Jean-Paul Sartre was a Silly Ass

9 Jul

Jean Paul Sartre once famously described the Cantabrian village of Santillana del Mar as the most beautiful in all of Spain. He even more famously remarked, “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” (For the francophonically disadvantaged, “Hell is other people.”) Taken individually, the first observation is an interesting tourist tip, while the second is the kind of thing you would expect from a smarty-pants philosopher with a gift for the pithy epithet. Taken together, they establish old JP as a silly ass.

Santillana del Mar - Spain's most beautiful village, according to Sartre.

Santillana del Mar – Spain’s most beautiful village, according to Sartre.

By letting the cat out of the bag about Santillana del Mar, Sartre created an enfer for future visitors. It would be an interesting line of philosphical enquiry to explore whether existentialists could, even theoretically, turn in their graves, but, if so, Jean Paul must be spinning like a top. The village is still pretty and chock full of historic buildings, but they are now mostly occupied by souvenir shops and restaurants serving tourists, whose satisfaction is of no interest to proprietors who see no prospect of a return visit. Thus Sartre invalidated his own assertion in the very act of uttering it.

If only Sartre had had the foresight and common sense of that other great author and philosopher, me! For I have discovered the most beautiful village in Spain, but unlike the great chump of the Rive Gauche, I am not going to tell you where it is.

I'm not telling you where this is.

I’m not telling you where this is.

I’ve just returned from a walk through its medieval and renaissance core, along the river, beneath the ruined castle to the Roman bridge. And this evening, I’m about to stroll along the colonnaded main street to the Plaza Mayor with Mrs. Gump and the Gumpettes for another leisurely dinner, after pre-prandial drinks watching scores of kids running riot all over the square under the casual supervision of their parents and grandparents sheltering from the evening sun under a line of plane trees.

A literary giant ate dinner here (wherever it is).

A literary giant ate dinner here (wherever it is).

In two days, we have not encountered any non-Spaniards. I say that, not out of obnoxious travel snobbery – I enjoy meeting other travelers – but because it has shown me that beautiful places like this really do still exist in Europe, not yet ruined, where people actually live, work and play – especially play, it would seem, judging from the throngs of boisterous youngsters crowding the small taverns outside our hotel. I will be very sorry to leave this place.

View from the Roman bridge towards ... uh, oh, almost gave it away there!

View from the Roman bridge towards … uh, oh, almost gave it away there!

Sorry, Jean-Paul. It has to be a written warning for you and your big mouth. I hold you personally responsible for the awful lunch I had in Santillana del Mar.


One Response to “Jean-Paul Sartre was a Silly Ass”

  1. WIPE YOUR EXIF DATA April 11, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    Do the initials P.S.P, located in E.B.d.O, in the province of S. sound familiar?

    Sartre may have been a silly ass, but so are people who don’t remove the EXIF data from their photos! Modern technology is scary in terms of how much data an innocent looking file can contain, especially one created by an iPhone 5.

    If you want to keep the locations where you take your photos secret, you HAVE to use an EXIF removal tool – for pointers – otherwise your home address, workplace etc are readable by anyone with an internet connection.


    A young well-wisher.

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