I awoke on the 25th April very well rested in my most beautiful studio flat so first let me tell you about this outstanding accommodation and it’s slightly unusual name.
I had only booked the Studette du Graoully through a website the day previous to my arrival and through a series of emails I knew that I would not be able to gain entrance to the premises until about 1600 the afternoon I got there but that was not a problem as I described in the previous instalment.
I found the house with no difficulty and it appeared to be a sizeable home which was indeed the case. I was greeted by the lady of the house who was absolutely charming although spoke just about no English but we managed to get by as my French was coming back a little bit. We then started to climb, and climb. As the images suggest it was what we in Northern Ireland might have called a garret (attic room) and the house is already three storeys high so you are on the fourth level which may prove difficult if you have heavy luggage and makes it a complete non-starter for the mobility impaired regrettably.
When the lady showed me into the room I was thrilled as it was like the flat (apartment) I always wished I had, it was wonderful. Admittedly it was a studio i.e. no bedroom and you sleep on a pull out bed which turned out to be extremely comfortable. Everything was just perfect and it was so well equipped it was a joy to stay in. Whilst the weather still wasn’t exactly balmy the studio was perfectly warm at night. I was so happy there and in the city itself that I tried to arrange another couple of nights but unfortunately there was another guest arriving.
In April 2017 I was paying about €40 a night which is obviously a bit more than I would pay in a hostel and about the same as a basic hotel but that is a room rate so two sharing would make it outstanding value for what is offered. This place really is a steal. So what of the odd name?
As mentioned the flat was called the Studette du Graoully and the equally charming little bridge in the image above is called the Passerelle de Graoully which crosses what I now know to be the Seille River. I never paid much attention to that at the time until I came to write up this entry but I just had to find out who or what Graoully was so I looked it up. I swear my inquisitiveness will be the end of me but it is amazing what you can learn whilst writing travel blog entries.
Legend has it that a dragon known locally as the Graoully was holed up in the remains of the Roman amphitheatre along with all the snakes in the area and they were making a nuisance of themselves as dragons and snakes tend to do. The amphitheatre no longer exists and was last excavated in 1902 – 03 during the building of the railway freight yard although in it’s day it was one of the ten largest Roman amphitheatres anywhere and was estimated to have seated up to 25,000.
St. Peter allegedly dispatched St. Clement here as the first Bishop whereupon he converted everyone except the King to Christianity. In return he drove all the snakes a la St. Patrick into the nearby Seille river which is the lovely watercourse you can see in another of the images this journal entry. With the snakes gone, he set about banishing the Graoully to some far-flung place but he wasn’t done yet. The King’s daughter took ill and died whereupon he did no more than resurrect her and the King naturally converted thereby giving Clement the entire populace. Some story certainly but he is now understandably the patron saint of the city and to this day the local football (soccer) team have a dragon’s head on the club badge.
So now you know and back to the day’s activities.
I turned the TV on and tried to make sense of the French news channel which seemed to be dominated by the impending Presidential election which was being contested by a chap called Macron (who I had never heard of) and Marine le Pen, daughter of a very famous right-wing politician of years past. I even mastered the intricacies of the very fancy coffee machine which produced a great result but rather surprised me as all these modern gadgets are something of a mystery to an old technophobe like myself.
Duly fortified by the good old coffee bean it was time to head off and see if Metz was actually open on a Tuesday and fortunately it was. This was just as well as the laundry situation had become somewhat critical by now. A quick check on the internet showed that it was a fair distance to the nearest lavarie (laundrette / laundromat) so it was basically hump the suitcase back down four floors and drag it gingerly along up to the St. Pierre district.
I say I was dragging it gingerly as you definitely get what you pay for. In my opening post on this journal I was boasting about what a bargain I had had in buying my new cabin compliant suitcase. Well, a few days previously the extendable handle had detached itself on one side which meant that the handle was only attached to the suitcase by one extension rather than two. I did rather consider this in light of the recent “death” of my old walking boots as described in a previous entry. I had paid quite a lot of money for those and they had lasted me 24 years. This Dunlop suitcase which I had thought such a bargain had lasted me less than 24 days! However, in fairness, with gentle handling it survived the entire trip and at time of writing in July 2018 it is still just about going.
I had seen that the lavarie closed for quite an extended lunch period so I scoped a local bar, “Le Crocodile”, and waited for the afternoon re-opening.
I went in and found a very attractive bar which looked a bit posher than I normally go for. Remember that I was dressed in what there was of my “wardrobe” that was not awaiting a wash and in the small case you can just see propped up against the bar in one of the images. I appeared a little “windswept and interesting”, shall we say and half expected to be shown the door but not a bit of it. I was greeted by a very friendly lady and had my beer presented in short order which was well-kept and served. We had a bit of a conversation as she wasn’t at all busy which surprised me slightly as I thought everything stopped for lunch in France. The laundrette certainly had.
During the conversation I explained my situation which seemed to surprise her a little as I suspect they don’t get many travellers in these parts so when the appointed hour came I bid her farewell and took off wheeling my entire worldly goods and possessions with me. I got to the laundrette to find out that it was not self-service as we have usually in UK and so I had to negotiate a rather expensive service wash, was told to leave my case there as it would be OK and told to come back at 1600. Well, I wasn’t going to sit in the laundry so that gave me two hours and what to do with it? I didn’t fancy wandering and potentially getting lost so the answer was obvious and I marched straight back to the Crocodile. The lady looked slightly surprised to see me, especially minus the baggage so I explained all and ordered another beer.
When came the time for a cigarette, I went out to the enclosed al fresco area at the side and discovered arguably the most attractive feature of the establishment as it was delightful. Obviously well looked after and with some lovely trees in full blossom it was charming although don’t ask me what the trees were as I don’t know a chestnut from a chess set. It was too chilly to sit out but it must be blissful on a warm summer day.
One beer followed another, the lady was replaced by a barman who was equally pleasant and the time passed quickly enough until it was time to go and pick up my now less “ripe” clothing.
The whole time I was in there I reckon about five or six people came in, all in pairs and all for coffee, it really was quiet and if I have a fault with the Crocodile it is that it lacks a bit of atmosphere purely due to being empty. Everything about it is perfectly comfortable but it just seems a little soulless somehow. Perhaps it gets better at night, I don’t know as I had to get the laundry home!
When the magic hour arrived I trundled the remains of the suitcase back to the lavarie and enquired of the lady there about using the machines. I thought it would be tokens and DIY but no, she just told me to throw my stuff in the machine indicated and leave my suitcase and she would take care of it. She told me to come back at a certain time (I forget exactly when) and all would be sorted. Nothing for it then but to go back to the bar where a most pleasant afternoon was had. I duly collected the laundry which left me good to go for another while and made my way back to the Delanta restaurant as I had promised the lady there I would come back this evening for a meal.
As it had been the previous night, the restaurant was completely empty although my new friend’s son did appear later on. I was given the menu which is not extensive (French only) but I had another plan and I asked if it would be possible for her to prepare me something, whether on the menu or not, that she would eat at home. I suppose that could have gone horribly wrong and I would have been served a pizza but she got the idea! She actually looked delighted to be given the opportunity and took off to the kitchen where I could hear plenty of prepping going on so I knew it was all going to be done from scratch.
On one of her excursions back to the bar to replenish my beer she insisted that I had to have a Picon beer as an aperitif. A Picon? What kind of beer is that? I naturally agreed and was a little surprised at what she prepared. I had been drinking my beer from the bottle as I tend to do but she insisted on pouring this one. I was really intrigued now as the concept of beer as an aperitif was totally alien to me. The bottle you can see in one of the images was produced and a shot of it put in the beer. A quick sniff definitely indicated oranges which is not so surprising as some of the beers in the Low Countries are served with an orange as garnish and subsequent research has taught me that it is a liqueur made of bitter orange with a few aromatics for good measure (pun absolutely intended). The result was unusual but very tasty.
I had no idea what I was going to be served but I had told her that spicy was OK and to make it exactly as it should be. I had mentioned this as the menu offers the option of how spicy you like your food, presumably to cater for less adventurous palates. Naturally, this took a little while but I was settled for the evening and a few beers and a semi-shouted conversation between bar and kitchen passed the time very pleasantly. Eventually, dinner was served and what a dinner.
I mentioned that I had eaten Ethiopian / Eritrean food before so I know what the drill was going to be. Small portions of the curry / curries and all the veg and accompaniments are placed on a sourdough flatbread called an injera. This is properly made from a specific kind of flour called teff which, for various reasons mostly EU bureaucracy, is apparently difficult to obtain in the EU so substitutes are often used. The injera is effectively an edible plate although proper plates are used here as well. In my case I don’t know how many she thought she was feeding as she produced a large basket full. Although cutlery is provided here for Europeans the trick is to tear off the bread and eat with your hand, much like the chapati in Southern Asian cuisine. Here is a tip if the reader has never tried this before and that is not to totally gorge yourself on the breads which were so warm and delicious it was difficult to refrain from eating the lot. Save just a bit of room for the “plate” injera which will have soaked up all the flavours from the food and is easily the best part of the meal.
Despite the lady very helpfully describing to me in detail exactly what the meal was I am completely stumped if I can remember it all now so I shall let the the image do the talking. I remember that it was quite spicy as I had requested but not lunatically so and was spiced rather than merely heat which is as it should be. What I can say with absolute certainty is that it was utterly gorgeous and I did even manage to put a fair hole in the injera basket although it defeated me in the end.
By this time I was completely full and therefore declined when the charming woman offered me dessert and she equally politely asked me would I be staying for a while which threw me a bit. I can understand being thrown out of a crowded restaurant so they can turn the cover around but I was the sole patron. When I said jokingly I would be there until she threw me out she gave me another of her utterly enchanting smiles and vanished into the kitchen again. I had a half an idea what might happen next and it duly did. Some time and several beers later, when my fine meal had settled a bit the gorgeous tarte you can see pictured was produced and I was encouraged to get into it. I don’t usually eat dessert and this was extremely rich but it was very, very good and I managed a good-sized piece.
When it came time to go eventually I checked the bill and it really was not too scary at all. Even though I had ordered off menu she had charged me about a median price from the mains on the menu and had not even charged me for the specially baked dessert. I queried this and she said it was a gift. How lovely.
I regretfully left and on my slow wander home I considered yet again the “Travel Gods” as I refer to them. On the off-chance of finding a beer the night before I had discovered a superb little restaurant serving authentic tasty Ethiopian food, a new aperitif and made a new friend. I had learned so much about Ethiopian culture specifically cuisine as well as practicing my slowly improving French. Not a bad return.
A couple more beers en route and I retired to my most comfortable little flat for another night’s much appreciated sleep.
Another wander round Metz in the next edition so stay tuned and spread the word.