Sunday, July 12, 2015

Places to visit in and outside the Lorraine Region

With the starting date of this year's Mondial Air Balloons being already in sight, you might slowly want to orientate which places you'd like to visit during your afternoons off. In this blog post I'll already share some idea's on where to go and what to do in the surroundings of Aerodrome Chambley, so you can keep that in mind in case the inspiration fails.

I know, there are many types of balloonists. In between the flights, some might favor huge amounts of soda (or some heavier stuff) while sunbathing around, while others rather do something adventurous and active. I definitely belong to the latter group, because soda makes my stomach unhappy and my pale skin isn't too much into the French summer sun. Therefore, my recommendations will be mostly city trip-like, with a focus on history, art and architecture.

The information provided below is partly taken over from my story 'Europe's Albuquerque: a visitors guide to Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons', published in Ballooning Magazine (March/April 2014), journal of the Balloon Federation of America. However, more information is added to this blog post: addresses, museum tips, shopping tips. Feel free to share any other useful tips in the comment section.

Metz: flavours from Northern France

The city of Metz is the capital of the Lorraine area and provides enough to see for a full day city trip. Over 100 buildings in Metz's city center are classified as historical monuments. Besides seeing some of the best examples of French culture, it's also a great place to let your taste buds get introduced to the French 'cuisine'. A stroll through one of its many parks, a round of shopping in one of its crowded shopping streets or some sightseeing at the enormous gothic Metz Cathedral or futuristic looking modern art museum Centre Pompidou Metz; all tastes are cared for.


Museum tips Metz

Centre Pompidou Metz - 1 Parvis des Droits de l'Homme, 57020 Metz
Futuristic looking museum with changing exhibitions on modern art. For current exhibitions, check out this website: Located on walking distance from the city center.

Shopping tips Metz

Nature et Découvertes - 1 Rue des Clercs, 57000 Metz
Clever travel products, original gifts, durable toys with an educational touch and all kind of gadgets for nature freaks. Located in the city center of Metz.

Marché Couvert - Place Jean Paul II, 57000 Metz
A large covered market with permanent stalls and shops where fresh food can be bought. Located next to the Metz Cathedral in the city center. 

Galeries Lafayette - 4 Rue Winston Churchill, 57000 Metz
An up market French department store with clothes, accessories, home decoration and a fine 'gourmet' department with local delights and other high quality French food and beverages. Located in the city center of Metz.

Chullanka - Zone Commerciale Cora, 57160 Moulins-lès-Metz
A gigantic store with all kind of high-end outdoor clothes with attractive discounts. Located outside the city center of Metz.

Decathlon - Zone Actisud, Rue des Gravières, 57685 Augny
The more affordable version of Chullanka, specialized in basically all sports you can imagine. Located outside the city center of Metz, not far from Chullanka.

So that's where the little red hat comes from!

Nancy: impressive architecture

Art Nouveau/Jugendstil lovers will be best off in Nancy. A lot of impressive works can be found throughout the whole city, often also at places where you'd expect it the least, hidden in little side streets. The School of Nancy Museum houses Art Nouveau furniture, art works and utensils and therefore creates a clear image of the wealth during the early 1900s. For the ones interested in more pompous architecture, Place Stanislas is a must-see. This enormous square is embellished with extravagant fountains, gold-painted rococo railings and a fair amount of Baroque buildings.


Museum tips Nancy

Musée de l'École de Nancy (School of Nancy Museum) - 36-38 Rue Sergent Blandan, 54000 Nancy
Venue with garden showing some truly fine work of the School of Nancy consisting of the organically shaped furniture and utensils that gave the Art Nouveau movement its fame. Located an half an hour walk from Place Stanislas.

Muséum-Aquarium de Nancy - 34 Rue Sainte-Catherine, 54000 Nancy
Explore the underwater world from all over the globe through 60 aquarium tanks in the city center of Nancy. Located a five minute walk from Place Stanislas.

Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) -3 Place Stanislas, 54000 Nancy
European art from the 14th till 21st century. A good opportunity to take a closer look at works from among others Rubens, Monet and Picasso. Located at Place Stanislas.

Jardin Botanique du Montet (Botanical Garden of Montet) - 100 Rue du Jardin Botanique, 54600 Villers les Nancy
12000 different plants from all continents, spread over 27 hectares. In the tropical greenhouses giant water-lilys can be found, as well as orchids and coffee trees. Located at the outskirts of Nancy. 

! If you're a true museum junkie, you might be interested in the so called Museum Pass which can be purchased for only 10 euro's at the Nancy tourism office or at museum tickets desks. This pass is valid for 10 days from the day of purchase onwards, and provides entrance to 6 museums, being the École de Nancy Museum, the Lorraine Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the Aquarium Museum, the Museum of the History of Iron and the Montet Botanical Gardens. What a bargain!

Pont-à-Mousson: enjoy the silence

In for a stroll along the Moselle River? Then Pont-a-Mousson might be just for you. It's a small town where not too much is going on, yet, it's cosy enough to grab a drink or some food and watch the French passing by. The 18th century Abbaye des Prémontrés can be visited, offering impressive hallways and changing exhibitions.


Museum tips Pont-à-Mousson

Abbaye des Prémontrés - 9 Rue Saint-Martin, 54700 Metz
More information on current events and exhibitions can be found on this website: Located on walking distance from the town centre. 

Verdun and Montsec: traces of war

The Northern part of France is known for its turbulent past. A fifty minute car drive away from the launch field the city of Verdun can be found. Right here the French and German armies fought against each other in one of the major battles during the First World War, the Battle of Verdun. Also a little more nearby some traces of war history can be found. The 'Butte de Montsec' is a giant neo-classicist monument on top of an isolated hill in Montsec. It can be spotted practically during every flight. The monument was placed in remembrance of the achievements made by American soldiers around the 1917s in the Lorraine region.  


Paris: the city of love... and ballooning!

When your partner isn't that much into ballooning, you might want to take him or her for a trip to the city of love. Paris is just a 1,5 hours train ride away from Metz. Here you'll definitely make up for all your hours of ballooning talk. On the other hand... this might be ruined by the fact that the first hot air balloon flight took place at the 'Jardin des Tuileries', yes, exactly, in Paris. It's recommended to spend at least several days in Paris, as it's not too suitable to just quickly visit this destination in between a morning and an evening flight.

Having been there and done that, but still having no clue what to do? Well, what about visiting Luxembourg City in neigbouring country Luxembourg for a change? It's located about an hour drive from Chambley Airbase. Even though I have visited this destination a couple of years ago, I cannot come up with personal recommendations on what to see yet, as (first world issue) I was just there in order to drink a cup of tea with the current prime minister of Luxemburg. Another destination I would be pleased to visit this year is Strasbourg, the capital of the French Alsace Region. Its historic city center is classified as UNESCO world heritage, so that's a promising matter. It's about a 2 hour ride from Chambley Airbase, so it's better to leave early, when a morning flight is cancelled for example. However, it's also possible to take the train from Metz, which will bring you (depending on the chosen connection) to Strasbourg in less than 1,5 hours.

Once again, if you have any other ideas on what not to miss out on, feel free to share your useful tips in the comment section.

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