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Metz France French Holidays

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Metz (pronounced 'Mess'), capital of Lorraine, is often dismissed because we think it must be an ugly, industrial town like so many in Northern France. Metz, however, surprises us all with its Roman origins, riverside parks, Moselle river, historic centre and attractive architecture, it makes for a pleasant place to visit.

The large university, founded in the 1970s, is situated on the Ile de Saulcy to the west of the city centre, and sustains the lively atmosphere in town. Metz was an independent republic during the Middle Ages, before joining France in the late 16th century. It was annexed by Germany in 1871 and released back to France once and for all in 1944.

http://tourisme.mairie Official tourist site for Metz. (See middle right button for English).

Mentz airport information www.metz nancy lorraine.aeroport.frwww.metz nancy

Metz's centrepiece is the Cathédrale St Étienne on place d'Armes. Under construction from 1220 to 1522, it is renowned for its wonderful 13th to 20th century stained glass, including some by Chagall (in the north transept), and, even though there is only 20 years' difference in age between them, there is a lovely contrast between the Gothic and Renaissance windows in east and west transepts. The exterior is lit up at night, making for a pleasant sight on a post prandial stroll.

The lacy cathedral building, yellow Jaumont limestone buildings and Latin organisation of streets in the old town, north of place de la République, contrast with the granite Germanic structures near the station, including the station itself, which was designed with military tactics in mind. The gare SNCF and the post office are on rue Gambetta, 1km south of the cathedral. The tourist office (03 87 55 53 76) is on place d'Armes, where most buses head from the station.

The oldest theatre in France, built in the 18th century, is on place de la Comédie, on the Ile de la Comédie, and there is a great view of the cathedral. Earlier artefacts are on view in the Musées de la Cour d'Or, 2 rue du Haut Poirier (€4.60), where you can see Roman sculptures and baths united with paintings from Delacroix and Corot. On a nice day, wander along the bd Poincaré in the riverside parks full of swans and statues.

Accommodation and food are easy to come by in Metz. Hotelwise there's the romantic De la Cathédrale, 25 pl de Chambre, 03 87 75 00 02 (€55 70); Du Théatre, 3 rue du Pont St Marcel, Ile Chambière, 03 87 31 10 10 (€70 85) complete with swimming pool; or the cheaper Lafayette, 24 rue des Clercs, 03 87 75 21 09 (€30 40) on the main pedestrianized shopping street. Around the station are other reasonably priced establishments. Place St Jacques is good for cafés, the old town has numerous good restaurants such as the Du Pont St Marcel (03 87 30 12 29), a typically regional 17th century concern or La Fleur de Lys, 5 rue des Piques (03 87 36 64 51) with good service and French menus from €18.50.