My Travel Blog

La Vie de Voltaire

Rabelo spent the weekend in the village of Froncles.  When it wasn’t raining Lisa and I took some walks along the canal, and had drinks with two couples.  We also went marketing. We’re always marketing.  It never ends!  Fortunately we also found time to do a little sightseeing as well.

We decided to visit Chateau de Cirey where Francois-Marie Arouet lived for fifteen years.  You may not recognize the name Francois-Marie Arouet, but you probably recognize his nom de plume or pen name Voltaire.

The front door surrounded by a carved frame depicting Neptune both awake and asleep. Voltaire believed that the sea was the source of all life, thus the marine theme.

Voltaire added the entire left side of the chateau where all the people are standing.

The dinning room with the table set the way it was in the 18th century. The silverware points towards the guests so that the coat of arms engraved on the upper end of the utensil could be read.

Voltaire was a writer, historian, philosopher and public activist.  In fact he was constantly getting in trouble with the French authorities.  He even spent 11 months in the infamous Bastille. Then there was his exile to England.  Shortly after returning from England he met a brilliant mathematician. The two of them got together and came up with a way to scam the French lottery without breaking any laws.  Their con worked, and they both ended up extremely wealthy men.  I’m not going to get into the details of what they did, but it is worth looking up on the Internet.

The private chapel.

The library which contains a 23 volume encyclopedia. Written by Voltaire and 95 other authors and philosophers. It is one of the most important works of the 18th century.

Voltaire and the Chateau de Cirey on the French ten franc note.

 Some of Voltaire’s more famous quotes are:

Common sense is not so common.

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

Like so much of his life, Voltaire’s love life was complicated. He lived at Cirey from 1734 to 1749 as the guest and lover of Gabrielle-Emilie de Breteuil, Marquise du Chatelet. The Marquise was brilliant in her own right, and highly respected for her knowledge of physics, metaphysics, and mathematics. Upon her death Voltaire left the chateau and shortly thereafter fell in love with his niece Marie Louise Mignot. They lived together, and for a time posed as being married even though they never were.  Voltaire stayed with Mignot until his death in 1778, at the age of 84. He left a majority of his vast estate to her.

With the fortune he accumulated from his lottery scam Voltaire was the ideal house, or in this case, chateau guest.  When Voltaire first arrived Cirey was in need of some serious work.  He added an entire wing to the chateau, a private theater, and a half-mile long canal so that he and the Marquise would have a place where they could leisurely spend time together in a small rowboat.

The kitchen is believed to be the oldest room in the chateau. This is the stove.

Lisa standing next to the fireplace in the kitchen.

The canal in the foreground that Voltaire had built.

A magnificent plane tree that Lisa and I fell in love with.

There are only about 20 private theaters left in France, and the one at Cirey is the oldest and no doubt the smallest. Voltaire staged his own plays in the tiny theater using his guests as actors. There were at least two performances a week.The visit to the theater required us to climb three flights of stairs.  As a builder I enjoyed seeing the original 300-year-old oak beams, and how they were assembled without any nails. You can’t buy that kind of timber for any amount of money now.

I apologize for the blurry image, but we were not allowed to take any pictures. This is the theater that Voltaire built.

Three hundred year old oak beams.

It took me some time to realize what I found most inspiring about our tour. When I did, I had to take the next picture.  Lisa and I climbed the same stairs that the famous Voltaire climbed every day of his life for fifteen years.

The stairs that Lisa, Voltaire, and I climbed.

-Tom Miller

Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.