You're Where?!?

In conversations with friends and family, I learned that most had not heard of Metz (pronounced mess, like a teenager's bedroom), many picture the Mediterranean when I say it's in France, and only one has been here (he is in the army, and has been almost everywhere). Here is my quick primer on where I am, along with some of my first views of the area.
Porte Serpenoise
I love the grass growing on top!

The city of Metz is in the Moselle department of the Lorraine region (Metz is the the regional capital) in northern France. It is so far
north, it is almost in Germany. In fact, parts of Lorraine have passed back and forth between France and Germany in relatively recent history! After its early inhabitants, the Leuci and Mediomatrici (when Metz was known as Divodurum, meaning holy mount), Lorraine came under rule by the Romans, the Merovingiens, and Carolingians, before becoming a kingdom under rule of Lothar, an inheritance from his grandfather, Charlemagne. The region was named Lotharingia, which evolved into Lorraine. Wikipedia seems to have the most thorough entries in English about the local history, if anyone is interested in learning more:
You can also learn more in general on the:
- Lorraine website: lorraine-france.com/
The Moselle
10 minutes from my apartment
Metz is on the banks of the Moselle river, which flows through Germany before meandering down to France. I stand corrected -- the Moselle flows from France up to Germany, and then turns east... oops! There are vineyards up and down the Moselle in both countries, and the occasional barge, sport or pleasure boat can be seen on its waters. My trip to Germany last summer was also on the Moselle!
Quiche Lorraine is a specialty of the area. Suite 101 has a traditional recipe, as well a a little history. Potée, a soupy stew (or a stewy soup), is another area specialty. Try the aftouch-cuisine recipe. In the nearby town of Nancy, the Sisters of Les Dames du Saint Sacrement's convent created Macarons de Nancy, or Macarons des Soeurs, made from fine sugar, egg whites and ground almonds, and Jean-Frédéric Godefroy Lilich invented Bergamot candy.
Metz Gare
Wed 29 Apr 2009, 21:30-ish

I live near Metz gare (the train station), which was built in 1908, during one of the German occupations. I went out walking last night, and saw a really ugly blue chandelier in the window of an antique store a block from my studio. I was trying to take a photograph of it, when I heard a piano. I looked into the store, and at the rear, saw a man playing. I didn't want him to yell at me for eavesdropping and being a peeping Tom, so I popped my camera back into my pocket, and continued strolling. Okay, I admit he played quite well, and I did linger for a few minutes to listen, with camera in pocket!
As I came up to the train station, I noticed just how intensely, deeply blue and cloudy the sky was, and how beautiful the train station looked against such a dramatic backdrop! I was happy to have my camera with me ... and frustrated at not having either a tripod, or the skill to properly expose the photo. I propped my arms up on a low wall, fiddled with the settings to try and get a longer exposure time for better color saturation (which may or may not be the case with digital photography), and held as still as possible, but I have not really done this scene justice.
You can view more photos from yesterday in my picasa album...


I was excited and a little scared, as I hugged my sister in her room at the Marriott Rive Gauche in Paris. She is a flight attendant, and had been kind enough to allow me to fly from the US on one of her passes. Since she was flying the Paris trips that month, I flew from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to hers near Miami, spent the weekend with her, and then was a passenger on her flight into Paris. I spent the night in her room at the Marriott, and left the hotel in plenty of time to make my 8:40 train.

The morning was overcast, with a bit of a chill in the air. As I walked out to the taxi stand, I wondered how much colder it would be in Metz, since it was a little farther north, and regretted not packing more warm clothing.

The TGV ride was quiet and uneventful. The train pulled into Metz, and I moved to the baggage rack to wrestle my two huge bags down. As I waited for the other passengers to file out, a man passing by helped me pull my bags down, then let me go in front of him. I rolled my bags all the way to the door, and then blocked everyone as I tried to lift my bags down to the platform! I was panicking, because no one could move while I was in the way, and then, the same man carried them down for me. He asked where I was going, walked me out of the station to the taxi stand, told the driver where to take me, then walked off into the sunrise, my knight in
slacks and sweater. All I know is that he is a TGV engineer, medium height, medium build, brown hair, which describes most of the men getting off the train Wednesday morning, the 9th of April 2009. But if he somehow ever reads this, I am forever grateful for his kindness.

The Hotel du Centre is a moderately priced hotel in the middle of town. The rooms have names, rather than numbers, are small, but clean and neat, and for an extra 7 € per day, they serve a breakfast of coffee, juice and an assortment of breads. I checked into the hotel, picked up a visitor map, and made my way out to buy a phone and find housing advertisements.
My tiny studio by Metz Gare
Two days later, I signed a 4 month lease on a tiny studio near the train station, just in time for Easter weekend. I chose the wrong weekend to move into an apartment in France! Both Friday and Monday were holidays, and in France, businesses actually close on Sundays and holidays! And since it was a long weekend, many places were closed Saturday as well. However, the landlord, Rosalie, seemed to sense my rush in wanting to move into a place as quickly as possible, and without asking for credit information or even having security deposit in hand, she handed me the keys to the studio. She did not, however, prorate the rent for the first third of the month I wasn't in the studio, but I can forgive that.

I stayed in the hotel two more days, while I cleaned the apartment, bought housewares and moved in bit by bit over the weekend. I noticed, quite happily, that the last occupant actually left three rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom! In the US, you will never find any toilet paper when you first move into an apartment -- Americans take their TP with them. On Monday, the 13th, I checked out of the hotel, and checked into the apartment full-time. I was on my own.


A Decision

I taught Physical Education and Fitness at the same college in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 15 years. In the past three years, I began working in finance for a start-up company. Since CFOs have not stayed on with anything resembling regularity, I work directly for the CEO, who splits time in London, Paris and San Francisco/Los Angeles. He is flexible about where I live, allowing me to work from home, wherever that may be. His only requirement is that I am within about an hour from any of his locations. Despite that, I chose to stay home in the Bay Area for two years, mainly to keep my relatively safe teaching job and because I have lived there most of my life.

Last year, I opened an office for the company in the UK, and lived there for two months. When it came time to move back home, I was both happy to be returning to my home, assortment of pets, friends and family, but I was also a bit sad. While in the UK, I found I liked being in unfamiliar surroundings, without my safety net of friends and family to fall back on. I decided to follow my CEO to Europe in the following year.

This year, I am closing the UK office, and I have just moved to Metz, in the Moselle département of the Lorraine region in Northern France. I signed a short-term lease and have not applied for a long-term visa in anticipation of having to possibly move again soon (you never know with this economy).

These entries will be my log of this journey into a country where I barely speak the language, and my two closest friends live an hour away (in opposite directions). It is my way for friends and family to check up on me at their leisure (or not!), so I don't continue to jam their inboxes with email updates. Please, consider this my internet home, a virtual version of my tiny studio in the yellow apartment building show in the photo at top. Along the way, I hope to not just keep your updated, but to also take you on a journey to Lorraine as well. I love you and miss you all, even those I have not seen in years.