The custom of staying for a short vacation in private homes instead of in hotel rooms was not born yesterday with Airbnb, nor is sun and beach tourism an activity founded in Benidorm in the 1950s. In the first year In the 20th century, 123 summers ago, demand sometimes exceeded Alicante's considerable supply and forced the city's hoteliers to rent private apartments so as not to leave their clients on the streets.
This is attested to by a guide from the time, signed by José Aller y Vicente: "Alicante is a greenhouse that none of the existing ones in Europe has that surpasses it in climatic conditions. And good proof of this is that, at the time when As we write these pages, the hotels and lodging houses are full of people who come to take shelter under the sky that covers this beautiful city, to the point that some establishment has had the need to rent private houses to be able to satisfy the demand for bedrooms".
In the florid and bombastic style typical of the time, Aller both praises the city's natural attractions ("Who has contemplated the morning and evening twilights of Alicante without being enraptured for a moment?") and draws up a long list of connections. railways in which it specifies the departure and arrival time of the Madrid-Alicante train and the passage through all the stations of a journey that lasted 15 hours.
The document, very extensive, although the author warns that it is a rushed work, a summary of what should be an authentic guide, has undoubted historical interest. "As a summer resort (Alicante) meets the conditions of having a clean and quiet beach with several spa establishments set up with great luxury, in which bathers find a careful service, allowing even the weakest beings to use the natural bath, because the waves do not hit as hard as in other seas," he explains.
Next, Aller lists and describes those spas: "The establishments, in order from right to left looking at the sea, are called: La Esperanza, La Alianza, Diana, La Estrella, La Confianza, La Florida, La Rosa, Las Delicias, Baños de Guillermo, El almirante and Baños de Madrid; all of them have good conditions; the first three establishments are distinguished by luxury, which are open all year round and are generally the most popular among the aristocracy..."
There was therefore a difference in category, although all offered a complete service that the author praises: "The establishments are extensive and do not lack elegance; the service is very careful, they have a cloakroom and carriage service; the prices for each room vary from five cents for one peseta and five or six people can bathe in each one at the same time, as long as they are family or take the subscription together, since for reasons of morality, those for ladies and gentlemen are designated. As a curiosity, the guide explains that sea bathing "can be taken by taste or by medical prescription" and she advises taking it for between 15 minutes and an hour.
The guide does not lack the indispensable advertising, with advertisements promoting various businesses, a funeral home, the shipping company that then operated the Oran maritime line and, naturally, several hotels. For example, the Bossio, next to the Principal theatre, which boasts of its cuisine - "which has made it famous" - and its orientation "to the rising sun". And the Gran Hotel Iborra ("newly rebuilt and furnished"), or the luxurious Gran Hotel Roma y Marina.
This one in particular boasts of being up to date: "mounted at the level of the main ones in its class; comfortable and elegant living rooms for celebrities, families and tourists; telephone, electric bells, reading room, meeting room, bathrooms, luxury cars and buses to all trains and steamships; interpreters for all languages, postal and telegraph service, French, English and Spanish cuisine, large cellar stocked with the best wines and liquors. Four facades with 50 balconies and beautiful views of the port, sea baths and Paseo de los Mártires".
In the Industry and Commerce chapter, the guide points out that in 1900 there was in Alicante "a tobacco factory in which 87 men and 4,253 workers work; there are chocolate and pasta factories, canned goods, and the accredited oil factories of the gentlemen of Deutsch y Compañía and Fourcade and Gurtubay, and those of hydraulic mosaics and ceramics of Messrs. Botella, Ferrer and Compañía and Messrs. Bosch and Yesares established on the San Vicente highway and Las Carolinas neighborhood; there are iron foundries and large-scale commercial establishments..."
In the description of its streets, the contrast in the activity of some well-known ones is striking, such as the commercial artery of Avenida de Maisonnave today, where "we will find some wood warehouses, the Civil Guard barracks, several cooperages and grocery stores. , in addition to the private homes that exist for all classes of society.
Aller continues, touring each neighborhood with his pen, which goes wild with baroque enthusiasm as he leaves towards the north and comes across a panorama that is completely nonexistent today: the orchard of Alicante: "the picturesque orchard of Alicante is a pleasant and delicious garden, truly oasis, which is easier to admire than to describe. Its extension covers about eight km from north to south and six from east to west, in whose radius nature and art have accumulated such a wealth of attractions, such a luxury of contrasts, that it would be too long to enumerate within the reduced proportions of our guide.
That lost orchard was "what can be called a cheerful, pleasant, picturesque and delicious orchard, adorned with the trappings of exuberant and prodigious vegetation. (...) The vine, whose fruit has acquired proverbial European fame with good reason, the carob, almond, laurel, banana, eucalyptus, orange and lemon trees, the rich and varied collections of fruit trees and plantings of all kinds that abound and multiply with astonishing ease and, above all, that infinity of flowers natural of the country and exotic..." Today poor Aller would be astonished if he set his eyes on the brick and asphalt orchard that stands above those "gardens and flowerbeds whose pleasant emanations perfume, embalm the environment and increase its charms" .