One of the best things about living on the continent now, is that we can completely dispense with flights. I think there are few things, travel-wise, more stressful, than the whole airport experience, of checking in, security, hanging around, queueing – and then at the end of it, you’re squashed into a cramped seat, generally on a fast-turnaround, budget airline, only to then get off and have to do the whole airport thing again. (Although, in fairness, I have nothing but praise for Bergamo Airport and genuinely look forward to arriving & departing from this example of “how an airport should be”…).
Getting to and from places now, are part of the adventure, because we mostly drive and so can suit ourselves regarding the route and timings and where we stop. Journeys back to England are now a real adventure and so far have taken us through Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland and France. These journeys also mean that we can get to know parts of the countries we drive through, that we may not otherwise have experienced. One such place we discovered this Christmas, was Metz, a city in northeast France located at the flowing together of the Moselle and the Seille rivers. I think I had heard of it before, it was on the route we were planning to get us to Calais for a ferry crossing and a quick google search made up our minds. Dating back 3000 years, we felt it had to pretty special, so the route was planned and a hotel booked.
Metz Cathedral is located in the heart of the historical centre and we found a traditional 17th century townhouse, which had been converted into a hotel, immediately opposite. Parking is always a consideration when we travel, because I can’t resist a bit of retail therapy en-route and so we try to avoid places that can only offer street parking. However, Hotel de la Cathédrale, has an arrangement with a nearby underground carpark, five minutes away and you receive quite a hefty discount on the parking charges.
The hotel is really charming. You can sense the history of the building, as you wind your way up to the top floor – where our room was. There is no lift – something to be aware of – although lifts are not commonplace in buildings like this, so we weren’t surprised. This hotel isn’t boutique-style pristine – it’s old, and filled with mis-matching artefacts and furniture and is just so, so lovely. We were allocated a double room with ensuite bathroom (and bath – a rareity when on the road) and a very, very comfy bed. Heating is of the old-fashioned cast-iron radiator variety and so was a bit hot – but once the radiator was turned down and the window opened, we were fine. (Don’t forget we live in a house that isn’t uniformly heated and so any kind of consistent heat source is pretty unfamiliar!).
We liked Metz so much, and this hotel, that we decided to revisit on our return journey. We were allocated the same room, but I thought this was an opportunity missed as we wanted to see other parts of the hotel, so chanced asking if any other rooms were available. According to Booking.Com I had secured the last room, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if this actually was the case as it was December 30th – but yes, they did have another room. This was one in the “annexe”, just a couple of doors away. I love seeing what is behind these old doorways – and this time, down an elaborate corridor, was an internal courtyard, which I imagine in the summer is just beautiful, with its hanging plants, potted greenery and rustic, wrought-iron garden furniture…
I loved this room even more than the first one. Again, it was a double room, with ensuite – although only a shower this time, no bath. However, this room was decorated more beautifully – authentic shabby chic. And very, very French…
We didn’t arrive in Metz until early evening on both occasions, so didn’t have a lot of time to explore. However, just driving through the centre, to the hotel, gave us plenty of opportunity to see just how beautiful the historical centre is, especially at Christmas. There is something very magical about being in a European city over the festive period – everywhere looks so tastefully decorated, with unique lights strung up between ornate lampposts and festooned balconies and twinkling Xmas trees. Very, very pretty.
Eating out was a winner in Metz. A quick google search threw up an amazing Indian restaurant on the first trip – Haryana Restaurant, 17 rue du Change, Sous Les Arcadres – a ten minute walk from the hotel. Food was utterly fabulous, as was the service from the staff. We’d highly recommend this a place to eat, especially if you like your food nice & spicy, with plenty of kick, but with real taste.
On our return visit, we found a proper Italian restaurant – La Cucina di Casa – literally next door to the hotel, which we hadn’t noticed on the first visit as all we could think about then was a curry.
Again, very French in decor – rich reds, velvet swathes, chandeliers, dark wood – but a very Italian menu. Pizzas were excellent – thin crusts and not overloaded with topping and cheese. Just like in Italy.
Metz could certainly occupy you for a good couple of days – there’s also a Pompidou Centre, which unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit on these two occasions – but if you felt the need to go further, Strasbourg is not too far away, and you can also be across the border into Germany and Luxembourg relatively quickly. A highly recommended city in France.