Two days in Metz

After walking around the village and discovering an old farmworkers ‘rogation cross’ by the side of the road, we bought some local farm frozen yoghurt and headed out on the road to Metz. As of yesterday, the fields were busy with large machinery finishing the harvest and the temperature soared to 30 degrees by noon.

It was a hot and dusty drive through Lorraine before we descended down to river level and pitched up at the Metz municipal campsite by the Moselle river.

Not having any shade to offer Bertha we did our best to keep us all cool by opening out windows, doors and skylights before smothering ourselves in sun cream for the walk into the city. Metz is a gracious city of yellow sandstone public buildings, palaces, theatres, buttress walls, covered arcades and a spectacular cathedral. Like the vibrant yellow of the stained glass windows by Chagall, the city’s stones shone with gold and amber hues in the searing heat and everyone it seemed had migrated along the banks of the green flowing river or onto the inlets and islands that are home to gothic churches, restaurants, the city’s university and copious gaggles of swans.

We bucked the trend and walked through the quiet cobbled streets, passed designer boutiques, bars and coffee shops to the impressive gothic railway station. Passing through again its art deco-tiled walkways underneath the rail tracks and platforms we finally got inside the mini Pompidou on our third time of trying. The gallery was 1) built and fully operational and 2) open as it was not a Tuesday!

Centre Pompidou-Metz

Centre Pompidou-Metz

‘Was it all worth it?’ we wondered as we wandered around ghastly and visceral paintings by Picasso, Francis Bacon, Joan Miro and Lam and shockingly emaciated sculptures by Giacometti. The main exhibition was a homage to Michel Leiris and his cohort of artists and hangers on, all of them seemingly hell bent on bringing their expression of human kind down to its most carnal and base representation. It was not a pleasant way to enjoy the air conditioning.

Less shocking (though he wouldn’t have appreciated that comment) and frankly more tedious, the Andy Warhol ‘underground’ exhibition bored us by the endless repetition of images of celebrities and brands, mostly of the be-wigged and sunglasses-wearing one.

A bright blue pool of water filled with chiming white bowls and an Anish Kapoor vermillion red globe that reflected back its centre made the visit worthwhile.

Back in time for happy hour at one of the city’s many student bars we recovered with a cold beer and treated ourselves to a kebab from possibly the world’s most charming kebab seller at the far corner of the citadel. Back at Bertha and munching contentedly in still-rising heat it was 39 degrees as smoke from the campsite’s barbecues drifted across the green river and through the willow trees along its banks.

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