It’s been a while – almost a year – since we’ve updated this blog, and what a year it has been! Marred by uncertainty and tragedy unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes, so many things that were previously important to us have fallen by the wayside, including our beloved little travel blog. Our focus has been, by necessity, on the health and safety of our family and our community, and on the day-to-day challenges that come with life in a pandemic. There have been enough ups and downs to fill a mountain range, but we have been tremendously fortunate to arrive at this moment healthy and together.
We have always been travelers, adventurers, explorers. Staying in one place for these many months has been hard, and like most people right now, we sure do miss wandering the world! But rather than dwell on what we’ve missed this year, we’ve decided – in the spirit of gratitude – to start documenting our past adventures again, while remaining hopeful we can all make new memories again soon.
This week’s post highlights our journey to the beautiful city of Metz. Located a short distance from the French border with both Germany and Luxembourg, this charming metropolis was the perfect destination for a family day trip back in October 2017.
Situated at the confluence of the Moselle and Seille Rivers in northeastern France, Metz has a recorded history going back over 2,000 years. It served various roles during this period, including as a Celtic settlement, a Gallo-Roman trading post, a royal residence of Morovingian kings, and for nearly 300 years, an independent republic. Metz became a French territory in the mid-16th century before annexation into the German Empire in 1871. Control of the city switched hands between France and Germany on multiple occasions during the First and Second World Wars, until finally reverting to its current status in 1944.
Today, Metz is the prefecture and seat of parliament for the expansive Grand Est region. It is a vibrant city known for its verdant jardins and promenades, its celebration of modern and contemporary arts, and its soaring yellow limestone cathedral. We took advantage of a sunny fall day three years ago this week to pay our first visit to this lovely urban oasis.
Porte des Allemands
We started our day along the banks of the Seille River at the Porte des Allemands (Germans’ Gate). Named after the 13th century Teutonic Knights of Notre Dame des Allemands, this fortified gate is the largest surviving structure along the city’s original medieval wall. It is also the last remaining bridge castle in France. Two round towers with pepper pot-style roofs crown the building on the city side, while two large 15th century crenellated towers face the countryside. A gallery constructed in the 19th century, now housing a historic exhibition, connects the two.
After exploring the porte, we headed westward on Rue des Allemands, stopping for lunch in the bustling Place Saint-Jacques. The square – situated near the crossroads of the old Roman city – is a popular social spot for modern day Messins, drawing locals and tourists alike to its pretty outdoor cafés and restaurants. We enjoyed sitting outside and people-watching while we gobbled through chocolate crêpes (Brooke) and a croque madame (Tito) before continuing on our way towards the cathedral.
Cathédrale Saint Étienne de Metz
The highlight of any journey to Metz is undoubtedly its spectacular Gothic cathedral. Construction began here, on the ancient site of a shrine dedicated to Saint Stephen, in 1220, although consecration of the soaring cathedral – one of the tallest in Europe – didn’t take place until 1552. Nicknamed la Lanterne du Bon Dieu – “the Good Lord’s Lantern” – the cathedral is made of locally quarried Jaumont limestone, and boasts the largest expanse of stained glass in the world. Artists featured in the collection include Hermann von Münster, Valentin Bousch and, more recently, Marc Chagall.
We spent a considerable amount of the afternoon here, each taking a turn inside while the other explored outside with Griffey. The photos below don’t do the cathedral justice – this is definitely a spot worth visiting in person!
After leaving the cathedral, we made the short walk to the banks of the Moselle River at Temple Neuf. One of the most photographed structures in the city, this early 20th century Protestant church – perched on the southwestern edge of Île du Petit-Saulcy – was the ideal spot to end our walking tour of Metz. We sat on the riverbank, watching the clouds drift by and the swans glide silently across the water’s surface, until it was sadly time to retrace our steps to the car park and drive back home to Germany.
We both agreed: next time, an overnight! We missed so many sights on such a short visit – Centre Pompidou, Musée de la Cour d’Or, Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, and the Imperial City – and wished we had time to fit them in.
Nonetheless, thank you for joining us on this adventure in lovely Metz! – Tito & Brooke June
Our next journey: Bran Castle – Transylvania, Romania