Yesterday, President Macron, accompanied by Françoise Nyssen, the French Minister of Culture, visited the château de Ferney-Voltaire ahead of today's reopening after three years of renovations. It was a suitably glossy occasion, with much trumpeting of patriotic and liberal values - how Voltaire himself would have adored it all!
Perhaps we really are back in the 18th century, for President Macron took the occasion to announce a brand new national lottery project. The scheme will features 15-euro "heritage" scratchcards and is intended to finance the restoration of a whole list of national historic buildings.
Refuser la fatalité de la bêtise et le repli sur soi, telle est l'identité de l'esprit français. Nous le devons à Voltaire et à son combat continu pour la tolérance. Venir chez lui, à Ferney-Voltaire, c'est souligner la force de nos valeurs.
The restoration at Ferney, which is state-owned, has been organised by the Centre des monuments nationaux (CMN) and has cost some 8 million euros. Much of the work has been necessary and structural - treatment for dry rot, a new roof, new sandstone facing for the facades, a new veranda to showcase the view of Mont Blanc. The garden, which was in a really sorry state, has also been completely renewed. I was a little worried what would happen to the interior, but the renovation has been very carefully handled and, judging from the photos, the artefacts are pretty much where they always were. (I was particularly relieved to see the horrible "Apotheosis of Voltaire", so beloved of the great man, has retained its prominent place....)
The photos of the interior are by Marshall B (Jun 2018), on Trip Advisor
Here is also a nice video of the renovations as they near completion:
"Le château de Voltaire entièrement rénouvelé", TV Léman Bleu, 29.05.18http://www.lemanbleu.ch/fr/News/Le-chateau-de-Voltaire-entierement-renove.html
Personally, I am still quite glad that I was able to go to Ferney in 2015 and see the château in its dilapidated (and more or less deserted) state. Not quite sure why: maybe it just seemed more like a real house in its rundown condition. Let's hope the new renovations draw in the crowds though - they will certainly need a few more visitors to pay off the bills!