Metz is to Europe what the Oakland Raiders are to the NFL, only the city was swapped between France and Germany two more times. The capital of the Lorraine lost its French host in 1870 when Napoléon III surrendered to Kaiser Wilhelm I, Metz went to Germany. World War I found Metz back in France in 1918 only to have Hitler re-annex the city in 1940. Shorter-lived than the Los Angeles Raiders though, Metz was liberated again by Allied troops in 1944 where she now has become the new must-see in France’s art museum line-up.
End of football simile.
A short drive from Nancy delivered us via premature parking to an underground shopping center parking lot. I made a wrong turn which turned into another hike. But, who can complain walking around a city like this? Not us.
We popped to the surface at Galerie Lafayette, a large shopping center adjacent to the Promenade de l’Esplanade, a park full of sculptures of what appeared to be lactating bitches. I don’t know how else to explain it.
From there we walked beyond the dog statues to find something a bit more edifying, the Basilica of Saint-Pierre aux Nonnains, the oldest standing church in France built between 380 and 395 A.D. though at the time we had no idea that’s what it was.
There was a wedding photo shoot going on while we walked the turn-of-the-millennium grounds, unaware that the arc I was walking through dating back to the meridian of time, or pretty darn close to it. The air of this building and its grounds drew us both in, snapping photos a angles to later be depicted in pen and ink by Mindy’s capable hand.
We back-tracked through the park and made our way down to the bank of one of the diversions of the river Moselle. We walked along first admiring swans and then competitive kayakers, a whip-lashing juxtaposition for me still ruminating in things ancient.
It surprised us both. Between the Moselle’s division is a rivulet of some considerable rapids upon which is a competitive kayak circuit, world renown no less. And we had the traveler’s good fortune to be there on the day of a competition.
We continued along Chemin du Halage, the walkway along the river bank to Pont Moyen that provides a wonderful view of Temple Neuf, a Protestant Cathedral that divides the Moselle once again.
We descended down Quai du Temple Neuf and turned east into the city following signs to the Cathedral Saint-Etienne de Metz, an edifice grand enough to swallow Temple Neuf and still allow a kayaking competition to happen inside it.
Besides scaffolding, St-Etienne is adorned with gargoyles of a barnyard motif, something I’d never before noticed in previous visits.
It may have been due to the depiction of Judgment Day there in 3D to scare the hell out of most parishioners who’d even dare to look up at it.
The very jaws of hell are swallowing up the naked wicked while the saints transcend past Peter’s gate-keeping. Holy cow. Wait! That’s it! Holy Cow (my apologies to Hindus and Catholics alike, I just thought that was funny, something to offset the hebegebees from the ornamentation above the main doors to this house of worship).
Inside St-Etienne was a display of a modern sculpture depicting the five senses. The image depicts only two, hearing and olfactory. Sight is represented in a suspended, or rather hanging statue with its head cocked to the heavens resulting in an image that’s more disturbing than inspiring since it looked more like a suicide attempt.
We didn’t last long there and exited St-Etienne out to Place d’Armes where we found this neat little optical illusion. We’d later discover in our travels that Europe herself is a canvas upon which many artists have created.
In the shadow of the great cathedral on our way back to the Moselle we found la Place Gourmande, a daily market housed in a building pristine enough to be a museum. It’s in a horse-shoe shape and is lined with display cases of meat, poultry, seafood, cheese and dairy, breads, vegetables and fruits, spices and herbs, anything the palate could interpret. Any grocery shopping experience suddenly paled in insignificance to this truly gourmet bazaar. Entendre intended.
We made our way back to the quai, watched the kayakers for a bit and then made it back to the C3 in its underground stall.
Where to next? No conclusions were reached, so we mounted the A4 taking us back to Strasbourg and beyond until we saw in the distance a great castle on a hill.