So many cities and villages in France wrap their arms around gently flowing rivers. Metz is no exception, where nearly 14 miles (22 km) of the Moselle and Seille riverfronts contribute to the appeal and tranquil rhythm of the city. To date, Metz may not have made your “Top 10 Places to Visit in France”, but the lively capitol of the Lorraine department in northeastern France continues to evolve into an interesting and thriving city with a heavy German and Luxembourg influence.
Just 80 minutes from Paris on the new TGV Est-Europeen train, Metz combines 3000 years of history with an appealing flower-filled landscape and excitement about the future. The university simply adds another lively dimension to a vibrant city.
Where to stay
Now is the time to celebrate “la difference” and choose a romantic waterfront barge for your lodging. Transformed from grain exporter to intimate B&B, the Alclair barge offers 2 pretty rooms with a nice little private terrace and breakfast just 10 minutes from the city center and train station. At 65 Euros per night with free car parking, the Alclair makes an ideal choice.
If you prefer to rest your heads ashore, try three-star L’hotel du Theatre right at the river’s edge at rue du Pont Saint-Marcel. From $135, you’ll enjoy stylish and comfortable rooms in a charming old building. You might skip the hotel restaurant, in favor of some excellent city center choices
Explore the river areas first, where ancient gardens open on to promenades, and the lush open-space Seille Park presents a fascinating environmental experience. North of the old city center, charming 18th-century neighborhoods hug the Moselle and the Grand Island Saulcy. Especially with reflections in the night, enjoy a beautiful view over the old town from Pont Saint-Marcel.
♦ Centre Pompidou-Metz Due to open in mid-2010, the progressive center mirrors the ambitions of Paris’ Pompidou center. Together with the Metz Metropole region and the Musee National d’Art Moderne, the stimulating exhibits aim to tap visitors’’ cultural awareness and hunger for contemporary art.
♦ La Cour d’or – Houses the art, architecture and archeology museums, each illuminating the history of the city and surrounding areas, as well as displaying art from the 15th to 20th centuries.
♦ Cathedrale Saint-Etienne at place d’Armes is stunning and impressive with the third-tallest nave in France. Overlooking the river, the Cathedrale has several beautiful stained glass windows by Chagall.
♦ Place d’Armes – Four buildings surrounding the square were so designed as to represent the balance of local power: the Cathedrale – religion; the converted Office of Tourism – military; the town hall – civil government; and the court building – justice. The Covered Market, hosts stalls selling meats, cheeses, and other regional specialties.
♦ The “Tables de Rabelais” celebrates local cuisine and the influence of one-time resident, Rabelais. Food professionals partner with local restaurants to highlight regional specialties. The Tourism Office coordinates the adventure and assist visitors in making reservations.
♦ The Flea Market – Once or twice a month, antique dealers from throughout France gather at the Congress Centre for an enormous market, said to the second largest in France. Furnishings, collectibles and regional ceramics are among priceless finds that attract large crowds.
♦ The Mirabelle Festival – Held yearly at the end of August/beginning of September, the festival celebrates the primo delicacy of the Lorraine – the Mirabelle plum. Complete with balls and a festival queen, the celebration pays honor to the fruit that finds its’ way into preserves and tartes and rich-tasting liqueurs.
♦ The Christmas Market – Popular throughout Europe, Christmas Markets offer colorful displays and traditional gifts each December. Metz hosts nearly 100 cottages and stalls near Place Saint-Louis in a festive atmosphere complete with the aroma of roasting chestnuts and beautiful seasonal lighting.
Eat, Drink and be Merry
Think creamy quiche and lovely rabbit dishes, Mirabelle plum treats, Savoy raclettes, fondues and plum Brandy. Excellent lagers and Belgian beers spill through the outdoor terraces in warm weather. It won’t take long for you to discover your favorite dining spots. A few suggestions:
♦ Cafe de l’Abreuvoir – Tres Francaise, the cozy cafe is an excellent wine bar, a natural selection for quiche Lorraine, from 8 Euros.
♦ Cafe Jehanne d’Arc – Free summer jazz concerts are a highlight of the place d’Armes square in front of the café. The bar’s pedigree is well established with 14-th century beams and even older frescoes. .
♦ Les Trinitaires – opposite Cafe Jehanne d’Arc. The place to go for serious jazz, rock, folk and chanson, enhanced by the Gothic cellars. Live music at 9 pm.
♦ Cafe Leffe – A cozy little cafe at the end of the Saint-Martin Bridge. Ideal to enjoy fine Belgian beers on their large outdoor terrace.
Guidelines and inside tips are nice to have, but always allow your own sense of discovery to lead you to those perfect little places and surprises that make your holiday unique.