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Trip Report: Strasbourg, Nancy, Paris, 2019

Trip Report: Strasbourg, Nancy, Paris, 2019

Dec 2nd, 2019, 01:53 PM
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Trip Report: Strasbourg, Nancy, Paris, 2019

This trip report represents the second part of our European travels in May-June 2019.

Three of us flew from Porto to Paris with the intention of catching a TGV from CDG to Strasbourg. We had an early morning flight (8:30 a.m.) and a 3 p.m. train to catch. We did not make it due to a plane malfunction in CDG, which meant that the pilots had to use ground transportation to go to Orly, fly the plane back to CDG, pick up its passengers and fly to Porto. The result is that we were three hours late, arriving at CDG just as our train was leaving. I kept all the tickets—original as well as last minute tickets for the next TGV—flight information, in short anything to bolster our claim for a refund, presented it via e-mail to EasyJet and had $850 deposited in my local bank account within three weeks. It worked out to about $125 per person above the actual reimbursement for the last minute TGV tickets. The claim was based on an EU rule that passengers delayed more than three hours due to the fault of the airline can file a claim for lost time and costs. In fact, when I read the rule, it appeared that a two hour delay would be sufficient for flights that are less than 1500 km., and officially that is the flight distance between Porto and Paris. However, because the three hour rule is the better known one, I filed under the three hour rule. Our friends in Paris said that we would never be reimbursed, as he was not on a cancelled flight from Buenos Aires to Paris.

We rented an Airbnb apartment in Strasbourg, one of the few that is clearly an otherwise apartment with long-term residents. The building is a pre W.W.I building, with the traditionally small kitchen but large rooms that could comfortably have a double bed or larger and an armoire or two. The bathroom had been completely re-done, with a great shower, but style trumped function when it came to the mirror over the sink. So as not to interrupt the tile design, the mirror was placed too high for my wife (5’1”). The apartment was located on the streetcar line, but the double window system blocked all street noises. No AC but fans were available. It was a minute from the next streetcar stop, a ten minute walk to the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg, and a 20 minute walk to the center of the old town.

This was our third visit to Strasbourg, so we saw the old and the new. The cathedral is almost an obligatory stop, and there is a line to get in, although it moves fairly quickly. We did not stay for the clock to strike the hour, as there are too many people waiting for the event to make it enjoyable. I also did not climb to the top of the towers. The bishop’s palace next door contains several museums, one of which is an important porcelain collection. This time we went to the decorative arts section, which consists of 18th century rooms plus one or several redone when Napoleon stayed there on his way to Germany and Russia. It also has the apartment of the master in charge of porcelain production in the 18th century, and in this case it was not to protect the secret of porcelain production as it was in Meissen, but rather a recognition of the importance of porcelain production at that time. For those interested in the inner workings of old clocks, there are several old church tower clock works assembled in one room. We also revisited the Musée Alsacien, with its wonderful collection of grain spouts that could pass for masks:
The museum was created before 1914, and the signage next to some pieces have sometimes curious comments on how the intent of museology had changed, although there is little evidence of change in the exhibits themselves. The Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg has a wonderful Kandinsky music room, among other items.

We took the streetcar to the European parliament building. Arrived an hour early to make sure that we could get in. Guided tours only, with a limit of forty persons per tour. My impression is that reservations are not possible. During that hour we picnicked on a bench and then walked around the other EU buildings before coming back to stand on line about 15 minutes before the gate opened. The building is interesting architecturally as was the tour. It is worth the visit unless one is really cynical about the idea of a United Europe.

Wine lovers may be interested in the cellar of the Strasbourg main hospital which contains rows of large barrels that have recently been restored to use for aging wine. There are wines for sale (mostly whites) and all of them will use this label
modified to identify the wine (Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, etc.), the producer and the year.

On our first day in Strasbourg, we ate at l’Ami Schutz which has a nice garden section and a cozy inside for winter time. The food was really good, so we went a second time and were disappointed. I guess it depends on what is ordered. We ate twice at le Cul Terreux and were not disappointed the second time. It was conveniently located in our neighborhood; just a local bistro. La Maison des Tanneurs is in the heart of the tourist area. Reservations are recommended. We were in front of it at 11:00 a.m. and the restaurant was closed. An elderly gentleman was knocking on the door, and we started chit-chatting with him. It turns out that he was the owner (retired) but still acts as the greeter when one arrives at the restaurant. He must have liked us because he had whoever opened the door write us down for that evening. I expected more from the food, and it may be that one has to concentrate on the choucroute which it claims to be their specialty.

These are the pictures from that portion of the trip, integrated into a larger Alsace album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpbkZnu

From Strasbourg we took a bus to Nancy, which was more convenient than the train. But the bus station in Nancy appears to be in the middle of nowhere. There is a hospital complex right by the stop and it turns out that 100 yards from the bus stop is the last stop of a hybrid bus/trolley which constitutes the spine of Nancy’s public transportation system. It’s a hybrid in that it uses overhead wires like the more common electric buses but once in the city limits, it hooks on to a central rail, and acts like a funicular except that it keeps the overhead wires (in Bordeaux the streetcar switches from a ground induction type system to overhead wires once it crosses into the suburbs). Here both are in use at the same time and I wondered what the advantage was of the central rail, which is grinding slowly and noisily along.

The Hotel des Prélats is next to the cathedral, and the bus stops there. It is conveniently located just a few blocks from the place Stanislas, and in essence the main sights in the center of Nancy are within walking distance. It was our most expensive hotel of this trip (125€ per night) and while the public areas—lobby and dining room—are very nice, the rooms are small and were renovated with the conceit of staying in a room of times gone by. That meant a four poster bed with a few strips of cloth as each corner to give the impression of a curtained bed. The queen-size bed was too large for the room, leaving little room for the luggage. The bathroom had a sink that took up too much space and the bathtub had no curtains although a hand-held shower was part of the set up. For people like us, living in our seventh decade, the set-up was a recipe for disaster, none occurred, and we managed not to spray water all over the bathroom. Our friend had a single room for 105€ per night including breakfast. We would have had to pay an extra 15€ each for that privilege. Our friend did say that it was the best breakfast of the whole trip.

There are three main attraction to Nancy: the Place Stanislas, the area between the place and the Porte de la Craffe which was the Nancy prior to the 18th century, and then the various locales for Art Nouveau. Some people find the Place Stanislas arid because it has no trees in the square itself. But one corner has trees, and that leads to the Parc de la Pépinière which has a nice rose garden
among the various sections used predominantly by the local population. The older section of Nancy has the Musée Lorrain, which was closed for renovation when we were there. The center of town contains a number of impressive Art Nouveau buildings of a commercial nature. For residences one needs to visit the Parc de Saurupt which is a short ride on the aforementioned bus. The Musée de l'École de Nancy which specializes in Art Nouveau is fairly close by, as are other houses, all found on an Art Nouveau map (trail?) provided by the tourist office. The map leads to other buildings, notably the Villa Majorelle
(under renovation), and we eventually landed on the other side of the railroad tracks from the center of the city. In other words, nothing is very far. We had a Saturday picnic in a local park and a Sunday lunch in a local café in that area. On the place Stanislas is the Museum of Fine Arts which holds the Daum collection. The collection is definitely worth a visit, and the museum has been intelligently expanded. The new section is not visible from the place Stanislas and the basement has galleries weaving around the old medieval walls. That's where the Daum collection is located.

Given that the album contains only one picture outside Nancy, this may be a case where the pictures are worth more than the words: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmJrcPhp

There is a TGV from Nancy to Paris. There are two options for the TGV. One leaves from Nancy proper and the other leaves from a station on the Paris-Strasbourg line and has a bus connection to get there. The first option is obviously more convenient in terms of access, but the second one might have a better schedule. We chose the first option.

We dropped off our friend who was going on to London. She walked from the gare de l’Est to the gare du Nord with no problem. We stayed with the same friends as usual, near the place d’Aligre. We also made the usual rounds of friends and family. But we did not leave out visiting Paris itself. The Musée Picasso had a Picasso/Alexander Calder exhibit, which was tiré par les cheveux given that the two met only four times in their lifetime and there is no recorded influence, reciprocal or otherwise. On the other hand, the juxtaposition of prehistoric art and modern art worked in the Pompidou exhibit. We visited the Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies in the building restored to its intended space. I am now unsure if the inside configuration of the Orangerie was as desired, or if there were never carried out plans that have now been implemented. We also walked some of the passages around the Madeleine.

Parisians are friendlier than they used to be, or our age gives us access that might be denied to others. The restaurant next to the Galerie de la Madeleine seemed to have an interesting interior as seen through a window. We walked in Lucas Carton and asked if we could take a peek, mais bien sûr. It is an over the top Art Nouveau interior. I was encouraged to walk around and presumably take pictures (camera in hand) at the Café Pouchkine, which is worth an expensive stop just for its décor.

The Cité de l’Architecture had an exhibit of modern pieces, sometimes art, sometimes furniture, placed with the permanent exhibit which consists principally of full-size reproductions of historically significant architectural structures or parts thereof; it would not have a full-size church but just a model, but it can have its portals in full size. At times the juxtaposition worked, and at time it was as tiré par les cheveux as in the Calder/Picasso exhibit.

We flew back to SFO via Barcelona. The carrier across the Atlantic was a no frills airline that is associated with Iberia. Tourist class has really become steerage. No food or drink without paying during regular meal services. But my wife was able to get us two glasses of water by going back to the galley later in the flight.

Here are the albums of Paris in which the pictures of the last trip were incorporated:

Last edited by Michael; Dec 2nd, 2019 at 02:06 PM.
Michael is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 02:03 PM
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Strasbourg and Nancy are among my favorite cities, so I obviously found your report delightful. Strasbourg had the option of building a metro or a tramway system but chose the tram because it was 5 times cheaper. And it turned out to be a perfect choice.
kerouac is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 02:33 PM
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I am another fan of Strasbourg and Nancy, so thanks for the report. The last time I was in Nancy I stayed at the same hotel, but did not notice the problems you found.
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
I am another fan of Strasbourg and Nancy, so thanks for the report. The last time I was in Nancy I stayed at the same hotel, but did not notice the problems you found.
The web site has pictures of nicer rooms, undoubtedly at a different price.
Michael is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 03:04 PM
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The web site has pictures of nicer rooms, undoubtedly at a different price.
Actually, I think mine (double for single use) was cheaper, not more expensive. I checked my photos, and I didn't have a four poster, and I did have a glassed in shower and no bath tub. Looking at the website I think you had a "Prestige" room and I had a "Traditional".
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 03:51 PM
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The sink is familiar, but the four poster bed was metal and not painted white. Of course the picture is also misleading in that the sink was in an enclosed bathroom. As shown on the website, it enlarges the space of the room, although I should have wondered about an open bathroom in that type of situation.
Michael is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2019, 12:02 AM
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Great trip report! I am anxious to see Strasbourg someday.
lrice is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2019, 10:15 AM
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It is interesting to read more about Nancy which we visited a few years ago. I grew up with a framed picture on the wall, a commemoration of the liberation of Nancy in WWII, as my father fought there in the US Army.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2019, 11:12 AM
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I grew up with my mother's stories of her early university days in Nancy. Nothing about her courses, but mostly her favorite cafés with friends where they would get the guys to pay for drinks and then crawl out the back window in the restroom to avoid drunken incidents.. New generations have invented nothing. And also when the air raid sirens would go off. Instead of going down to the shelter like they were supposed to, they would go up to the roof to watch the bombs falling. Young people will always be immortal, and I will always imagine my mother's youth every time I go to Nancy.
kerouac is online now  
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