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Category: Metz (Page 1 of 4)

A Tale of Three Languages

France has a worldwide reputation for its refined culture, so I have adopted the posh pastime of attending the opera. With a love for orchestral music and theater, I was eager to spend the equivalent of an entire week’s worth of meals (so, 15 Euro – thank you Crous for the cheap meals) to buy tickets to all three operas offered by Madame Serafin’s “On My Radar” program.

Despite my excitement for my first dip into the more cultured side of Metz (the On My Radar program is providing numerous other opportunities later in the semester), a surprise phone interview the night of the opera kept me from leaving on time. As is necessary for any starving college student, the prospect of a job won out over anything else, but didn’t stop me from trying to catch what I could. Navigating to the opera alone and in the cold, Metz at night provided a gorgeous sight I had yet to experience before. Built in 1752, the opera house is the oldest still running in France, and one of the oldest in Europe. Consequently, my walk from the bus stop (where my bus ended before it was supposed to) led through a beautiful old section of Metz.

After finally reaching the opera almost an hour late, I was met with yet another gorgeous building, but with no clear entrance. I guess there’s no red carpet laid out for late comers. After testing some doors, finding them locked, and getting yelled at for trespassing when entering what is apparently an adjacent, but different building, I began to question whether French culture even allows anyone to come late. While I respect the integrity of the opera and the need for quiet during each act, entering during intermission didn’t seem unreasonable. Success did eventually come after following a man back through a door after his smoke break, getting yelled at by security, escorted to the ushers, and finally plopped into a seat in the back.

Once I could actually settle in for the show, I remembered that I had never actually attended an opera before. Singing words inherently makes them more difficult to understand, as is often an issue in musicals. However, operas tend to be sung in the original Italian, making the effort considerably greater. Luckily, subtitles were provided on a handy screen above the stage. In French. While I have taken a few years of French, I am not particularly fluent and have forgotten most of it in the years since my instruction.

One can argue that the point of the Opera is not so literal. “The magic of the stage expresses emotion without the need for words!” I could imagine my orchestra conductor saying. This didn’t prevent the plot from being entirely lost on me, however. Intermission brought an opportunity to catch up from the Wikipedia synopsis, which is something that should be done in advance when time allows. From then on, I acted as a sleuth, piecing together the tale of Eugene Onegin from visual depictions, the plot overview in English, my sparse French, and at times a bit of Italian that was loosely comprehensible. The story is an interesting one that left me without a satisfying ending. In essence, Onegin spurns the love of a girl, gets into a fatal duel with his best friend, and later realizes that he loves the girl after she is already married. She then rejects him, and the story ends. No happy ending, but no dramatic fall from glory. Simply a rejection. A reasonable result, actually. This, in combination with the brilliant Tchaikovsky score, made for a glorious night.

A Visit to the Football Club de Metz

I am so very thankful for my French class because on the first day of classes, I made a friend named Fernando. And on that first day, we decided to go to a soccer game together. And we bought the tickets on the spot.

Fast forward to Wednesday, January 17th, when FC Metz takes on FC Saint-Etienne. To give you all some back story, I am not the world’s biggest soccer (football if you’re feeling European) fan, but I do enjoy watching it – a lot. I am a HUGE Atlanta United fan, but know next to nothing about the French football leagues. I did learn a couple of things before the game: FC Metz is dead-last in the league, French people are just as fiercely loyal to their teams as southerners are to college football, and the logistics of trash-talk are just as nonsensical here.

However, the game was absolutely amazing. We got to the stadium, and although it was very small, it felt just like a sporting event in the States. You could feel the excitement: there were tons of  people walking in every direction, and the stadium and surrounding area was full of “ball park foods” (a.k.a. kebabs).

One of my favorite parts of the match was the cheering. Fernando and I had some pretty sweet tickets, in the fourth row right behind the goal, so we were right next to what I have decided to call the “wild fan section” (think of it as a student section but no students). There were all types of chants that lasted throughout the entire game. Some were very creative, some were very vulgar, but most of them consisted of “allez” (the French verb for “go”). The opposing team’s wild fan section even lit road flares throughout the game. These fans were enthusiastic, to say the least. Keep in mind that it was raining, around 40 degrees farenheit, and the worst team in the league. There was no stopping these fans.

Apart from the wild fan section, the stadium was pretty empty. There was not a single person in front of us, and the 4 rows behind us were completely empty as well. However, the game was wildly exciting. FC Metz scored one goal off a free kick and then another goal within the first 25 minutes. The rest of the game was action-packed and lively, but not another goal until around the seventy minute mark, when FC Metz scored again. So, end of the match and FC Metz won 3-0. After the game was over, a lot of the fans went down to the field and sang one of the chants to the players. The players came to the goal box, clapped along, and waved their appreciation, and then everyone filtered out.

Instead of going straight home, I decided to force Fernando to come get a kebab with me. (He hadn’t yet been fortunate to have the deliciousness that is a kebab, so it was heavily suggested on my part.) On the way, we did get a little bit turned around, thanks to me. And, I forced Fernando to follow my rule, that when I am lost with no time crunch, I don’t use a map. It forces me to really get to know Metz, although it may sometimes be unpleasant (especially in 40-degree rain). Finally, we had a beautiful meal at BurgerKebab, what is surely the most authentic kebab in all of France, and then walked around downtown. We walked through the tiny winding streets and then to the cathedral. (Fernando hadn’t seen it at night yet, so I also “heavily recommended” this.) Of course we got a little lost again, but we found it, thanks to the other benefit of my no maps rule: it forces you to practice the language by asking random people for help. All in all, the evening was a full two hoots. Who would have thought I could have this much fun on a Wednesday?

And now, for this post’s phrase: “Où est …. ?” This is how you say “Where is…?” in French. It came in very handy when we wound up on the opposite side of town from the cathedral, and in trying to find the bus to go to BurgerKebab, BurgerKebab itself, the soccer match, our seats in the stadium, and so on. I decided to share this phrase with you because not only is it helpful, but it also gives you a good idea of how our night went.

Starvation Sunday

Written by Aria.

Alternative title: how I was 72% under my food budget the first week.

As Tech students, we all go a little overboard with quantification, but in terms of budgeting I find it helpful. In this case, it instigated genuine concern for my own well-being. Had I really been eating, or do the French stay so thin by inducing some hallucination of consuming endless bread? I had come to France with the anticipation of hemorrhaging money, and my savings were prepared for it. Instead, I seem to be doing better than in Atlanta.

The outdoor market in Metz, with some of the best food around. Unfortunately, only on Saturday mornings.

The secrets to my success are quite simple. Intuitive, really.

  • Skip meals because you woke up too late, forgot to include eating in your
    itinerary, and/or are too tired to grab bread. (Let’s be honest. This has nothing to do with being in Europe. This is college.)
  • While in French cities, have your entire food allotment consist of pastries picked up every few hours, each from a different bakery. Take them to go and keep touring.
  • Your sit-down meals are now a baguette with brie in the park.
  • When you can’t remember the last time you had anything that wasn’t a carb, go to Crous and spend 3.5 EUR for a meal with such novelties as fruit and meat. Don’t forget your side of bread and choose another carb to make up the bulk of your meal.
  • Plan to do your grocery shopping on Sunday. You will soon learn that most
    businesses are closed on Sundays, and that all you have in your fridge is ice and juice. Luckily, the corporate spirit of America keeps even French McDonald’s open. On the walk there, stop from exhaustion (who knows when you last consumed a calorie) and realize the Paul a block from your dorm is also open. Buy a baguette.

Fresson: the best cakes in all of France. Bring cash, because unless you are planning on buying too many cakes even by my standards, you won’t meet the credit card minimum.

College students have adapted to the harsh conditions of their environment. In this culture, they use every part of the baguette. The pointed end is dipped in olive oil for an appetizer as the meaty body simmers in the remaining oil. After Caprese sandwiches are consumed, the meal is finished off with Nutella spread on the fleshy innards. Despite their large size, baguettes are best consumed the day of their acquisition. Those less skilled in the art often partner up to complete the task, as it is frowned upon, albeit possible, to order only a half baguette.

The happiest moment in my life. Then I dropped the chocolate square on the ground.

To embrace the French culture, I highly recommend a diet consisting entirely of pastries. Your wallet and taste buds will drown out the complaints of your heart. While touring, we tended to rack up at least 10 miles a day. Instead of stopping for any significant meal, we simply located the best bakery nearby and shared a few pastries. Most places in France are cheaper if you take the food to go, so this leads to fighting off the pigeons as you eat your cake on the street corner like the desperate wretch you are. This is worth it for the ability to buy more cakes later. Nothing has topped Metz’s own Fresson, which was once voted as having the best cakes in all of France. Their raspberry tart may be the highlight of my time here so far. For a quality shop, their prices aren’t bad either.

The French cuisine lives up to its reputation, making my limited menu tolerable. This is no excuse to survive only on bread, however, so I now am striving to diversity my sampling outside the comfortable bounds of carbs. That flaky spiraled pastry, named “escargot” isn’t quite the same story as the original dish.

Redefining Home

Written by Aria

An inactivated Eurail pass, residual jetlag, and a knack for procrastination
compose the exact ingredients for a weekend at home. Despite months of
asking every person I have ever met for suggestions on where to travel, I had
made no plans. Everyone always talks of the opportunities at GTL, but they
don’t mention how overwhelming that ability is. In an unfortunate catch-22,
my desire to make the most of my trip to a city, given a limited number of
weekends, causes me to want to plan extensively, which leads to a need for
more time than I have, and a resulting lack of an itinerary by the time the
weekend rolls around. Four days feels much shorter when you have to fit in
all your schoolwork as well as travel research. Instead, I took the weekend to
figure out this city a mere bus ride away, with no pressure from an inability
to return or need for a hotel.

Voted the most beautiful train station in France. Has the friendliest pigeons and “sunflower” street lamps that fold down at night.

To travel such a short distance seems trivial. I know people who have
walked to the train station. But I, struck with both laziness and a remarkable
lack of experience with public transportation, was immobile. Fortunately,
Metz has a wonderfully easy bus system. With some tips from other
strugglers, I still managed to walk past the convenient bus stop right outside
my dorm, for about a half mile before settling in at the next. However, I
experienced great success mumbling something about “deux pour deux”
(two for two) to the bus driver while presenting my 6 EUR, which managed
to elucidate my need for a two-way bus pass for two different people. I
believe this to be the most complicated concept I have successfully
conveyed to a local in French. Eventually, it is wise to get a monthly bus
pass, but that requires the ability to abandon my poor habits.

The cathedral. A free shelter from the wind.

Not immediately adjacent to GTL with all its English-speaking inhabitants and simultaneously less touristy than Paris, downtown Metz does not guarantee that someone nearby will be able to speak English. This has exercised my very limited French more than any other area, as I racked up my French-only conversations like medals. These, of course, largely consisted of repeated simple sentences beginning with “Je voudrais” for “I would like” followed by a failed attempt to pronounce whatever looked good. I have developed a healthy acceptance of any French food offered to
me, as my attempts to communicate with locals often do not take into
account the fact that I panic when talking to strangers even in English. I say “oui” to every question asked, whether it can be answered as such or not, and occasionally end with a flustered “bonjour” instead of “merci” as I gratefully accept a pastry I had not realized that I ordered. It is all delicious, regardless.

13th century fortress, now used by locals as a shortcut on their daily commute.

While photographing a particularly cute pigeon, a seeming caricature of an
older French man sauntered up, expressing joyously to us some sentiment
involving the bird. I soon gave up my French, and he switched to the most
whimsical English as he described his love for the birds, both to watch and
to eat. At times his words failed him, as he exclaimed that his “English flies
away!” while mimicking the flaps of the bird itself. Despite the reputation of
French snobbery, I have experienced nothing but endearing cheer from my
interactions with the locals.

Centre Pompidou-Metz. Temporary exhibitions rotate through, with a current focus on modern Japanese art.

Metz is dichotomous in personality, with vibrant modern life amid
ancient architecture. This is common in Europe, but for me, the novelty of
the juxtaposition is fresh. From city scenes viewed through the opening of a
13th century fortress gate, to rock concerts held in an old monastery, the
history is not only praised, but incorporated into an evolving culture. It is a
city on the rise, home to the first satellite branch of the Centre Pompidou of
Paris and other growing attractions. Despite its old roots, Metz has a
youthful feel. It seems fitting for us to discover Europe through a city
transforming with us.

Christmas in Europe

Because Europeans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and they’re nearly as consumerist as America, Christmas decorations are up and running as early as can be!

Despite the cynical things I just mentioned, Christmas is a truly magical time to be in Europe. I hadn’t really thought about it coming into GTL for the fall, since I just assumed I’d be celebrating Christmas once I got back to the States, but Christmas is everywhere, and I’ll actually have time to enjoy it before finals set in. I had the luck to go to Milan to visit a friend of mine, and considering the only things to do in Milan are shop, eat and see “The Last Supper,” the window displays were out of this world. Christmas trees lined the streets, there were lights everywhere, and Christmas-based stores were stocked to the brim with ornaments and decorations. It was sunny and nearly 60 degrees, so it didn’t necessarily have that cold wintry feel that made you want to wrap up and sit by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa, but it was cold enough to not feel like global warming was breathing down your neck, which is all I care about.

Metz has wonderful Christmas markets and ice sculptures, and in Strasbourg is one of the biggest Christmas markets in France, just an hour away from Metz. I’ve already heard plenty of students making plans to go searching for family Christmas gifts. There’s a major one in Paris too, of course, which I’m thinking about hitting up after finals. To all GTL students- remember to stay safe and be extra alert while in these Christmas markets! Please and thank you.

Vlog 5: Adventures Around Metz

Bowling and Go-Karts: Suppressed and Oft Forgotten Youthfulness

Breaking News: the BDE Reminds GTL Students of Their Suppressed and Oft Forgotten Youthfulness Through Bowling and Go-Karts.

With all the stress that Georgia Tech students endure on top of having to choose between studying and travel planning, it’s easy for students to believe they’re like a grumpy 45-year-old, seasoned in the work of studying and so unable to simply let loose and play. The BDE (or Bureau des Etudiants, the student board here) attempted to fight back and reclaim the childlike spirit we all have by taking everyone to Metz’s great bowling/laser tag/go-kart arena!

Bowling lanes were randomly assigned, so I got to meet people that I’ve somehow never even seen before. (Maybe we have totally opposite schedules?) There are a ton of graduate students at GTL this semester, so people I have never and will never have classes with all came out of the woodwork to have a good time together.

Close scores could be competitive, but for the most part everyone was just chatting and having a good time. Then without any sort of transition came the most intensely divisive activity you can possibly play: laser tag.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a caveman fending for your survival group in the wilderness, go play laser tag. All friendships are lost at the entrance and deliriously picked back up there afterwards. We formed teams and went into the dark, neon wasteland-themed maze that then became the land of no laws, and begun shooting each other mercilessly.

Yes, I’m being overly dramatic about this, but it really is intense! At the end of the game everyone came out of the two-story obstacle park sweating and nursing their wounds, stubbed toes and pride having the highest densities, and we all regrouped outside in the fresh air. The go-karting people were still zooming around the track, moving much faster than I’d expected. They also gave little medals at the end for the winners: unsurprisingly, the whole GTL gearhead community swept the trophies up with little trouble.

While they continued, the rest of us sat down to experience a truly French karaoke night. If you’re imagining grandiose Edith Piaf or French electro-pop, I’m afraid you’re as wrong as I was. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, sang either Celine Dion or belted a pretty sappy 80’s ballad, all speaking of lost love or something of that nature. Every single French man, woman, and child sang their absolute hearts out, totally sober on a Wednesday night. It was fascinating. And then of course some GTL boys got up, turned their hats around backwards and started with the Backstreet Boys.

I won’t say the French locals hated it – some were bopping along to the b-boy beats – but the sudden change of mood might’ve been too much for the taste of some. Nevertheless, it was a fine night and I’m glad I was there to experience it.

For the Love of Chocolate

Written by guest bloggers Amira Abadir and Tiffany Chu.

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Metz in a small residential area: a brown, modern storefront stands with the smell of chocolate wafting through the street. Early one Friday morning, a van of unassuming Georgia Tech students arrived there at Fabrice Dumay Maître Chocolatier.

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Dumay social media.

As our group entered, we were first shown the main storefront, which housed a counter with dozens of flavors of bonbons, or candies, along with shelves lined with varying displays of chocolate bars and gift packages. Towards the back of the store was a large window that peeked into a large, gleaming white kitchen. The window, as we were later told by Mr. Dumay, is there so that his customers can be certain that his candies are produced in-house.

After piling into the kitchen, Mr. Dumay told us a bit about himself. He spent 7 years as a chocolate patissier in the Vosges mountains, then 12 years as a chocolatier before opening his own store. He considers himself to be the only “master chocolatier” in Metz making artisanal chocolates.

Mr. Dumay explained to us the process of chocolate making from cacao seeds into cocoa beans, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter, with the aid of samples. We sampled the three traditional types of chocolate in his shop – dark, milk, and white – each 

with varying combinations of sugar, vanilla, and milk. The last bar chocolate we sampled was new: blonde chocolate. Blonde chocolate emerged just 2-3 years ago and is rare to find in stores. It is a special white chocolate that took 7 years to develop has been “smoked” or cooked until the sugar has caramelized with an even, smooth texture.

We next moved on to other chocolates such as the pralines and ganaches, beautifully crafted with perfectly creamy and crisp texture.

Finally, we witnessed M. Dumay’s legendary house specialties – liqueur filled chocolates, chardons, that come in spiky colorful balls of every color. We tried the raspberry and mirabelle liqueur chardons and were blown away by the strength, flavor, and freshness of the artisanally produced chocolates – quite different from industrially produced chardons. M. Dumay sells approximately 3 tons of these high-quality chardons every year!

Throughout the trip, Mr. Dumay’s passion for chocolate was evident. Before visiting his shop, we wondered: what makes chocolate artisanal? Modern processed chocolate – the candy bars we buy at the grocery store – is a product of the Industrial Revolution. By contrast, artisanal chocolate is an intense labor of love. While many corporate candymakers have found ways to automate the chocolate-making process, people like Mr. Dumay make as much of their product by hand as possible. Dedicating their lives to the art of chocolate making, the master chocolatier’s artisanal chocolate is an entry point for people of all cultures to share and enjoy the heart of chocolate, made with love.

This was a field trip of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine class HTS 2100, “Science and Technology in the Modern World: Regions of Europe.” For more information, see Georgia Tech-Lorraine’s website, www.lorraine.gatech.edu.

What To Do In Metz: Romantic Boat Outing

I stayed in for a weekend in an attempt to study for a hard test that was promptly moved to the following week (classic). Having a little more free time than expected, some friends and I went down to the river for some R&R: tiny, motorized boat style. Close to the church on the river is La Flottille, where you can rent a small boat without a boating license. For four people and an hour with the boat we each paid about $18, while being allowed to go through two canals and near a little harbor. The engine isn’t anything crazy, you don’t get a speedboat whatsoever, but it’s a nice little way to mosey on down the river.

 

The little shack where you pick up the boat sells ice cream and overpriced refreshments, so I’d suggest picking up some snacks from PAUL and just having a little picnic. We bought a baguette for the sole purpose of feeding the swans. I will say I’m a little nervous around those majestic, but vicious birds. Being from Charleston, a major wedding destination, I’ve seen my fair share of naïve brides try to feed them for pictures and having half their dress ripped away by the evil, unforgiving plantation swans. With this context in mind, finding myself within an arms width of these massive animals while on an inescapably small boat wasn’t my favorite experience of all time. It was like slaying a hydra: as soon as you threw bread at one to disarm it, two more sprouted up in front of you.

Everything ended up alright, though: our boat was too fast for them and their white forms soon faded into the distance. Not without a small parade of swans at first, however.

It’s also super cool to see Metz from the water, a point of view that we’re obviously not used to.

I’d recommend it if you have some free time on a day where you don’t have a ton of classes or if you’re in Metz for a weekend.

Altissimo: That Love/Hate Relationship With Your Athletic Friends, Metz Edition

Bouldering.

If you’re a used-to-be-good-at-sports-before-the-SAT’s-happened-now-can’t-do-10-pushups kind of person like me, the Altissimo climbing gym is an incredible way for your much more in-shape friends to push you to exercise! I found this out last week when I thought “hey, I’d like to explore Metz a little more, and I haven’t worked out much this semester, so let’s give it a try.”

Lead climbing.

All lazy person passive-aggression aside, it was an incredibly cool experience. You take the L1 bus from Republique towards Tournebride, getting off at the last stop. The gym is open until 10 pm on weekdays, although the last bus back into town comes at 9, so beware: we didn’t know this and had to order taxis.

You can rent all your necessary equipment, including these sick little booties that make your feet extra grippy on the wall. There’s a massive room for bouldering, which is no ropes/harness climbing, so when you reach the top you just fall back on to these thick pads (it’s pretty fun).

Climbing is honestly a very difficult thing: you have to follow a crazy path that involves stretching the entire length of your body. Or, if you’re tall, just an arm, although being tall doesn’t necessarily mean you can just do anything. There’s a lot of technique and strength that goes into it, as I soon learned.

She’s belaying.

You can also lead climb, if you go with someone that knows how to belay others. This is when you’re harnessed into a rope that’s attached to your partner on the ground, so if you’re high up they catch you if/when you fall. This was my favorite out of the two types of climbing we did: I love being up that high, and it’s so satisfying to see the whole wall that you climbed stretched out beneath you. It’s quite a rewarding experience and I suggest you go if you need something new to do! 

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