Metz is the capital of Lorraine but is really two cities in one. On one side of the river is the ‘French Quarters’ and on the other the German (Ville Allemande). For this reason the city as a whole is a great mixture of styles. Captured by Germany in 1860 it was finally regained by France in 1918. Metz really sits at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille and up to twenty bridges in all cross the rivers and the canal.
Cathédral St Etienne
This cathedral is the third tallest in France and is set on a hill overlooking the historic centre of the town, above the Moselle. The ornate and gothic façade is adorned with gargoyles and buttresses, and the interior boasts some of the best stain glass windows including those from Chagall in the north transept.
This church claims to be one of the oldest in France and boasts some 4th century features. The outside walls and façade are Roman and the convent is 7th century.
Chapelle des Templiers
This is a beautiful octagonal 13th century chapel, built by the Knights of Templar. It is adorned with restored frescoes and is really worth a visit.
Museums of Metz
Musées de la Cour d’Or
This museum is situated up the rue des jardins and contains a vast array of Gallo-Roman sculptures with additional collections from medieval and Renaissance periods. This and the adjacent art museum are built next to remains of old Roman baths.
Surrounding areas of Metz
Nearby and west of Metz is Verdun. Famous for the Battle of Verdun in 1916-1917, the surrounding fields were the lasts places seen for over a million men, who died in the terrible bloodshed of the Great War. The Musée-Memorial de Fleury tells the story of many of these men and the Ossuaire de Douaumont cemetery contains the unidentified remains of more than 130,000 French and German soldiers. This great battle devastated the local communities and depleted the male population significantly. The loss was on such a large scale that most towns throughout France house monuments and memorials dedicated to those that were lost. However, Verdun is not just a place of sad memories but also houses some beautiful medieval structures and buildings. Other sites to visit here include the Musée de la Princerie, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Bishops Palace, which now houses the peacekeeping and human rights centre ‘Centre Mondial de la prix et des Droits del’Homme’.
Situated on the River Meurthe this modern city still boasts reminders of the extensive modernisation experienced in the 18th century by the Duke of Lorraine. The historic capital of Lorraine is surrounded by hills and one of them, the mount Sainte Geneviève, has been proven to be one of the first human settlements. Full of history and culture Nancy has so much to offer all those who visit it.
Palais de Government
Once the former residence of the governor of Lorraine, this Gothic structure is flanked by semi-circular arcades at the far end of the elegant tree-lined square of the Place de la Carriére. In the adjacent Parc de la Pépiniére is the Rodin statue of the Nancy-born artist, Claude Lorraine.
Eglise et Couvent des Courdeliers
This church boasts a crypt in which the Dukes of Lorraine are buried and the converted monastery now houses the Musée Régional des Arts et Traditions populaires.
Museums of Nancy
Musée des Beaux-Arts is situated on the corner of the Rue Stanislas and has a superb collection of French 19th and 20th century art, including work from Victor Prouvé, Manet, Matisse and Picasso. The basement houses a collection of works from Nancy’s glass company, Daum. There is also a Musée Aquarium de Nancy with a vast collection of stuffed animals and birds and a large aquarium of tropical fish downstairs. The Musée Historique Lorraine is dedicated to the history and heritage of Lorraine and contains a superb collection of etchings from the Nancy-born, Jacques Callot, archaeological finds, sculptures and paintings. In the adjacent building is the Musée des Cordeliers or the Musée Régional des Arts et Traditions populaires. Housed in the Church of Cordeliers and the Ducale Chapel, this museum illustrates past rural life and has a superb display of costumes, furniture and crafts. The Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy is housed in the villa built for the Corbin family who were the founders of the Magasins Réunis chain of department stores. The artwork, furniture, fabrics and jewellery in addition to glassware from Emile Gallé are displayed in the opulent setting of the family home and the outside gardens are just lovely and full of colour.
Surrounding areas of Nancy
West of Nancy is the forest lined, fortress city of Toul. This ancient city boasts sites such as the Porte de Metz, the 13th century Cathedral of St-Etienne and the Gothic Church of St-Gengoult.
The capital of Alsace and also known as the culture capital of Europe, Strasbourg has lots to offer. From superb history, architecture, museums and botanical gardens to cafes, markets lovely restaurants, lively festivals and plenty of nightlife, Strasbourg has something to keep everyone entertained.
Cathédrale de Notre-Dame
This is a stunning piece of architecture with an ornate and detailed façade, towers high above all other buildings in the city. The interior boasts a superb sequence of stain glass windows, 15th century pulpit and beautiful and expansive organ. Visit hours are 7-11.30am, 12.40-7pm daily but the cathedral is closed during services.
Church of Saint Thomas
Situated off of the Rue de Salzmann is the Church of Saint Thomas. A mixture of both Gothic and Romanesque features, the church has been the protestant base for the past 5 centuries. A feature of particular interest is the sculpture situated behind the alter, the Tomb of the Maréchal de Saxe.
The Grand Etablissement Municipal de bains are the municipal baths, where you can have a Turkish bath, a sauna or a swim.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée des Beaux-Arts and Musée Archéologique are all situated within the stunning and rather grand, Palais de Rohan. The Museum of Decorative Art is probably the most interesting with extravagant state apartments and superb ceramic collection and faïence tiles. The Museum of Fine Arts has a lovely collection of European art and the specialist Archaeology Museum house some of the most important finds in France, dating back to 600 B.C.
The Musée de l’Ouvre Notre Dame is situated adjacent to the Palais Rohan in the mansion inhabited by the cathedral architects. Exhibits include glasswork, sculptures, original parchment drawings and the 11th century Wissembourg Christ, all taken from the original Romanesque cathedral of Notre Dame. The Musée Historique is located on the Place de la Grande Boucherie in the Old Slaughterhouse (1588). It illustrates the history and progression of the city through paintings, drawings, etchings and military objects. Reopening is planned for 2006. The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain is the Museum of Modern and Contemporary art. It is situated on the Place Hans-Jean Arp. Not only is the building full of fantastic works and collections of many themes from popular and less known artists, the architecture is quite something. The modern glass fronted building overlooks the river and the Vauban’s dam.
Tip: The Strasbourg pass allows you free entrances and discounts, a boat tour, bike hire (day), and the cathedral tower and clock. Contact the tourist Office for further information.
The European Parliament building and the European court of Human Rights are situated in the Palais de l’Europe on the east side of town near to the University.
Boat tours are a great way to see the cities sites, and allow you to take in the Grande Ile on which the old city stands, the European Parliament, and various historic buildings and monuments. You may also spot storks' nests and swans.
The boats leave from the quay by the Palais des Rohan, please contact the tourist board for further information.
Surrounding areas of Strasbourg
Strasbourg makes a great base for visiting the gorgeous surrounding countryside and towns. To the North is Betschdorf, which borders the Forest of Haguenau and is well known for its pottery and glazes. Haguenau and Saverne are northwest and the nearby Chateau du Haut-Barr and its 12th century chapel are well worth a visit. To the south of Strasbourg is Obernai, Selestat, and the fascinating and extremely popular 12th century Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg. Further south still, is Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr, Colmar, Eguisheim and its 13th century feudal castle of the Counts of Eguisheim, and also Neuf-Brisach with its incredible citadel (1698 - 1707) and its Museum of Vauban. Guebwiller and Mulhouseare further south still and almost at the southernmost point of Alsace. Mulhouse has a whole array of museums, such as the Musée de l’Impression sur Etoffes, Musée Francais du Chemin de Fer, Musée National de l’Automobile and the Musée Historique.
Wines & Wine Regions
The geographical location and climate of Alsace make it ideal for growing grapes. Although quite far north, it is protected by the Vosges mountains, which mean a drier and warmer climate allowing the grapes to ripen slowly to develop more flavour.
The wines of Alsace are named after the grapes from which they are made:
Muscat has two varieties Muscat d’Alsace and Muscat Ottonel. They make beautiful dry and aromatic white wines, quite different from the sweet Muscats grown in the South of France.
Gewurztraminer makes a very soft, slightly sweet and almost tropical tasting wine with a hint of spice (Gewurz means spice). Probably one of the more famous wines of the region, it has a lovely bouquet and is suited to exotic and spicy dishes.
Riesling is known as one of the finest whites in the world and produces a dry fruity wine usually with a ‘mineral’ hint.
Sylvaner grapes produce florally light wines that are thirst quenching and perfect for those long summer days.
Pinot Blanc is a grape thatproduces delicate, well-balanced easy drinking wines.
Pinot Gris has a wonderful smoky, honeyed bouquet and produces a rich and full-bodied wine.
Pinot Noir is the only grape used to make red or rosé wines in the region. It is used to make fruity, spicy reds that can be aged in oak casks to give it an even deeper fuller flavour.
If the word is used to describe the wine "Edelzwicker" it is when the wine is made from more than one white grape variety. A cheaper option, it is very often enjoyed alongside the hearty fare of local restaurants and brasseries.
Alsace Grand Cru stature is only given to wines, which satisfy particularly strict quality standards and criteria. They must come from specific vineyards of specific grape varieties and have a certain degree of natural ripeness, tested by a panel of experts. The wine must be labeled with the grape variety (only Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Tokay Pinot Gris and Muscat are permitted), the vintage and the name of one of the fifty defined vineyards, which are entitled to Grand Cru status.
Two special and unique classifications may also be applied to the Grand Cru wines of exceptional vintages;
Vendanges Tardives wines are made from the grapes picked late and are made only in exceptional years when there has been a warm autumn with low rainfall and the grapes have been able to over-ripen, often several weeks after the official start of the harvest. The grapes are packed full of intensive flavour and can be cellared for many years. The aromatic character of each variety is further enhanced by the concentration and development of noble rot (Botrytis Cinerea).
Sélections de Grains Nobles (Selection of Noble Grapes) wines come from grapes affected by noble rot, harvested in successive pickings. The wines made from these grapes are often rare and expensive and they have an intense flavour and concentration of aromas. They are superb wines and are best enjoyed alone to appreciate the full bouquet.
Crémant d'Alsace is the name given to the sparkling wines of Alsace. The wines are generally delicate and lively, and made by the traditional method of second fermentation (as in Champagne), usually from the Pinot Blanc grape, but also from Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling or Chardonnay. The grapes are harvested early, before those used for the still wines and this ensures they maintain their slightly tart and zesty zing required for sparkling wine. Crémant Rosé is much more rare and is made from the Pinot Noir grape.
Regions and Vineyards
The vineyards are dotted down a distinct area running Marlenheim, north of Strasbourg to Thann. The vineyard trail covers 180km and not only takes in the wine growing areas but also the beautiful countryside, quaint towns and impressive monuments and structures, fountains and buildings. Travelling south on this route you will pass through, amongst others, Molshein; adorned with Renaissance buildings and a Bugatti Motor Museum, this town also boasts many Riesling vineyards; Dambach-la-Ville is a lovely medieval town and is well known for its Grand Cru Frankstein; Ribeauville, further south is also renowned for its Riesling; and Eguisheim, just south of Colmar produces two grand crus, Eichberg and Pfersiberg.