The Town of Rights

A moment lived in France by Shane J Cassidy, traveler from Ireland

I got there early and only a few stragglers, running late for work, remained on the old streets.

With the fresh Spring morning ahead, I started to explore the old part of the town and its cobbled streets and ancient architecture. I was in Chambéry and I had been coaxed into visiting this ancient French town, aware that Jean Jacques Rousseau had once called this place home. This is the great mind that gave us ‘The Social Contract’, which served as the catalyst for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also became an inspiration for the most famous revolution of all time. I made it my priority to visit his house, even if it was a 2km walk uphill and out of the town so off I set.

I sucked in large gasps of the fresh spring air, the snow littered throughout the countryside punctuated by frozen rivers and leafless trees. The nearby hills, slightly obscured by the fog that hung at their base, jutted out at the top with their snowy peaks. Reinvigorated from the injection of energy which nature, as only nature could, provided me I strode uphill contented, to the house of the man who gave the world the foundations for the Rights of Man, called home.

A largely unassuming yet undeniably picturesque home of splendour and fine architecture greeted me, just off the main country road. I entered the only building to be greeted by a fine stone staircase in front of me and directly to my right hand side i was drawn in my a grand old fireplace and exquisite 17th century furniture. I couldn’t help thinking that by this very fireplace, ideas of grandeur far beyond what Jean Jacques Rousseau could have imagined were born.

I gently fingered the old arm chairs and marble fireplace before returning to the grand stone staircase and proceeding upstairs where i was greeted by 2 large bedrooms which were still decorated as you would imagine they would have been 300 years ago. Inspired, speechless, full of bristling emotion, I sat upon his armchair in his bedroom by the fireplace and pondered how such a great mind came to be. Surrounded by such simple means as candles and books. No electricity, no internet, no phones, no televisions and yet he imagined thing people today consider the most natural of things – rights for all.

Before leaving the grounds, I took time to walk through his impressive gardens to the side of the home which overlooks Chambery below and the mountains in the distance. I may have travelled here alone but I left with Jean Jacques Rousseau most definitely in my company.

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