Thursday, May 8, 2008
Letter No. 5
Getting to Nancy turned out to be an adventure. We had come into the campground in Metz over several bridges and many turns. Our instructions were to get off at a particular exit, cross the highway and then to follow the signs for “Autres Directions”. We followed these “Other Directions” signs for quite a while before we saw the signpost for the campground. As a result, we were sure we’d be lost when we left.
Instead, as we turned out of the driveway onto the street, there was a sign indicating the road to Nancy. We followed it faithfully, but we’d gone a very long way and there hadn’t been another sign. Nancy is south of Metz and we were going north. It was the correct highway but we certainly weren’t getting closer to Nancy. At one junction, Ron made a managerial decision. He got off A 31 only to find that you couldn’t get back on the road going south, and that no matter which road he chose, he was on a highway going to Metz. Luckily, just as we got on the road Adelle noticed a sign that indicated a detour to Nancy. So we followed that road until the turnpike to Nancy finally appeared. It’s hard to believe that we turned onto several roads we didn’t know and got to the correct one, but even more puzzling is that the road that did take us to the turnpike wasn’t on our maps.
We’ve been in the Nancy campground now for two days. It’s a terrific campground—clean, plenty of hot water for showers AND dishes and shaving. Most important, there is a bus stop just outside that offers a bus going into the center of the city every ten minutes. And you order fresh bread or croissants for the morning. Nancy itself is a lovely city, just big enough to be interesting, with a center area that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But I must digress. We love France. But it is very upsetting to Adelle to find that even first graders (who visit the same museums as we do) can speak French. She can only find words enough to be understood. It’s not fair that those kids can speak it so well!
Nothing in Nancy is really ancient. The center dates from the reign of the last Duc de Lorraine. He was King Stanislas of Poland. Why he left Poland we don’t know, but his son-in-law happened to be the King of France, and he appointed him Duc of Lorraine. He lived in the mid-eighteenth century and things were great at the time. He left a big architectural legacy to the city. The square that is named for him is enclosed by enormous ornamental iron gates festooned with a lot of gold, and statuary to match. Very impressive.
The Cathedral is “new” having been built between 1703 and 1740. The entire feeling of the structure is different. It is much less frantically busy with saints and bible stories in paintings and stained glass. Instead, it was quiet, calm, rational and very plain for a Cathedral.
On our first day we walked – and walked. We began at the bus station. Then to the central indoor market, which, of course, Ron had to walk through, salivating all the way. There were many separate vendors, of meat, fresh and processed, breads and pastry, fish, cheese, fruits and vegetables—all looking fresh and advertising expensive prices. We then walked around the market neighborhood and to the cathedral and to the famous squares. Then we stopped into an internet café that advertised an American-style keyboard, a great help since typing anything with the French keyboard is difficult for us. Although the keyboard did help, we had problems following the French directions.
As we walked, Adelle noticed a sign advertising WI FI – at McDonald’s of all places. That decided us to try it the next day. So in the morning, when we left for the Art Museum, we brought along Ron’s computer in his backpack. After our tour of the museum, we had lunch and then walked to McDonalds. Normally, we wouldn’t even look at a McDonalds but this turned out to be a mistake. This restaurant was built into one of the city’s Art Noveau buildings, and this being France, they weren’t allowed to ruin it. Apparently, Nancy was a hot bed of design in 1900. Prettiest McD’s we’ve ever seen. Just look at the iron grillwork in the photo. And with the purchase of deux cafes, we used the WI FI to correct our blogs. Incidentally, the café was delicious and the menu much more varied than anything we are used to. Busy? It was a madhouse despite having at least ten people up front filling orders! Adelle was tempted to buy one of their very French looking desserts – nothing like the U.S. selection.
We’ve had two lovely days here. Tomorrow we’ll be on our way to Strassbourg in Alsace.
Bye for now.
Adelle & Ron