The car was reserved through Alamo. The girl assisting us with the contract appeared to think us to be out of our minds for lugging our adventure’s burden on our backs and renting a car to go from there to Rome.
We don’t think twice about road trips under starry skies above. Five hundred miles a day is a picnic. We drive to Vegas for an evening and return. In an area as culturally concentrated as Europe, especially the Benelux region, one might assume everyone to be road bound exploring all the Continent has to offer. Not entirely, rarely it seems. Language and at one time currency were boundaries enough to keep curiosities sequestered to homelands. And perhaps a prejudice or two. Not that our car rental girl had or expressed any in her amusement of our trek.
If I recall we had five days to go and at round twenty five bucks a day this seemed like a deal, until one adds on fees, taxes, border-crossing fees and insurance for us risky Americans. Added up pretty quickly. All told by the end of our trip we could have purchased a touring motorcycle in Isle of Man, rode it throughout our trek in Europe, sold it in Rome for maybe half of what we bough it for and would have handsomely come out ahead for what we had paid for all our transportation for this trip. Good to know for the next one. The only issue is that we would have pared down our packing by half.
Signed at all the x’s and keys in hand we made our way to the parking garage that housed our rental chariot, a Citroen C3. Roomy, at least enough for us and our back packs, and comfy to pose posteriors for kilometers of grin and mouth-agape inducing scenery.
We were thrilled to be in a car. The trains were fantastic and public transportation did its due, but we’re spoiled, conditioned to the most consuming, most polluting, least objectionable, readily isolating mode of transportation available, the Cage, a term coined by motorcyclists. This Cage was free of rails and power grids, stops and layovers and people who might watch me sleep. And it was a portable spot that no matter what transpired over the next rotation of the planet, we’d have a backup place to to just that.
Within minutes we went from the center of Strasbourg to the Autoroute without a single stop thanks to round-abouts and people who know how to use them. Our little C3 mounted the A4 and then the N4 and zipped us to Nancy faster than you can say Place Stanislas. An exaggeration, certainly, but with much morning to spare we arrived at our first destination for the day, a city I served in, a favorite place in my memories. Everyone deserves a Spring in Nancy.
Sign postings and instinct got us to the middle of town and in no time we found parking just outside of Nancy’s allure, the Place Stanislas.
It’s a town square conceived and constructed in the 1700’s to bridge a medieval Nancy to a newer 17th century urban spread. Last time I was there in 1981 the place was full of traffic. On this day and since a restoration project ending in 2005, the Place Stan is now a pedestrian affair still bordered by wonderful architecture and gold-leafed gates.
We walked the tamer modern cobblestones and stopped by the visitor’s center. The Hotel de Ville was the most recognizable edifice for me, along with the gates at each corner, but other than that, Nancy was a place with which twenty eight years has made me unfamiliar.
Unfamiliar with most surroundings except for one little Patisserie where the world’s most delectable sustenance, even better than Belgian waffles, exists.
It’s a place that creates pastries, one in particular, the Religeuse. Translated it means Nun, and there was the usual tongue-in-cheek gags when missionaries ate one.
To describe it is to reduce it to crude means and dower expectations; it’s a large cream puff filled with cream topped with a smaller cream puff filled with the same and glazed in the flavor of the filling. They come in chocolate, vanilla or maple. They’re easiest consumed head first, popping off the nun’s head and biting into the delicate pastry that holds your introduction to, in the case of the chocolate one, the most decadent representation of chocolate ever to have been consumed by a mortal. Hyperbole? No, not in the least.
From there you can nibble the butter buttresses, ornamental and utilitarian in holding the nun’s head place, while savoring the cream. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, there awaits the body, three times the appetizer of the la tete, to indulge the rest of your whetted expectations. Without any doubt, the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. Had the serpent offered Eve a Religeuse instead of an apple the fall of man would have been celebrated instead of shamed and religion as we know it would extol the virtues of pleasure instead of denial.
Mindy had an eclair.
We got back into the C3 still in the afterglow, having made my wife jealous of a French pastry, and made our way out of Nancy to the Autoroute that took us to Metz, our next destination for the day.