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Category: Metz (Page 1 of 4)

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! 

La Coupe de Cheveux

For the last month or so I have been plagued with an affliction affecting both appearance and convenience. Something I normally kept under control was turning into a real disaster; I mean my hair, of course. I try to keep a nice, neat trim so that, for one, I don’t look like more of a homeless person than I already do on account of my beard, and for two, because my hair is a disaster to take care of when it exceeds more than 2 inches. Now you might be saying, “Sam, you realize that there is an entire industry dedicated to the maintaining and styling of the hair?” Well the sad truth is, that being the scared anti-social person that I am who speaks little to no French, I have been too scared of the awkwardness to try and go to a hair salon. I’ve been picturing the hairdressers just rattling off rapid-fire French and looking at me like an idiot when I have no idea what to do, and that scary mental picture has kept me away for some time. But eventually, enough was enough, and I decided I couldn’t wait another month to  get my hair cut at home.

To prepare for this daring feat, I put myself through a boot camp of hair-related French vocabulary until I felt somewhere short of confident that I could probably get the majority of my point across about what I wanted. I’d heard from other people that there was a place in CORA, the local superstore, where I could get my hair cut, so off I went. When I got there, I found that there is not one, but two hair salons, next door to each other, inside this store. I hope this gives you an idea about how massive this place is. Consulting Facebook, people said that St. James was the better of the two salons, but upon inspection, the alternative seemed much more inviting, and more along the lines of a Great Clips or something like that. Not being particularly picky about my hair, and the fact that it was cheaper didn’t hurt, I stepped into Diagonal Coiffure.

I started off strong by telling the gentleman at the counter that I need a haircut in what I can only assume was atrocious French. However he seemed to understand, because for guys, haircuts were about all they did. I encountered a bit of a snag afterward when I walked back to the chairs and awkwardly stood there for a few seconds. One of the ladies said something to me in French, and I think I kind of just stared at her, probably drooling, until, through the magic of charades, she gestured for me to sit in one of the chairs. After that my boot camp training kicked in, and I feel like I was able to pretty accurately say, in French, what I wanted for my haircut. This lady seemed to be able to speak some English, but being stubborn and wanting to use the language of the country I’m residing in, I proudly didn’t speak a single word of English the entire time, even managing to tell her that I was an international student studying at GTL in Technopole. After no time at all, I was done and finally sporting a cleaner look.

Although there were definitely some moments of awkwardness, the process was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined, and I even had some fun speaking a foreign language, although some gesturing was necessary due to terrible pronunciation. I feel like I learned a few lessons from this experience. First of all, don’t overthink things. They are rarely as terrible as what you can conjure of in your mind. Second, most people are actually nice and accommodating and will try to meet you halfway if they can see that you are trying. And last of all, a few minutes of being uncomfortable is better that a long period of inconvenience. If you just decide to go for it, whatever “it” is will almost always work out in the end, even if there are sometimes a few snags along the way.

The Old World

Picture courtesy of Safari Wallpaper.

Having never traveled to Europe in my short life, my view of this continent has been purely framed through the looking glass of media and pop culture. In fact, everything outside of the United States has seemed like almost an abstract, foreign concept. I feel as if a lot of people, myself included, who have had few experiences outside of their own bubble are subconsciously fixated on the idea that people in other places are somehow different. But, after moving to Europe for the semester, I’ve realized that despite being thousands of miles away and on another continent, this is still planet Earth inhabited by human beings. This may sound obvious to you, and of course it should be; this thought process isn’t taking place on a conscious level, but a subconscious one.

Of course there are also a lot of little interesting differences I’ve noticed too, and just for fun I thought I’d share a few of my observations.

  • Unrefrigerated Milk: Apparently in France, and most of Europe, the majority of milk is sterilized by method of heating to an extremely high temperature for a short time. This kills all the bacteria in the milk giving it a shelf life of multiple months. The milk I’ve gotten like this weirded me out and I thought it had a bad aftertaste. Maybe that’s all in my head though.
  • Crazy Drivers: Everybody says city drivers are crazy, but I live in Atlanta, and those drivers are nothing compared to the people of Metz. I’ve noticed that drivers here are way more reluctant to stop for pedestrians trying to cross the street and also will zoom past you as soon as you’re not in the way on a crosswalk (compared to America where it is polite to wait until the pedestrian has crossed all the way). This makes walking to school every day a little more “interesting” than usual.
  • European Outlets: I don’t know if it’s just me but I think that these things are terrible. Every outlet in my room causes whatever is plugged in to be extremely loose and fall out with the slightest bump. I’m not sure why the world can’t just have universal outlets, but if anybody changes, it should be Europe.

These were just a few of the things that stuck out to me since coming here, but are more simple quirks than real differences.

Going back to my main point, it’s easy for me to forget that I’m actually living in an entirely foreign country a lot of the time. I don’t know why, but when I’m walking back from a day of classes, there’s this one spot along my walk where I always just have a little mini realization: “Holy cow, I’m in Europe!” Nothing really looks or feels different in Europe, and it’s an amazing little epiphany that my subconscious has had in realizing we are in fact all living together on one planet that, whether we like it or not, we all must share.

From Procrastination to Proactivity: How I Ended up at a Handball Game

This past week, sitting in the student common area of the lounge, surfing the internet and procrastinating, I came across an advertisement for the handball world cup, which, don’t you know it, was going on in Metz. I shouted over to my friend if he wanted to go see the game, and in no time at all, I had impulse bought four tickets to the Spain-Angola game taking place later that night.
I have never played handball in my life. I didn’t know the rules, or even the object of the game, but I know that the sport is very popular in the European Union. After a quick Google search, I learned the basics: The object of the game is the throw the ball – surprisingly, about the size of your hand – into the opposing team’s net. You can take a maximum of three steps with the ball unless you dribble, and may only possess the ball for 3 seconds before throwing it.
That night, I set out on the Mettis bus to the stadium in downtown. After entering and finding our seats, the spectacle began. The game was fast-paced, high-scoring, and – best of all – exciting. Right in the first five minutes, Angola’s goalie (Ha! Try saying that 5 times fast), was injured and had to be replaced. About 15 minutes later, the replacement goalie had been given a red card, and the injured man was forced to return. Although he could barely walk, he still managed to block many shots by jumping in front of them.

Angola, sadly, lost terribly, scoring only 20 points to Spain’s impressive 42. Even though the game was definitely a total blow-out, it was still an amazingly immersive experience to be part of the crowd at such a traditional, celebrated European sporting event. This is what immersion is all about.

First Impressions & New Lessons

Welcome to Metz! Beginning with a whirlwind of orientations, jetlag, a nasty case of food poisoning, and a few emergency trips to the colossus of a grocery store known a Cora, getting settled in Metz has been difficult to say the least. However, we simply cannot let sleep deprivation or projectile vomiting get in the way of finding our place in this beautiful city. We start in the Metz-Technopole area where we go to school, eat, sleep, and shop for groceries. Then, we venture downtown to visit the shops and restaurants and experience the local atmosphere.
In addition to its appealing centralized location, situated perfectly for easy travel to many destinations, Metz can also boast a rich 3000 year old history. That’s right! You heard me. 3000 years. 3000. Years. According to the official Metz tourism website, it all started in the 5th-3rd centuries B.C. Celts settled the region and named it Divodurum. Then, in 451, Attila the Hun burned it to the ground. Cool, right? (Or hot, I suppose.)
In the fourth century, the region was renamed Mettis. Sound familiar? In the 6th century, it became the capital of Austria and was renamed Metz: the name we all know and love today. Then, like pretty much the rest of Europe, it came under Roman occupation in the 10th century. Next came the crazy German-French turf war that the Lorraine region was subjected to until after World War II. France begins with Metz in 1552, but oh no, what’s this, Germany takes it over in 1871, but France – never to be outdone – takes it back in 1918. Germany, angrily and with

Bus map of Metz.

Nazis, takes it back for the brief period of 1940 to 1944, whereupon the Treaty of Versaille is written and everyone has decided that yep, Metz is French.

I had been itching to visit the main city of Metz since my arrival here. On a cold and cloudy Wednesday, an icy drizzle trickling down from the sky, I decided it was high time I acquired a cell phone plan that wouldn’t require me to sell my left arm to pay for the roaming charges. After weighing many options, I decided that Free Mobile was the right plan for me. After asking Elise (my wonderful French roommate) how to use the bus system I set out armed with my coat, hat, scarf and gloves to find the free mobile kiosk in the Metz city center. Asking my similarly food-poisoned friend to accompany me, we walked to the bus stop, bought our tickets and made our way into the city.

This is what the view from my dorm looked like the first night of staying at the Aloes dormitory. Pretty, right?

 

Here is a picture of me holding my handwritten directions in front of the Metz train station. Totally looks like a cathedral, right?

My confused, telephone-less, non French-speaking self accidentally exited the bus at a stop near the train station. Walking up to it, I thought it was a cathedral, with its soaring towers, tall arched windows and seemingly endless length. Despite the freezing rain, I simply had to get a picture.

On a sheet of paper, I had written down directions on how to get to the Free Mobile store from the station. What my internet search had neglected to tell me, however, was that the street signs are placed near the second story of the buildings. After a few minutes of cold and aimless wandering, I discovered this fact and began a victory dance that drew some strange glances. Nevertheless, I made my way, sans Google Maps, to the store.  

Here is what the main shopping street of Metz looks like. I love the classic architecture of the second story and up of the buildings juxtaposed with the modern storefronts.

After purchasing my SIM card, I wandered over to a nearby cafe to get some lunch. After clumsily ordering in broken French, (I said “Je voudrais le poulet,” which I think means I would like the chicken, and then I subsequently forgot that the word for sandwich is just…sandwich…) I had purchased a beautiful victory sandwich to enjoy before the cold journey home. Long story short, non-french speaking people, if you want to eat food other than chicken or sandwiches, it is a good idea to come prepared with the Google Translate app, at the very least.

Note from the editor: With Google Translate, and with other apps as well, you can download an entire language offline!

That Time of Year

As December moves along everything seems to change. The weather, people, scenery, atmosphere, music… Each new day of December things move more towards winter. Christmas is coming, that magical time of year we all know so well. Yet, academically it’s also that time of year – finals! Both the halls of the library and snow on the ground thicken marking a very confused time in a college student’s life.

Photo courtesy of Europe Video Productions.

Walking through Metz the change was evident the first day of December (première jour de Decembre). The once open spaces usually filled with leaf-stripped trees or large squares now house hundreds of holiday items. Near “Republique,” the farthest stop downtown, is a massive ice skating rink surround by a Christmas tree market and dozens of shops. As you make your way down to the river and pass shops, illuminated signs in the shapes of ornaments and various holiday cheers line the streets. Near the Cathedral is a large Santa happily waving back at you.

It took me a while to see the changes myself. I had heard stories from the locals for weeks, Madame Serafin especially. Every French class she would ask us if we had seen the markets yet and what our impressions were. My first time downtown in quiet some time was for the soccer tournament a few weeks ago. As we rode the “Mettis” past the Gare (train station), I was shocked. The once open space was now filled to the brim, with lights, trees shops, the works. Every single thing was decorated with something, even the slightest bit of holiday cheer was taken into account. The details were impeccable.
The timing however, is quite unfortunate.

Arguably the best time of the year to be outside and interact with people will see the majority of “GTL’ers”

Photo courtesy of WordPress blog “Miss Francey Pants.”

doing no such thing. Tuesday marked the last day of classes, Wednesday the first reading period and Thursday the first day of finals. For the next few days all of us will be inside GTL or the dorms studying like no tomorrow. The study sessions are none like I’ve ever seen before. After a whole semester of traveling, there is some inevitable catch up to be had. As Cannon, Keegan, and I argue over correct answers to our thermofluids homework the frustration builds, but a few games of ping pong, and we are back at it. A tough week lies ahead of us, late nights, and early mornings.

But as I put my head down and grind for finals I can do so knowing and seeing that the holiday cheer has arrived well in Metz.

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