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MlleFifi's week in Par(ad)is, with a side trip to Nancy

MlleFifi's week in Par(ad)is, with a side trip to Nancy

Dec 15th, 2008, 09:39 AM
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Nancy is a gem for Art Nouveau, but for those with time to head up the A31 autoroute for 40 minutes or take a regional train, nearby Metz is a totally different gem of Prussian architecture.

In any case, this report is great. My mother went to university in Nancy and has always talked about it fondly, even though it was during WW2 and the city was being bombed.
kerouac is offline  
Dec 15th, 2008, 09:59 AM
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I often comment that I've learned a lot on Fodor's, to the point that it may sound phoney.

In all my trips to France, I have never been to Nancy and knew nothing about it other than a vague idea of location.

Now it's on my list, preferably for warmer weather. 5 F today where I live so I "feel your pain."

Great trip report.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 15th, 2008, 05:50 PM
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Great report! Looking forward to more...
plafield is offline  
Dec 15th, 2008, 06:29 PM
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Wow! I have been reading this with enjoyment, but your trip to Nancy really took my breath away. My wife is a glass artist, and I can't wait for her to get home to show her some of your shots.

We will certainly include Nancy in our next trip to France.

nukesafe is offline  
Dec 15th, 2008, 08:22 PM
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Great report! Sigh. Now I'm going to have to go to Nancy too! Who knew??
Please continue...
Kristina is offline  
Dec 16th, 2008, 12:55 PM
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I am LOVING your report. I've not been to Nancy, but it certainly looks like a place I would enjoy! Your pictures are fabulous! Love art nouveau! The ironwork is wonderful!

Can't wait for the next installment!
luvparee is offline  
Dec 17th, 2008, 02:52 AM
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Wonderful report.
And I copmpletely agree: I also thought the Daum collection was reason enough to visit Nancy, which I did for 2 days (not conecutive) last April.
And I also agree with Kerouac: Metz is a gem of a different kind. I had the good fortune to stay there on my trip for just over 5 days and was so pleased. The Prussian architecture, the old town, place Saint Louis, place de la Comédie, all worth a visit. Such a pleasant town.
Keren is offline  
Dec 17th, 2008, 08:06 AM
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Oh how you make me wish I were in Paris!!
We spent a day in Nancy and lunched at the Excelsior and bought the bergamottes that are the specialty of Nancy at Lefevre-Lemoine on the rue Henri Poitcare. I chose the red tin box that you see "Amelie" finds in the wall.
cigalechanta is offline  
Dec 18th, 2008, 07:38 PM
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Thanks, everyone. Kerouac and Keren, I just Googled Metz, and it does look tempting. Maybe I'll combine it with a trip to Strasbourg next time. YK and Apres, I haven't forgotten your questions-- luggage shopping and dance classes coming up soon.

Oops, the last entry should be "Day 2"; Day 3 is coming up next-- wish I knew the mysterious trick of editing old posts.
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 18th, 2008, 07:38 PM
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Day 3 -- Musee de l'Ecole de Nancy & Villa Majorelle

My breakfast is a tourte lorraine and the St-Epvre (http://images46.fotki.com/v1415/phot...1B4559e-vi.jpg) which, even day-old, taste divine. The free wifi at Hotel de Guise doesn't work on the third floor. Should have left my computer in Paris instead of lugging it around all day-- with so much walking, even 2 pounds make big difference.

The Musee Lorrain and Eglise des Cordeliers are just a few steps from the hotel, but they don't open until 10 am, and I need to get going. Grand Rue leads to the medieval Craffe Gate (http://images42.fotki.com/v1375/phot...11B4576-vi.jpg), and beyond that the Citadelle gate (http://images48.fotki.com/v1411/phot...11B4582-vi.jpg), once separated by a moat but not anymore.

I stroll past a few more unusual houses such as the whimsical Maison Huot (notice the tree-like windows!) and the colorful Maison Bouret before taking the #123 bus to Musee de l'Ecole de Nancy. Lots of fabulous furniture, Galle lamps, and other objets d'art. What makes this place especially enjoyable and less "museum-like" is that the pieces are not stuck in display cases but arranged in whole period rooms, re-creating Majorelle's bedroom, the 1903 Masson dining room, etc. I love how the furniture are not disjointed pieces but meld into the woodwork of the walls and ceilings. There's even music to go with it all-- a great gesamtkunstwerk. No photography allowed inside, so y'all have to go and see for yourselves. I really want the book, but my bag is already so heavy that I have to settle for a few postcards instead. Among the postcards is a photo of a stunning 1900 gown called "Bord de Riviere au Printemps" (river bank in spring) designed by Victor Prouve, with a large beaded dragonfly on the bodice and sheer cut-out embroidery of waves along the hem, in ivory, turquoise, and antique gold. I ask the woman at the desk if that's here at the museum. She says it is but not currently on display-- it's extremely fragile and rarely shown, about once every 8 or 10 years. The most recent showing was during their special Victor Prove exhibit which ended a few weeks ago-- I've just missed it!!

Maison Huot: http://images43.fotki.com/v1369/phot...1B4595e-vi.jpg
Maison Huot detail: http://images47.fotki.com/v1402/phot...5detail-vi.jpg
Maison Bouret: http://images47.fotki.com/v1400/phot...B4601cr-vi.jpg
Garden of the Musee de l'Ecole de Nancy: http://images43.fotki.com/v1385/phot...11B4618-vi.jpg
Peeking through a window of the aquarium in the garden: http://images48.fotki.com/v1410/phot...11B4622-vi.jpg

AN trail #3, the area near the musee, is short and quick, with the green-domed Nancy Thermal pools, the Sainte-Marie park, Maison Biet, and some quaint little residential houses along rue Felix-Faure.

Villa Majorelle, where Louis Majorelle lived and worked, is shown by guided tours only, twice a day on Saturdays (plus Sundays during warmer months). Reserve ahead by email (http://edn.nancy.fr/web/index.php?pa...os-pratiques-2) -- they do sell out, even off-season. It's in French, but even if you don't speak French, take the tour anyway, to look at the house. The guide points out many interesting details that I wouldn't have notice on my own, such as how each room is designed around a different motif related the function of the room-- wheat for the dining room, ivy for the stairwell.... Again, no photos allowed inside; here are a few from the outside:
Graceful awning above the front door: http://images47.fotki.com/v1404/phot...11B4707-vi.jpg
Terrace with iridescent ceramics: http://images42.fotki.com/v1373/phot...11B4744-vi.jpg
Our tour guide pointing out the details: http://images42.fotki.com/v1363/phot...11B4721-vi.jpg
Resident cat who joined us during the tour of the garden: http://images48.fotki.com/v1408/phot...1B4705e-vi.jpg

After the guided tour, AN trail #4 takes me from the villa back toward the train station, ending just as the sun sets.
69 & 71 ave Foch (1902-04) http://images46.fotki.com/v1416/phot...11B4770-vi.jpg
Maison du Dr Jacques (1905) http://images44.fotki.com/v1417/phot...11B4787-vi.jpg
Immeuble Biet (1901-02) http://images42.fotki.com/v1378/phot...11B4803-vi.jpg

Since Nancy claims to have invented the macaron, of course I can't leave without sampling some. Back to Place Stanislas for one last look, stopping at Hotel de Ville where I had forgotten to look for its grand staircase yesterday, and then I go shopping at Maison des Soeurs Macarons for a box of macarons and a small tin of Bergamotes. Macarons de Nancy are different from Parisian macarons-- they look more like cookies, without creamy filling and not pastel-colored. They're gift-boxed and tied up with a ribbon, so I can't taste them right away.

On the way back to the train station, I see a street vendor whose sign, from very far away, looks like "m__rons chauds." What? Warm, freshly-baked macarons? No, closer up, it reads "marrons chauds"-- roasted chestnuts! Hot, soft, and very delicious. The Village Noel on Place Maginot is beautifully lit up and very busy. I get a gauffre with creme de marron, and then it's time to catch my train. The town is lovely, the days are too short, and there are many more things I'd like to see, but for once I'm not sad to go home because, this week, "home" is a cozy little studio in Paris!
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 18th, 2008, 11:56 PM
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To edit your old posts, go into your history and find the screen where you previewed your reply. Then press the edit button and edit and then post it. This is not foolproof; sometimes the edit won't take. But it usually works.
Nikki is online now  
Dec 19th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Love the rest of your Nancy description and the photos. Do you think 2 days is enough or did you feel rushed to see everything?
yk is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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Hi YK,

I think with warmer weather and longer daylight hours, 2 days would be perfect, but with the early sunset and freezing temperatures (having to take frequent breaks) I felt rushed.


I tried that this morning, but the old post didn't change. Backing up in my still-open window to add to this post works. Is there a time limit?
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 02:32 PM
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Found a photo of the Prouve gown online:

(I was mistaken-- the waves are not sheer; they just seemed transparent because some of the embroidery is the same color as the floor).
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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No time limit. I do find that when I copy something from a Word document, it might not like being edited. Other than that, I think it works pretty consistently for me.
Nikki is online now  
Dec 19th, 2008, 04:47 PM
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Day 4 -- Impressive students and sneaky waiters

It rained during the night, and old cities are always more enchanting after a storm.

Today I have tickets to two Demonstrations de l'Ecole de Danse at Opera Garnier, where Chagall's ceiling always makes me smile. http://images46.fotki.com/v1416/phot...1B4854e-vi.jpg These annual performances by students of the school of the Paris Opera Ballet are such a treat. Tickets sell out quickly-- I ordered mine online the very first day they went on sale, back in September, and even then seat availability was quite limited. The morning performance features young students doing classroom exercises on stage, with explanation, narration, and correction by their teachers. In addition to their impressive technique, the kids are reminded to present "sourires," "jolies mains," and "charme."
Amazing how professional and polished even the youngest students are. Every turn of the shoulder, tilt of the head, and curve of the wrist is in sync.
http://images46.fotki.com/v1414/phot...11B4845-vi.jpg No wonder the company has such a great corps de ballet.

With only a short break between the two shows, I walk over to nearby Grand Cafe des Capucines, on my list of AN interiors to see. The stained glass over the stairwell is gorgeous. http://images46.fotki.com/v1416/phot...11B4893-vi.jpg From their Opera Express menu, I order some kind of leek terrine (don't remember exactly what it's called) as entree and "parmentier de canard" for the plat (not familiar with this dish, but I love duck). The entree arrives immediately and is absolutely delicious-- a very smooth flan-like texture with chunks of tasty leeks and some pretty drizzle. If mom or sis were here, we would photograph it, but as a solo diner I feel self-conscious taking photos of my food. My premature verdict: "what a perfect place for opera goers-- close, beautiful, fast, AND delicious." But then a waiter (not the one who took my order) brings over a main dish, announcing "Cheeeken." Seeing the confused look on my face, he knows it's a mistake and goes away. I wait a long time and my duck still hasn't arrived. The same waiter comes by AGAIN and sets down a plate of chicken. This time, the waiter who took my order is standing nearby, and we both look toward him in confusion. He insists, "Yes, yes, c'est la volaille." The next ballet is starting soon and I don't have time to argue, so I eat the dry, dull chicken (not at all like the juicy rotisserie ones sold at outdoor markets). A French family arrives at the next table and the father seems excited to find "parmentier de canard" on the menu. I want to ask him whether it's supposed to be real canard or just chicken with duck sauce (like Leon de Bruxelle's "escargot style" dish which doesn't contain snails?) but it's getting too close to curtain time so I rush back to the opera house.

The afternoon show is more like a regular ballet performance, by the advanced, upper-division students. Not as informative as the morning show but still very enjoyable.

My one must-do on every trip is a boat ride on the Seine. I'll never get tired of leaning over the waves, feeling the cold breeze on my face, and watching all that glorious architecture passing by. This time I use the Vedettes du Pont Neuf because the Bateaux Mouches' too-loud Spanish/Chinese commentary kind of ruins the Parisian atmosphere. I have too many Eiffel photos from previous trips, but this time it's different, with the blue lights and EU stars. http://images46.fotki.com/v1413/phot...11B4969-vi.jpg

I'm such a ditz, arriving at the Centre Pompidou tonight thinking it's free first Sunday. But it's still November! NEXT Sunday will be the first Sunday of the month, when many museums are free. Not worth it to shell out 12 euros so close to closing time when I've already spent many, many hours in that museum before, so I go to its wonderful book store instead. I stumble across one last (slightly beat-up) copy of a book I've been eyeing on Amazon.fr , Paris Meconnu, and talk the clerk into give me a 10% reduction without resorting to English.

Back at the apartment, I check email, look at museum websites, and Google "parmentier de canard." It IS indeed suppose to be real duck, layered with potatoes. French version of shepherd's pie? Online photos of the dish look SO much better that that boring "cheeeken" they dumped on me. I'll be more assertive from now on.
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 09:33 PM
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Yes, parmentier de canard is a version of shepherd's pie (the 'normal' beef version is hachis parmentier). The whole point of the dish is the mashed potatoes, hence the 'parmentier' in the name.

Antoine Parmentier is the person who developed potato culture in France. He served potatoes to Benjamin Franklin and even put a potato flower in Marie Antoinette's wig.
kerouac is offline  
Dec 20th, 2008, 06:46 PM
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Your pictures from Nancy were wonderful! We were there for four days several years ago, and we spent all our time looking at AN buildings from a brochure provided by the tourist office. We saw every one of the places in your pictures, and are now longing to go back again. Many thanks for reviving great memories.
nancy1652 is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 07:10 AM
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Day 5-- dance class, communal table, and POB

In the morning, my landlord comes by to pick up the balance of my rent. A very nice expat with the best screen-name on Slowtravel: Happy in Paris.

It's Monday, my first day using the Navigo Decouverte. LOVE it! Like Travelnut, I've always liked the Carte Orange, but this is even better. Although I bought this a year ago, I've never used it because that time we arrived during the tail end of a train strike, and we were staying in such a central location, next to the Centre Pompidou, that we walked to most places. It's so convenient not having to fumble in my messy bag and take out the card-- simply touch the handbag to the sensor at the turnstile, and walk right through! I wish NYC's Metrocards were like this.

My apartment is closest to the Parmentier metro but today, for the #11 train to dance class, I have to walk a little farther up av Parmentier to the Goncourt station. This train goes through the interesting Arts et Metiers station: http://images47.fotki.com/v1397/phot...B5571sm-vi.jpg (It only has this decor on the #11 line, not on the #3). Exiting the Rambuteau metro station, I reach the familiar block where, last year, we sampled croissants aux amandes at every one of the numerous bakeries.

Around the corner on rue du Temple, above the Cafe de la Gare, is my favorite dance studio, the Centre de Danse du Marais. The building, from the early 1600s, has a marble staircase, intricately painted wood-beamed ceilings, and traditional bare wood floors (not the icky Marley surface used in modern NY studios). There's even a rosin box in the corner, as seen in old films. My usual teacher, M. Casati, is away en vacances, and M. Lazzarelli, who teaches the evening classes, is substituting for him this week. Like my NY teacher, he's well-travelled and multilingual and likes to throw in a few foreign phrases when there are new foreign students around. "Japonaise?" He asks me. "Non... uh... chinoise" (I'm never sure if people are asking about ancestry, nationality, or what). "Oh..." Not one of the languages in his repertoire, so he corrects me in French from then on.

After class, I pick up a bag of chouquettes and stroll around the Hotel de Ville area. Many school children on field trips. The skating rink is being set up but won't be open until late December. Nearby, there's the recently unveiled Tour St-Jacques which had been under scaffolding for years.

From Chatelet, I take the metro over to Madeleine. I've wanted to see Porcher's 1905 Art Nouveau toilettes ever since Kristina wrote about them on her blog (http://www.wired2theworld.com/paris2005day3and4.html), but they were never open when I was in the area. Today, I finally find them open. Each stall has its own sink with a curvy brass faucet and a stained glass panel above the glossy wooden door. http://images44.fotki.com/v1419/phot...11B5114-vi.jpg
The surly attendant points out the "No photography" signs on all the doors and sends me toward the exit. There are no such signs in Kristina's photo, so this must be a recent rule.

Restaurant Chartier is not full, yet the waiter brings me to a table which is already partly occupied. At first I'm annoyed, uncomfortable that the other two ladies are forced to move their coats and bags to clear out a space for me when there are plenty of empty tables around, but we end up having a great time. I order the salade d'endives au roquefort (the waiter's recommendation, and delicious-- my new favorite cheese), andouillette, and creme de marron for dessert. On the table, there's a sheet of paper scribbled with some English phrases and French definitions. One of my tablemates, D., is trying to learn more English, and the other, R., is helping her. We converse in a mix of French and English, and whenever D. or I don't understand a word, R. writes it down for us. Later, a young friend of R. arrives and entertains us with his eccentric ideas about hand-writing analysis, religion, and the role of the internet. D. gets my number and email and wants her son (qui est deux metres) to show me around Paris, but of course I don't expect to hear from him-- who's going to call up a stranger his mother met at lunch? http://images46.fotki.com/v1393/phot...11B5137-vi.jpg

Not far from the restaurant, on Rue Grange Batelière, is Lesage, the most famous embroidery atelier in the world. On the ground floor, they have a school, Ecole Lesage, with classes ranging from single 3-hr sessions for tourists to semester-long professional courses. The shortest lessons are far too simple, while the really interesting projects require hundreds of hours and thousands of euros, so I settle for just a book, Ecole Lesage chez Vous. http://www.lesage-paris.com/

Nearby are two of the covered passages, Passage Jouffroy and Passage Verdeau.

As YK knows from another thread, I've been looking for a new carry-on bag. I like the size and shape of my decade-old 18" Ricardo rollaboard, but it's quite heavy, and I'd like one of the new ultra-light ones. Maybe there's not enough demand for smaller, light-weight luggage in the US-- there are many nice-looking, well-designed pieces (such as Travelpro's Crew 7) at Macy's, but they're all on the big and heavy side. The lighter, 50cm ones I like online (such as Delsey's Expandream Plus) aren't available in the US. Passing by Galeries Lafayette, I check out their selection. They have the Delsey I wanted, for not much more than the internet price. The color doesn't look quite as good as in the online photos, but it's a better size and weight than the Travelpro. There's only one left, and I'm not going to bring it to the opera house, so I put it on hold for tomorrow.
Christmas decor at Galeries Lafayette: http://images45.fotki.com/v1424/phot...11B5167-vi.jpg

Outside, a vendor is selling warm, tasty marrons chauds for just 1 euro a packet.

Back across the street to Palais Garnier again, for the Paris Opera Ballet's Raymonda. Last year, on the night of our arrival in Paris, a young dancer named Dorothee Gilbert was promoted to Etoile after an unusual performance of the Nutcracker which, due to strikes, was done in practice clothes without costumes or sets. How I wish we had seen that! (The strike continued, and the performance we were to see later in the week was cancelled). Tonight, I finally see Mlle Gilbert, in the supporting role of Henriette, and she's a delightful sprite. The leads, Jose Martinez and Marie-Agnes Gillot, are wonderful as well.
http://images47.fotki.com/v1404/phot...B5242cr-vi.jpg http://images47.fotki.com/v1399/phot...B5244sm-vi.jpg
Scattered throughout the opera house is an exhibit Maria Callas et Swarovski Bijoux de scène commemorating the 50th anniversary of the diva's Paris debut. http://images47.fotki.com/v1403/phot...11B5215-vi.jpg
During intermission, I chat with the Japanese girl in the next seat who turns out to be even more of a balletomane. She gives me a list of several other dance studios and shoe stores in Paris. At the end of the evening, a woman is photographing the grand staircase with a DSLR, and we exchange cameras to take photos for each other. She happens to be a fellow New Yorker who frequently goes to ABT. Small world.
MademoiselleFifi is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 08:21 AM
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Reports like this one are one of the only reasons I come back to Fodors. Thank you so much for sharing with us. You know how to travel and enjoy interesting more unusual sites. Your photos are so lovely, I love the curtain at the opera.
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