

Now, fly to the last two sites on the list—Plage du Layet and Plage des Templiers. Assuming that the sites have not been saved to your cache from previous browsing, you will not be able to see any detail at all for either of these beaches. However, you can still see and read the placemarks for these sites even though you don't have the benefit of aerial views.

As this exercise demonstrates, the way to make sure you will be able to view a selected site offline is to make sure it is one of the last handful of places you view in detail (zoomed in) while you are still online.

Here are two more very important things to know about using Google Earth offline:

  •  As with a web browser, you may decide to occasionally clear your cache in Google Earth. Cache options can be viewed by selecting Google Earth > Preferences > Cache. However, there is one crucial thing to remember: Whenever you reset your cache options, you will need an internet connection for Google Earth to be able to refresh itself. Resetting cache while you are offline does more than just clearing your cache. It totally disables Google Earth until an internet connection is established. You can't view placemarks. You can't do anything. The moral of the story is this: IF YOU ARE USING GOOGLE EARTH OFFLINE WITHOUT ACCESS TO AN INTERNET CONNECTION, LEAVE YOUR CACHE SETTINGS ALONE!

  •  When you are using Google Earth offline, the "Fly to" box will work for GPS coordinates, but not for places. In other words, if you type "Paris, France" or any other city in the box, you'll just get an error message.

  • Now, you can activate your internet connection again, but it may be necessary to relaunch Google Earth to get it to function fully.

    One final matter... you should always be cautious about leaving expensive electronics in your car when you go to any beach, so you may decide you'd rather leave your laptop at home or in your hotel room. The contents of any placemark can be printed. Our suggestion: for each site you want to visit, print out the driving directions contained in the blue car placemark. Read the other placemarks and make brief notes of anything important you think you might forget. If you are a GPS junkie, be sure to jot down relevant coordinates. In one piece of paper, you'll have all the information you need, with no need for your laptop.