The magic box of Metz
Updated: Jan 10
This is the first review in 2022. I am happy to open it with the city Metz. It left such a good souvenir, that I am glad to share it with you.
I arrived from Strasbourg to Metz. ( an hour drive with the TGV and from Paris only one and a half) A few days before Christmas. I have cherished the beautiful sights of Strasbourg charmingly decorated for Christmas, and I was wondering how Metz could compete with the "Capital de Noel ."
Metz was revealed as a marvelous city with many surprises packed as gifts for the visitor.
Who doesn't like to open a magic box, and the wizardry occurs one after another?
I started my visit to the main Museum of Metz " Musée de la cour d'Or."
It is an exciting Museum. An original building that you can't measure its eminence from outside. Each space invites you to see unexpected statues and ruins from Gallo- Romaine period, found in archeological digs, and other valuable objects from later decades. Middle Ages, Renaissance till the 20th century. It is like an infinite journey in time. Each Compartment is a new revelation. You walk in a long tunnel leading to many underground rooms, exposing the beauty of art and transferring you to the ancient world in all its splendor.
I heard visitors whispering next to me, "look, there are more and more objects, unbelievable."
The "Saint Etienne" Cathedral was imposing its majestic presence from a distance. It is located in the main square "la place des Armes". Next to it was the big wheel and the Christmas market. It was animated and crowded with people happy to celebrate again after a tough year. Everyone was in the mood to fuse in the Christmas vibes and patiently waited in line to enter.
I was curious to watch "le Sentier des lanterns."
I crossed the long decorated, shopping street- "rue des Clercs", with many boutiques on both sides till I reached the esplanade.
At the end of it, I lingered in the queue with many people and children. Nothing prepared me for the extraordinary visions I was about to see.
Tunes of images from Christmas fairy tales and others greeted me. The day before, I listened in Strasbourg to the Philharmonic of Stuttgart, playing the "nutcracker" by Tchaikovsky. Now I saw the nutcracker in blazing colours placed in different spots. It was so enchanting, the public, including many children, walked calmly next to the lightened figures as if not to wake themselves up from a dream.
The following day I was relieved that it was not going to rain. The sky was light blue, and it was comfortable to stroll in the city.
The ancient Saint Etienne Cathedral built in a gothic style is as impressive from inside as from outside. It has the most enormous stained glass windows in the world, and its decoration is superb. From Middle Ages to more contemplate painters who contributed their talent: Three works of art of the painter Chagall are among them and they are easily recognized as he often painted themes of the Old Testament with his own unique way.
I left this brightened church, lifted by high and spiritual energy. I discovered, not far from it, "Place de la Comédie" later in the evening, I would watch an opera in the Opera-Theater in the heart of the square. The Moselle river was flowing next to it.
Walking by the river bank and seeing The Protestant Temple was enjoyable and relaxing. It is surrounded by a picturesque garden" le Jardin d'amour".
The Temple's architecture is stunning and later at night, was shining in the darkness.
Remember the metaphor of the magic box?
Returning to the center of the old town, I was agreeably marveled by a pedestrian street paved with yellowish stones, as if touched by the sun, that proposed what I love to discover in a city- Its discreet stamp. " rue de Taisons."
"Taisons -nous", means in English "let's keep quiet."
The reason is rooted in a legend. Silence, in order not to wake up the monster Graoully, symbolizes Paganism.
Graoully - the dragon suspended above and adding simply to the mysticism of this long street. In the Retro-Vintage street are waiting for you: great, intimate restaurants, bakeries, and independent shops.
I appreciated sitting in the Coffee shop "Les Sœurs Saveurs". I found the name resonated as an arty French movie's title, and it does belong in real life to two sisters. It felt like I discovered a hidden, luxurious treasure at the right time.
The Café is festive inside and serves high-quality coffees and cakes. You might need some patience because it is pretty popular and busy.
It is always interesting to learn about great personalities that marked the fields of literature, history, science, philosophy, and their connection to a city you visit.
In Bern, it was Einstein and in Metz was the famous Poet Paul Verlaine, one of the dominant leading poets at the end of the 19th century, together with his friend Arthur Rimbaud.
Verlaine's early years of growth were in Metz, where he was born. It was a deep inspiration for him, manifested in some of his poems.
Visiting his house was very instructive. "La Maison Natale de Verlaine"
Even in the short time, I spent there, I could understand how Metz has become a muse for Verlaine. The picturesque and unique sights of it are definitively boosting for an artist.
in the modestly furnished flat, it is possible to read a few poems of Verlaine, exposed on the walls, as seeing original paintings, and being impressed by the style of design.
Outside, there is the bust of Verlaine in nature.
"Don't forget visiting the church "Saint Ségolène" advised me, the guide in the house of Verlaine. "It is not only beautiful but also significant.
Joan of Arc got married there to her fiancé Robert des Armoises." She said it confidently as if the tragic end of the mythic personality was just an assumption. This version made the deeply touching story of the worldwide famous heroine, like a fairy tale with a good ending.
Joan of Arc, whose traces are graved in some historical places of France, is also present in Metz.
It is located in a charming square, carries the name of the legendary Joan of Arc, and I spotted a lovely café Jeanne, in the corner which was closed. When I arrived there at around 5 pm, the rays of the sun lightened gracefully the ancient church.
In the church, Saint Ségolène was an exposition "Noël en Provence" It was a precious reconstitution of life in the Provence in the 19th century. I sensed different aromatic fragrances, heard the birds singing, with various mini-figures exposed. The ceilings of this unique Church look almost as if they were embroidered.
Nightlife in Metz
In the evening ,La place de la Comédie was brightened in vivid red
Before the performance, I was about to watch, I dined in the elegant, refined restaurant El Theatris, which has delicate, savory dishes and many choices on the menu.
It is very convenient to have dinner there as it is approximated to the theater.
The Opera -Theater of Metz was definitively a wonderful experience. The building manifests the precious architecture of Operas and Theaters in the old prestigious style.
I watched "Italian Straw Hat" by Eugene Marin Labishe created in the 19th century.
It was lively and very entertaining. The cast of the singers-actors was excellent, and the artistic directing managed to bring the freshness and modernity spirit of the play.
After the show, I had to walk by the river and see the old buildings lightened as the Protestant Temple. The city center was sparklingly decorated for Christmas. And the mood was joyful.
Quartier de la gare
The last day I dedicated to the "quartier de la gare". (It was again amazement). The train station area is elegant and has an exciting mixture of old and new.
Behind the train station, there is the modern, astonishingly designed "Pompidou Museum " Centre Pompidou.
The younger brother perhaps of Centre Pompidou a Paris.
It is dedicated to modern art with varied contemporary exhibitions. I learned about the relationship between drawing and writing with a video of the poet and writer Etel Adnan. This exhibition explored many other artists and their relations to this topic.
You wouldn't think, but another fantastic coffee shop was in the area -Fox Coffee. Ideal for good coffee amateur and vegetarian lover.
I arrived in Metz not knowing what would wait for me, and I left it with a package filled with so many goodies inside.
Other great moments in Metz
The Hôtel de la Cathédrale
Staying in this old preserved hotel, with the view of the Cathedral Saint Etienne reflected in the window, was both an arty and cozy experience. It is a quaint, family-sized hotel with beautifully furnished rooms, integrated perfectly with the spirit of old Metz. Their breakfast is varied and very tasty. Fresh and high-quality products. The service of the hotel is exceptionally attentive to the customer.
Pretzels of Metz
I am fond of the pretzel so much, that one of the reasons for me that it was hard to leave Strasbourg was to leave the pretzel Kingdom of France.
I once wrote a story if not to say a fairy tale about the pretzel.
Well after eating a pretzel in the Christmas market of Metz I thought that this probably would be the only representor. And here again, Metz tricked me. You will find right in the old center a bakery specialized in pretzels ( I discovered it the last day) named Metzel. If you are crazy about them like me, you will be glad to know about this place.
On the first evening, I dined in the restaurant Le Bistronome. It has not only delicious dishes but they are also very generous. The pumpkin soup was out of this world as the crispy chips.
Bistronome is decorated with exquisite taste, and it is as demanded as the restaurant El Theatris because it was pretty full in the evening when I was there. The food wasn't the only highlight of the evening.
At a table beside me was a man-eating with his friends. His face looked familiar from somewhere.
"Haven't you been in Berlin a few years ago, aren't you a writer"? He asked me. Stephan Pramme his name, and he works as a photographer for a German magazine.
He arrived with some of his colleagues, also to prepare a report on Metz. He took photos of me for an article I published in that journal 10 years ago. The first one! What a closure.
Metz, a neighboring city to Luxembourg and Germany, felt like a true melting -pot in this authentic spirit restaurant, a city that didn't stop to enchant me.
Texte and images - Niva Josef