“The first campers offered another way of traveling, combining a concern for social distinction and the desire to enjoy preserved landscapes”

Grandstand. Tourism is the industry allowing travelers to enjoy the spectacle of the world as comfortably as possible. Undoubtedly, for the first practitioners of pleasure travel – these modern-day elites who were followers of the European “Grand Tour”, in the 17e century, which was to give its name to tourism – was it less a question of setting out to contemplate nature than of human artistic productions. The purpose of their trip was first of all those Italian cities full of the masterpieces of Antiquity and the Renaissance. The desire for natural landscapes only came later, when methods of appreciating nature were refined. In the second half of the XVIIIe century, the new codes of the sublime and the picturesque supplanted those of the beautiful countryside, such as the classical age had celebrated it. More and more tourists leaving for Italy then made a detour via Switzerland. Facing the Alps, they could experience communion with a sometimes grandiose, sometimes charming nature, where changing sights and this form of desirable terror popularized by the first “mountaineers” mingled.

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At that time, pollution was primarily visual. It was that of the poor and the imbeciles. For the traveling elite who had money, good taste and free time, the crowds were an obstacle to enjoyment. Invented in the summer of 1847, the “pleasure trains” caused concern: was the proliferation of popular trips not going to alter the charms of nature? Former sub-prefect of Carpentras (it was he who inspired Alphonse Daudet with the character of the “sub-prefect in the fields” of Letters of my mill), and accustomed to the landscapes of Luchon, Stéphen Liégeard thus feared, in the 1870s, that their poetry “disappears shortly under the victuals of the suburban picnic”. For this contemptuous character, who in 1887 baptized the French Riviera with the name of “Côte d’Azur”, the problem was not the so current problem of aluminum cans and discarded plastic bags. The problem was the people.

” Vandalism “

People soon became alarmed at the damage that the increasing number of tourists were causing to the countryside. The “tourist industry” (the expression appeared in the 1860s) involved large transport infrastructures, of which railway stations were only the most visible example. In 1894, the Dauphiné tourist office and the PLM (Compagnie des chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée) thus set up in the Grande-Chartreuse massif excursions in “Alpine coach”, large open carriage drawn by horses, thanks to which it was now possible to admire the mountain landscape without necessarily being in good physical condition. The plane did not yet exist, but the watchword of the democratization of tourism imposed the idea of ​​unprecedented travel facilities for the greatest number.

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