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05 May 2020 - Day 24 – Metz

This morning was bright and crisp. I got up and arranged stuff in my bag and zipped it closed. After grabbing the lighter sports jacket (ever hopeful), I headed downstairs and checked out, and rolled back to the Trier Bahnhof. It was going to take about 2 hours to get to Metz, with a 15-minue layover in Luxembourg City. I had a full day planned so I caught the 8:37 train. Six stops for the first and 3 for the second train. And I was back in #Metz, which I’d passed through on Saturday.

Leaving the Gare de Metz, I rolled parallel to the tracks on Rue Vauban until I could make a left onto Rue des Augustine. Crossing under the road ringing the downtown, I had two more blocks to go – a short walk of half a kilometer.

Hotel Kyriad Metz Centre had my room ready, so I rolled my bag to the lift and headed to the top floor and room 408. A narrow room and small WC, I would be unable to leave the bag open. I just left it standing, returned to the street and headed into the Ancienne Ville.

The Metz Bureau de Tourisme is directly opposite the apse of the cathedral. I needed to claim my 3pm tour ticket prior to one, so I checked in with them. They also had a souvenir hat pin, so I accomplished that item as well. In addition, Metz is very advanced with technology: they have an app, which for 8€, is a multi-lingual smartphone self-guide for a tour of this city with its many islands in the Moselle.

Because the cathedral lies on an axis that runs from the entry in the southwest to the apse in the northeast, I’d actually walked the “south” wall on my way to the TO. So I continued around the apse to find church and government buildings built next to the northeast corner, probably the former cloister. The physical entrance is on this “north” face, which opens to a church parking lot. I continued out to Rue d’Estrées to see the western face before I entered.

The Metz cathedral, Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, closes for an hour at 12:30, so I had an hour. I asked whether there were cathedral tours available, and got a ticket for the 1pm tour which would include the crypt. This would work well with my city tour at 3. Again, there was an audio guide to assist as the tour was in French. The first thing on my list was to find St Anthony. In the Eucharistic chapel, there was a statue and I lit a candle and said a pray for my grandfather Henry Whitestone – today is his birthday, and his patron saint was Anthony of Padua.

With a large center aisle between the tall supporting columns for the clerestory, I found only a few small chapels at the ends of the side aisles. #MetzCathedral is known for its wealth of stained-glass, and has earned the title “Lantern of God”. There are no tall neighboring buildings near the nave and the close buildings around the ambulatory in the apse have little dimming effect on the brilliance of the natural light. The walls and columns of the nave are relatively unadorned, which draws the eye towards the crossing and high altar. A modern organ sits in the south transept, while the grand organ is in the south clerestory. I was probably walking around gawking with my mouth catching flies, admiring the beauty of the rainbows of colors in this church when asked to leave for lunch.

As in Trier, Metz is on the #Moselle; in fact, a section of the river is two to three short blocks from the cathedral. With an hour to kill, I headed to the Pont de la Prefecture which crossed to a small island in the river. What I took for a marina was opposite. I had a ticket to a performance at the Opéra Théátre de Metz this evening, so I wanted to ensure I knew where to go. The ticket office was open, so I asked where the concert would be at 7, and received clear directions to the correct entrance, as the concert is informal and not in the actual opera auditorium.

Not really hungry, I stopped at a boulangerie and picked up a traditional warmed Quiche Lorraine (after all, Metz is in the Lorraine department) and a bottle of Abbaye des Prémontrés, an amber with an ABV of 6%. Exiting the shop, I found a park bench in the shade to relax and eat. Crossing back to the eastern/southern bank, I headed to the cathedral for the 1pm tour.

With the audio guide hanging around my neck and the earphones half on, I was able to listen to Nicole make her presentation in French, and then listen to the box as we walked to the next station. Of course, different information is given, so I felt the richer. She began by talking about the architecture, and how the cathedral, built over 330 years starting in 1220, is a merger of two churches. The 6500 square meters of stained-glass date back to its founding, but include additions up through the present day, including those in a chapel designed by Marc Chagall. Descending into the crypt, there are multiple models showing the progression of architectural change during periods of modification. Stones dating back to Roman times are also seen in the supporting piers. Our final stop was the Treasury, where a cape supposedly worn by Charlemagne is displayed, along with multiple relics, with a feature being the ring of St Arnould (or Arnulf), patron saint of beer.

Nicole had mentioned the two towers set about midway along the outside of the nave, which marks the junction of the original two churches. With a crossing, from the outside it appears that this would be a second set of transepts, but these are not internally accessible. I went to inquire about a tower tour, but none is offered. From what I could tell, there is insufficient room to walk along the lead roofing, and surface space on these two towers would seriously limit participation. The #CathedralSaintEtienneDeMetz is celebrating the 800 years since construction began with 15 months of activities, with a focus on the artists currently underway. (Builders and The Lights are the other two foci.)

Returning to the tourist office was easy, and I presented myself for the City Tour armed with my smartphone-installed app. In addition to St Etienne, we would walk by the Creche Des Récollets, the Museum of La Cour d’Or, over to the river to view the marina, onto the island to see the opera house and at the island’s end, the Temple Neuf; returning to the old city, in quick succession, the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, the Templars’ Chapel and the Arsenal. From here, one can visit the train station and Centre Pompidou-Metz for sites outside the old city walls. On to Place Saint-Louis, the church of Saint-Maximin de Metz and a final stop at the Porte des Allemands. [Due to Google Map’s limit on the number of locations, I had to add 4 manually to the diagram.] And for brevity sake, I’ll refer my readers to the link describing each location by the Tourism Office:

Since I did the walk, I know that it took 2 hours. I would have liked to be able to visit the Cour d’Or Museum, the Temple Neuf, St Pierre, St Maximin and the Templars. I’m glad to have walked by the German Gate, the Pompidou Center and the Cloister; I’d already seen the Gare. The audio guide is wonderful, providing additional detail which I found extremely helpful. Our walking guide moved quickly and spoke “on the run”, with only quick stops, so I’d suggest just making the tour with the phone app. And I never had a chance to explore the Nouvelle Ville to the southwest, so I don’t know if there is much to see there. And I would add the Camouflage Tower to the tour on the way to the station.

Since we ended at the German Gate, I spent time wandering on both sides of the Seille River taking pictures.

The church of St Maximin was on my way back to the hotel, I wanted to see the Cocteau windows so I stopped. Well worth my time, the later afternoon sun, filtered by high clouds, was streaming through the stained-glass, creating a radiant blue environment. It was just so peaceful.

Returning to the Kyriad, I switched from the lighter to the heavier sports jacket, put a Nikon battery into a charger on the wall (with adapter) and headed back out. I had about an hour to get to the recital at the opera house, so I was able to stroll through the old city shopping district on Rue de Palais to cross on Pont des Roches over the river.

The Temple Neuf was getting set to close, so I was allowed in for a few minutes to capture a few shots – this Protestant church has very simple and clean lines, and the organ and console sits in the loft over the entry.

Arriving at the Opera, I found the doorway I’d been told about earlier and turned my ticket over to the staff. Open seating in a smaller recital hall, the Apéritifs-Concert Thématique were a series of three concerts given in the early evening by members of the chorus of the Metz Opera.

Comprised of arias, melodies, and songs taken from successful operettas and musical comedies, these were opportunities for chorus singers to take a solo bow and show off their skills. The previous recital theme had been French and Italian, while tonight we heard French and Spanish. Performed without intermission, and accompanied by a rather talented pianist, the audience of about 300 were treated to solos, duets, a trio and an ensemble piece for a bit more than an hour.

Walking out with my sack, putting my journal away and pulling out my camera, a couple asked what I had been writing. Explaining in faltering French about my trip, they then asked what I would be doing for dinner and suggested that I dine with them. Natives, Claudine and Claude are legal professionals in Metz, empty-nesters having educated two sons as a doctor and an engineer. We crossed to the north side of the river, new territory for me, and we walked down to the Moyen Pont to dine at L’Assiette au Boeuf, a brasserie overlooking the river.

Obviously regulars, the maître greeted them both with bises, and escorted us to a corner table overlooking the water. Ordering a drink to start while we looked at the menu, I was again pleased to find Suze available, so I was set, while my new friends had Martini rosso (red vermouth.) Yes, they did raise eyebrows at my order, asking whether I had had it before, which then involved a tale again of Pau. Claudine strongly suggested we three all order the house special, Le Boeuf Paradis: Coeur de faux-filet et la fameuse sauce paradis; Pommes allumettes maison á volonté. Sounded to me like it was a beef night, and we agreed on rare, as I prefer some warmth to cool bleu. Asked what wine, I deferred to the locals, and we ordered a pinot noir from the Moselle region of Château de Vau from Les Hautes Bassières.

A single platter arrived with about a dozen and a half slices of really rare steak and a huge pile of crispy shoestring fries. Served, the sauce paradis was barely added, per Claude’s instructions. As we drank and dined, I was quizzed on my French travels since 1977, and both were impressed with the broad latitude I’d travelled in their country. Reversing the question, they answered that they had been to New York, Washington DC, and Disneyworld. While they said I needed to see more of eastern France, I recommended the American west coast, including Vancouver and BC. With a Ricard as a digestif, we settled the bill after I insisted I pay my share. I have an early morning tomorrow, so needed to get back to the room to write this posting, download and upload pictures, and get some sleep. I did get one more shot – the cathedral at dusk from the river’s edge.

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