When I was in high school, pretty much everyone opted to take Spanish as their foreign language requirement. It made perfect sense really…the town I lived in had a large number of native Spanish speakers. Here’s the thing: I’ve never been one to do what makes sense. Obviously, as I chose to take French as my foreign language requirement. There were pretty much a gazillion Spanish classes offered and only ONE French class. By the time I hit my senior year, there were so few of us, that they cancelled the class altogether. When college rolled around, the university I attended made 2 years of a foreign language a requirement. Since I had 3 years under my belt, I figured I’d just keep going. Because surely, it would be useful, right? Living in Texas, Japan and Hawaii proved me quite wrong. Louisiana had a few French phrases…”Laissez les bons temps rouler” anyone?
This past weekend we finally decided to make a run for the border. The town we live in is approximately 40 minutes from the French border. According to everyone and their mom, there is a fabulous market that is just across the border. One of my friends served a raspberry tart from said market at a lunch and that was enough to convince me it was totally legit. I looked at Google Maps and noticed that there was a city about 25 mins past that. When I Wikipedia’d it (come on…I know you do it too), it looked like a fun day trip. Husband agreed…although he made sure that we had signed up with the international version of AAA (ADAC…definitely worth the moolah if you’re over here).He also informed me that if we broke down and ended up destitute on the side of the road, then it was my hair-brained idea that got us there.
We woke up to a cool and rainy morning. It was a nice change from the 100*+ temperatures of the week before. We rolled out and headed out on the autobahn. We hadn’t driven the A6 past the Landstuhl exits, so it was nice to see some more of the German autobahn landscape.
We drove past Saarbrucken, which is the last city in Germany before the border. Once we crossed the border it became evident we weren’t in Germany anymore. No, not just because everything was in French, but because the roads were so much crappier than the ones in Germany. Seriously. The autobahns in Germany are probably the best roads we’ve ever driven on.
When we reached the parking lot in Metz, we noticed that it was practically deserted. There were plenty of parking spaces and there was literally NO one out and about. Then I remembered. It was a French holiday. It was the Day of Assumption, so pretty much everything was closed. Also, the French like to take vacations in August. Meaning, the entire country shuts down for a few weeks so they can go to Spain or the South of France. Almost every store had a sign saying it would reopen on 24 August. Thankfully, most of the sights we wanted to see were freebies and open all the time.
Our first spot was the Porte des Allemands. This gem is a bridge that served as a door into the city of Metz back in the day. It translates into the Germans Door. The bridge crosses the Sielle River, which makes it look more like a moat than a river. Boy Child was totally enamored with it…well, as enamored as a 12 1/2 year old can be about a bridge. I had only ever seen pictures of this type of site in history books and on TV…it was awe-inspiring to see it up close and personal. I also had to do a little explaining to the Girl Child that she couldn’t live there. She was slightly disappointed, but really…who wouldn’t want to live in a castle?
After the Porte des Allemands, we walked back through the town and over to the Eglise St. Etienne, which translates to St. Stephen’s Church, which translates to Metz Cathedral, which translates to holy-crap-I’ve-lost-my-breath-due-to-the-sheer-gravity-of-this-cathedral. Amazing, awesome, fantastic do not even begin to describe this cathedral. I’m sure Notre Dame in Paris or the Cologne Cathedral are more spectacular. But for someone who has only seen the National Cathedral as the largest cathedral, it truly took my breath away.
The detail in the architecture, down to the gargoyles and the smallest of columns was simply stunning. The Metz Cathedral is the 10th highest in the world and actually has the world’s largest expanse of stained glass (over 69,000 sq. ft.). The stained glass was almost magical.
We stayed inside for a little bit, but since it was Day of Assumption, there was mass happening at the same time. We didn’t want to be the rude tourists, so we left quietly and headed back outside. Right next to the cathedral is the Marche Couvert (Covered Market). I had hoped to take a peek and maybe pick up a few things, but again…holiday = Me Fail.
By this time we were starting to get a little hangry. Girl Child wanted bread or McDonald’s. Boy Child didn’t care. Husband and I just wanted food. As we were walking, we found a cafe called Chez Gregoire. The sign said that they spoke German and English (as well as French). Okay, friends. There was no turning back. It was finally time to put those 5 years of French classes to use. We went up to the host and we started our conversation. I managed to get us sat, get drinks ordered, get food ordered, said the meal was great, order a cappuccino, and pay the check…all whilst using my rusty French brain cells. Server was awesome. He was patient with me and didn’t make me feel stupid. Only one slight hiccup where he had to try his English, but he only had to use one word and I got the gist of where he was going. After lunch, Boy and Girl Child both told me they were surprised that we navigated through lunch so well. I took it as a compliment, since I’m guessing that’s what they were aiming for.
After lunch, we walked back by the cathedral on the way to the car. It turns out that Metz is a twin city to Kansas City, Missouri. I thought that was ironic considering that’s the area that we just moved from. I brought my Sporting KC hat along just so I could get a picture with it on in their twin city. Yep. I was totally *that* tourist…sentimental and nerdy. The sky was threatening rain, so we headed back to the car. There was still another stop on the way home.
We hopped in the car and headed back toward the border. The border city of Forbach, France is where the magically fantastic supermarket is located. As we got off the freeway, we noticed something strange…there were ZERO cars in the parking lot. Yep. They were closed because of the holiday as well. It was our total Clark Griswold, Wally World moment. Don’t worry, I didn’t bang on the door demanding entrance (although the thought of fresh baguettes, cheeses and wines made that thought appealing). We just laughed it off and jumped back in the car. Since we’re so close, we can always head over the border to the market again.
Metz is beautiful. I have every intention of heading there once August is over and maybe when it’s not so cloudy. I can only imagine how stunning the stained glass in the cathedral is when the light is shining through. Most people I spoke to before we headed over the border mentioned that the French can be somewhat off-putting and snooty. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. I’m sure that maybe in the larger cities (i.e. Paris), that may be closer to the truth. However, I feel like this trip was a pretty good warm up before we decide to take the plunge into Paris. Metz et France, Je t’aime!