Tag Archives: Benidorm postcards

Travels in Spain, Benidorm and How Things Change

This is a picture of me taken on the Balcón del Mediterráneo in 1977.  It is a picture that when investigated has stories to tell.

First of all the terracing itself and the balcony columns, dirty and neglected, crumbling and falling apart but now restored and pristine with a regular fresh coat of paint.

These are the same balustrade columns thirty years later in 2007 but this time overlooking the Levante rather than the Poniente Beach…

Next is that cannon, it isn’t there any more, except that it is but instead of being carelessly left on the edge of the balcony it is now part of a sculpture that has been created nearby…

And what about the surfacing?  In 1977 it was sand and gravel but now it is dazzling blue and white tiling and the scruffy Mediterranean shrubs and cactus has been cleared away to leave a more open but sterile view of the beaches…

Look at the background, the hotel developments stop way short of the headland – not any more and there is nowhere for Benidorm to go now except around the corner towards Villajoyosa (post coming up about Villajoyosa).

Amongst those high rise buildings is Intempo, at six hundred and thirty feet high Europe’s tallest residential skyscraper.  My forty year old picture shows nothing like that and neither does this old postcard…

I have to confess that I am getting old and nostalgic and just like Norman  Lewis  I long for the past and some times lament progress …

Travels in Spain, Old Postcards From Benidorm

Travels in Spain, Guadalest and Benidorm (A Blast from the Past)

After simple breakfast at Pensión El Pirineo I persuaded the others now to join me on a voyage of personal nostalgia and rediscovery.  I visited this part of Spain forty years ago when I went on a two week holiday to Benidorm and I thought it might be fun to revisit the places that I had seen in 1977.

First we went to Guadalest (picture above, 1977) a small mountain village with a castle which is a short bus trip drive out of Benidorm and a day trip that I took all those years ago.  It hadn’t really changed a great deal, except it had had a few coats of fresh paint and the local ladies selling genuine lace products had been replaced by tourist shops selling junk.

We stopped for lunch and a walk around the narrow streets but it was much smaller than I remembered and it didn’t take long to refresh my memories and soon we were on the road into Benidorm.

Mick wasn’t looking forward to this at all, I think it is quite low down on his list of places to visit in Spain but I was really happy to be revisiting the place that I had hated in 1977 and Mick hates in 2017.

Back then we could have gone practically anywhere we liked, so long as it was within our restricted budget of course, but we choose to go to Benidorm on the Costa Blanca for two whole weeks and we selected the Don Juan hotel on Calle Gerona, just behind the Levante beach because my girlfriend, Linda (later my wife) had been there some time before with her parents and had liked it.

Iglesia de San Jaime y Santa Ana near the Balcón del Mediterráneo in 1977..

And again in 2017…

Benidorm is one of the most popular tourist locations in Europe, today six million people go there each year on holiday but in 1977 it was even more popular and that year attracted the most holidaymakers ever and over twelve million people poured into the city.  That peak in numbers has never been matched since and it is unlikely that it ever will be.

Arriving in Benidorm we left the motorway and found an underground car park with surprising ease (underground car parks are always empty in Spain because the Spanish refuse to pay parking fees) and with the anticipation of severe culture shock rising to near boiling point we made straight for the old town.

Almost immediately it was a huge let down.  We had been expecting tat shops and British pubs, the distinctive smell of Hawaiian tropic, fat bellied lager louts with tattoos and peroxide Essex blondes with fake designer sunglasses and massive boob-jobs but there was none of that sort of thing at all.  No rampaging bands of tourist hooligans just a pensioner choir singing on the beach.

It was a very a very civilised affair with predominantly elderly Spanish people sedately enjoying the sun and a few British left-over’s from the winter Saga tours where the length of stay could be measured directly in degrees of orange tan.  Not even any ‘looky-looky’ men to pester us!

I have to say that Benidorm in 2017 was nothing like what I was anticipating at all but was really rather pleasant and the beaches were immense and spectacular with beautiful clean sand and blue flags flapping proudly in the breeze.  It is an interesting fact that Spain has more blue flag beaches than any other participating country with five hundred and eleven in five thousand kilometres of coastline, the United Kingdom by comparison, has only one hundred and twenty-five in nearly eighteen thousand kilometres.

Balcón del Mediterráneo in 1977…

And again in 2017, now with a tiled pavement and terrace…

In the old town itself there were more Spanish tapas bars than British pubs and there was a notable absence of those awful places with tacky pictures of the food on the menu.   There was not a bit of it and after wandering around the old town searching unsuccessfully for cheap souvenir shops we had to finally admit defeat and sit in a bar on the seafront and have the first beer of the day.

If Benidorm was a surprisingly nice place then the old town was an especially nice place with a blue domed church, reminiscent of those in the Greek islands, and a pedestrianised area that was positively delightful.  I remembered this from my visit forty years ago but not much else I have to say and with refreshment time over we walked a short way along the Levante in search of what we were sure was the real Benidorm from the television series but without success we called a halt to the expedition and retraced our steps back to the car.

Although we were disappointed not to see what we had come for it was a pleasant surprise and we left with the confirmation that despite the tourists that flock in every summer that Benidorm is a very real Spanish town, with Spanish culture and a Spanish history of tuna fishermen and merchant sailors that was actually quite plain to see.

I wished that I had grasped that in 1977 because if I had then I am sure that I would have enjoyed it more then.

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

Benidorm Bar 1960?

“It was not only in Farol that brusque changes were taking place…they were happening at a breakneck pace all over Spain…. Roads, the radio, the telephone and now the arrival of tourists… were putting an end to the Spain of old.  And for those who wanted to see it as it had been, there was not a moment to be lost.”  –  Norman Lewis –  ‘Voices of the Old Sea’

In the photograph my grandparents Ernie and Olive were roughly the same age as I am now and they were clearly having a very good time sitting at a bar enjoying generous measures of alcohol, the same sort of good time that I like to enjoy when I go travelling.

I am guessing of course but Granddad, who looks unusually bronzed, seems to have a rum and coke and Nan who looks younger than I can ever remember her appears to have some sort of a beer with a slice of lime and that’s about forty years before a bottle of Sol with a bit of citrus became anything like fashionable.

Read the full story…

benidorm-holiday-poster

 

 

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

In the first few years of the 1960s, in the days just before and then during the Freddie Laker days of early package holidays, my grandparents visited Benidorm in Spain several times.

Read More …

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

“It was not only in Farol that brusque changes were taking place…they were happening at a breakneck pace all over Spain…. Roads, the radio, the telephone and now the arrival of tourists… were putting an end to the Spain of old.  And for those who wanted to see it as it had been, there was not a moment to be lost.”  –  Norman Lewis –  ‘Voices of the Old Sea’

In the first few years of the 1960s, in the days just before and then during the Freddie Laker days of early package holidays, my grandparents visited Benidorm in Spain several times.

For people from London who had lived through the Luftwaffe blitz of the 1940s and the killer smog of the 1950s they applied for passports (which was practically unheard of for ordinary people) and set out with pale complexions on an overseas adventure and returned home with healthy Mediterranean suntans and duty free alcohol and cigarettes.

They brought back exotic stories of exciting overseas adventures and suitcases full of unusual souvenirs, castanets, replica flamenco dancing girls, handsome matador dolls with flaming scarlet capes and velour covered bulls that decorated their living room and collected dust for the next twenty years or so.

Spain Promotion

In the photograph my grandparents Ernie and Olive were roughly the same age as I am now and they were clearly having a very good time sitting at a bar enjoying generous measures of alcohol, the same sort of good time that I like to enjoy when I go travelling.

I’m guessing of course but Grandad, who looks unusually bronzed, seems to have a rum and coke and Nan who looks younger than I can ever remember her appears to have some sort of a beer with a slice of lime and that’s about forty years before a bottle of Sol with a bit of citrus became anything like fashionable.  With him is his brother George (no socks, very impressive for 1960) and his wife Lillian. Nan and Grandad look very relaxed and with huge smiles that I can barely remember.  I wonder how they managed to be among the first early holidaymakers to visit Mediterranean Spain in the 1960s?

In 1950 a Russian émigré called Vladimir Raitz founded a travel company in London called Horizon Holidays and started flying people to Southern Europe and the package tour was born.  Within a few years he was flying to Majorca, Menorca, and the Costa Brava.   In 1957 British European Airways introduced a new route to Valencia and the designation ‘Costa Blanca’ was allegedly conceived as a promotional name when it first launched its new service on Vickers Vanguard airoplanes with four propeller driven engines at the start of the package holiday boom.   By the end of the decade BEA was also flying to Malaga on the Costa Del Sol.

The flight took several hours and arrival at Valencia airport some way to the west of the city was not the end of the journey because there was now a one hundred and fifty kilometre, four-hour bus ride south to Benidorm in a vehicle without air conditioning or air suspension seats and in the days before motorways on a long tortuous journey along the old coast road.  Today visitors to Benidorm fly to Alicante to the south, which is closer and more convenient, but the airport there was not opened until 1967.

I am curious to understand how they were able to afford it?  Grandad was a bus conductor with London Transport on the famous old bright red AEC Routemaster buses working at the Catford depot on Bromley Road (he always wore his watch with the face on the inside of his wrist so that he didn’t break the glass by knocking it as he went up and down the stairs and along the rows of seats with their metal frames) and Nan worked at the Robinson’s factory in Barmerston Road boiling fruit to make the jam.  We were never short of jam in our house!

I cannot imagine that they earned very much and at that time the cost of the fare was £38.80p which may not sound a lot now but to put that into some sort of perspective in 1960 my dad took a job at a salary of £815 a year so that fare would have been about two and a half weeks wages! Each!  The average weekly wage in the United Kingdom today is £490 so on that basis a flight to Spain at 1957 British European Airline prices would now be about £1,225.  After paying the rent on the first floor Catford apartment Grandad used to spend most of the rest of his wages on Embassy cigarettes, Watney’s Red Barrel and in the Bookies so perhaps he had a secret source of income?  He does look like a bit of a gangland boss in some of these pictures or perhaps he had a good system and had done rather well on the horses.

benidorm-holiday-poster

Benidorm developed as a tourist location because it enjoys a unique geographical position on the east coast of Spain.  The city faces due south and has two stunningly beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean Sea that stretch for about four kilometres either side of the old town, on the east the Levante, or sunrise, and to the west the Poniente, you guessed it – the sunset, and it enjoys glorious sunshine all day long and for most of the year as well.

Today, Spain is a tourist superpower that attracts fifty-three million visitors a year to its beaches, 11% of the Spanish economy runs off of tourism and one in twenty visitors head for Benidorm.  The city is the high rise capital of Southern Europe and one of the most popular tourist locations in Europe and six million people go there each year on holiday.

Please read on, it is a fascinating story…

Benidorm c1960

Benidorm, Plan General de Ordinacion

Benidorm, The War of the Bikini

Benidorm 1977 – First impressions and the Hotel Don Juan

Benidorm 1977- Beaches, the Old Town and Peacock Island

Benidorm 1977 – Food Poisoning and Guadalest

Benidorm – The Anticipation

Benidorm – The Surprise

World Heritage Sites

Thanks to http://www.realbenidorm.net/ for the use of the image