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January 27, 2008

Written February 17, 2008

Dear Friends and Families,


OK, in the last episode of our trip to Paris, we had taken a full day, guided by Gertrude the GPS navigator, to make it to Luneville, a nice, small, jewel of a village. Now, Gertude had to guide us to our hotel in the old part of Nancy. Five years ago, when we were driving around Europe, navigating in Nancy had been so daunting that we had simply given up and left, so we were most grateful for modern GPS technology.

But it wasn't that easy. After getting us fairly close to our goal, the Hotel de Guise, Gertrude insisted that we drive the against the traffic on a busy, narrow, one-way lane. To the humans in our car, this did not seem like a good idea, so we turned away and hoped Gertrude would come to her senses. No such luck. If a computer guide makes a mistake once, she will make it forever. So, ignoring the mechanical reminder to "turn around", we wandered for a half hour before, by luck, discovered the Rue de Guise.

On the one-block long Rue, our hotel was easy to spot and, after a bit of orientation from the helpful man at the desk, we even managed to back into our promised parking place. This was important, because our car would stay at the Hotel de Guise twice as long as we would. This was our trick for a car trip to Paris - leave the car in Nancy and take a train!

As it turned out, we had reserved the "standard" room at the hotel and we discovered that they put us just a few feet from our parking place. Inside, the room was exactly as one would expect from a remodeled garage, simple and a bit on the cramped side.

Later, we explored more of our hotel and discovered that it really was quite nice and the nonstandard rooms were charming, as were the halls and lobbies. Next time, we'll spend an extra 10 euros!
However, the hotel staff was as accommodating as if we had reserved the largest suite and the stay turned out fine. After all, what's a room but a place to sleep in?


After getting settled in, we went out for an evening stroll. The narrow lanes were populated with colorful shops and restaurants, almost delightful enough to make us forget our huge lunch back in Luneville. But, we resisted, just wandering instead, snapping night shots of places we will go NEXT time.

After the shop-lined narrow streets, we emerged into the Plac Stanislaus, reputed (by the local tourist brochure) to be the finest Baroque square "in all of France" (which, this being a French brochure, means "in all of the world".) I don't know about that, but it was pretty special.


Nancy was home to much of the Art Nouveau movement and the best place to see this is the "School of Nancy" (Ecole de Nancy). When we arrived too early for the museum, we set about wandering the local streets and were enthralled with Rue Felix Faure, just around the corner from the museum. The graceful curves and elaborate handwork of the early 20th Century homes was enthralling. (No, not another project. I'm certain these are in a price range well outside our budget!)

Later, inside the museum, we saw interior pieces by Emile Galle, Eugene Vallin, Louis Majorelle and others of the Nancy School of Art Nouveau. The grace and technical skills of the furniture and other decorative pieces were inspiring.

Museum website: French, but the pictures are universal: http://edn.nancy.fr/web/

Tourist office website about the museum, in English: http://www.ot-nancy.fr/uk/musees/ecole_de_nancy.php


Our other cultural stop in Nancy was the Lorraine Museum. The contents of this museum have been collected for more than 150 years, and it shows. The displays are spread over seven buildings and over 40, 000 square feet of display space (4,500 sq m). For the most part, these were displays like the displays of other European history museums: shards, then furniture, then paintings, then religious art, and then local industrial production. (In Nancy's case, one of the local industries was painted porcelain.) No matter, we did our tour, saw the static displays of bygone eras, and managed to skip large tracks of museum floors.

My favorite display was surprisingly high tech. In a darkened room, was yet another impressionist painting of a young girl in nightshirt, blowing out the candle for the evening. Then, the girl moved! The whole "movie" lasted a minute or two, and was the best application of flat-screen computer technology I have seen. Worth the stop.

Monday morning, it wasup and out to the train station. We has reservations on the 10:30 TGV, the high-speed link to Paris that was inaugurated about a year ago. 90 minutes later, we were getting off at Gare de'l Est, ready for the next part of our winter adventure.


But that's another story.


John and Marianne


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