The 27th of April came and it came in lovely style as one of the images here (a view from my bedroom window) attests but it wasn’t to last as the weather quickly degenerated into the dismal drizzly rain that I have become so accustomed to on this trip. I was talking to a French guy a little later on my rambles and he told me that April and May were the worst months to visit France in respect of the weather. Trust me to pick them! He reckoned that, whilst it was cold, February or March were better as it did not rain so much.
By the time I got myself together and out the door, the weather was already closing in and so it appeared that it was a day for bar-hopping, not that I need any excuse to do that. I had probably got no more than about three hundred yards before the rain came on quite heavily. As I had no wet weather gear it was a case of any port in a storm and appropriately enough the port was Cafe Les Docks which was the first bar I saw.
I should say that Les Docks is not a place I would probably normally have chosen as it was on a fairly main drag and looked ever so slightly “posh” to me whereas I tend to prefer little back street “hovels” (I do not use the word at all pejoratively) which seem to be more my style. Still, it was that or getting soaked as it had just erupted pretty hard so any port in a storm as I say.
Dripping just a little I went into exactly what I would have expected in that area and with that external appearance. It was a modern city-centre bar with decor to match, the obligatory large screen TV’s and so on. Certainly it was spotlessly clean so no problem with that. When I had to use the “facilities” they were equally modern and spotless and so, again, no complaints.
It was fairly quiet when I visited and I was promptly served with a large beer by a charming young lady, some generic brew which was probably Heineken as it is massive in these parts, which was well-kept and served.
I should offer a word of explanation here. People may ask that if I could not even remember six months later whilst originally writing this what beer I was drinking, then how can I say it was good? A very reasonable question. The answer is that if it had not been good I would remember and I work on the principle that a beer was well done unless I have a recollection to the contrary. I always remember a bad beer!
Eventually the time came where my nicotine levels were approaching the critical and I had to venture into the street for a smoke. Fortunately there was a decent sized awning there covering several al fresco tables. Given the location I would suggest that this would be a superb place for people watching on a decent day. Thankfully, the weather seemed to be clearing a bit and so I returned to the bar, finished my beer and headed on a bit further.
After my enforced sojourn due to the somewhat inclement weather (where was the Spring?) I was heading along the Rue St. Georges when I had to cross a side street. Yes, I remembered my childhood training of “Look left, look right and look left again” (obviously reversed in Europe where they drive on the wrong side of the road, and I do say that tongue in cheek before anyone starts a war) but then I looked down and was a little surprised by what I saw. Difficult to describe and so I hope the sole image attached here assists but it was a functional pedestrian crossing which looked just a little bit arty. Well, completely arty, truth be told. I did make enquiries later and it is not just a random piece of art, it is a legally binding road marking, at least insofar as any road marking is legally binding in France.
I have to say that I was a touch surprised and treated it as I do any French PedX (i.e. that it does not exist) as the Federal States of E aka the EU have micro-managed everything to such a degree I could not see how this would be allowed but apparently it was. Yet again, I always find myself learning whilst writing for this site and my latest small discovery is that Nancy is designated as a “Ville d’art et d’histoire” (Town of art and history) and it certainly struck me thus when I was there, I did rather like it.
I fully appreciate that this is a lengthy piece about a single PedX (I did find others around the city in many different styles and all equally non-conformist) but I offer it merely as an example of the strange little things the traveller may come across on a visit to this most artistic of cities. It really does pay to keep your eyes open here, you will find all sorts of quirky little things.
Keep on keeping on as they say and the next place of note I saw was the Batteurs d’Or. Now I am a complete Philistine when it comes to matters artistic and really don’t know a Cubist from a cue ball but the one artistic style I vaguely recognise is the one known as Art Deco which was popularised in the 1920’s and 1930’s and I absolutely love it. It was a joy to me therefore when I stumbled upon this bar in the early afternoon.
Having already had one soaking from a weather system that seemed intent on drenching me with minimum warning I was keeping a weather eye and spotting the clouds darkening and the wind getting up I knew it was time to get inside and rapidly. Once bitten, twice shy as the great Ian Hunter once famously sang and I had just about dried out from the last meteorological episode and so I moved myself fairly sharply into the bar, the name of which, if my appalling French does not desert me, means the Gold Beaters.
It would be no exaggeration to say that my jaw dropped as soon as I stepped in the door as this was Art Deco central, it was unbelievable. I cannot ascertain whether the bar is original or a carefully worked piece of more recent interior decoration but either way it is stunning. Certainly the exterior of the building would suggest it is old enough for this to be the original design. After a moment to re-locate my jaw to it’s normal position I approached the bar as I still had some sense of priorities. The place was fairly quiet after lunch so service was quick and friendly with a well-kept beer quickly produced. I mention the lunch service as les Batteurs is very much food orientated, indeed I would suggest it is more restaurant than bar but in France the demarcation seems to be much more blurred than it is at home.
When the time came for me to take myself outside for a cigarette I took a moment to check out the very pleasant al fresco dining area although it really was not the weather for that sort of thing but I would suggest that on a decent day it would have made a great place for people watching, situated as it is on a busy city centre street.
There is little more to tell about this bar as I just sat and drank in every detail of the superb decor not to mention every drop of the several excellent beers I had. Well, I couldn’t leave that place after just one, could I? On a more prosaic note, when I had occasion to use the “facilities” they were as spotless and gleaming as the bar itself.
If you are in central Nancy then you really should make a point of dropping into this wonderful bar.
I spent a wonderful couple of hours in Les Batteurs before dragging myself away for another stroll around and, wouldn’t you know it, I found myself back in the excellent L’Ambassy bar I mentioned in the last instalment so that was another chink of time spent. I wasn’t worried as I had my bearings worked out. I usually manage that fairly quickly.
My next “find” in Nancy on this first full day there was to be an absolute beauty, not only because it was a great little bar with well-served beer, friendly staff and equally friendly customers plus all the modern appurtenances one would require of such places but because it just had that certain something. I am almost afraid to say “je ne sais quoi” but the French express it so much better than we do in English. There you go, I have probably just reviewed the Milton in about one tenth of the words I would normally use but obviously I am going to expand on that now. Sorry, folks.
The Milton, as most places I visit, was picked purely at random and from a street with many other cafes / bars / restaurants on offer. It was the Fergy “nose” coming into play again and as usual it did not fail me as this is indeed a great little place.
In times when I was happily writing for the great Virtual Tourist website I would always establish what I would semi-jokingly refer to as VTHQ if I was to be a few days in a particular location although now I suppose I must call it FRHQ as I am writing for my own site now. Basically, the requirements are pretty straightforward. My HQ requires a power point to keep my laptop charged as I use it a lot, an internet connection as decent as local conditions allow but first and foremost it must be a bar I would want to drink in even without the technological aspect. This establishment scores highly in every department.
The Milton enjoys a central location which was fortunately not too far from my hotel, it is very clean and tidy with friendly staff, most of whom I got to know. It has umpteen power points and super fast wi-fi which reflects the modern appearance (I suspect it had been recently refurbished) which suits the tech reliant clientele who are in the main young and disturbingly trendy, it really is a hip sort of place. I was a little put off the first time I went in as I am a scruffy sort of brute and I thought it was just not my type of place but the friendliness of the staff and indeed several patrons I chatted to subsequently quickly made me feel right at home. Apparently, I can mix it with the hipsters even with my appalling French and even worse wardrobe.
A few more beers and so to bed.
Again, I return to an earlier theme here in that some people would say that this was a wasted day and why did I not visit two museums, an art gallery, two churches and a prehistoric archaeological site? Sorry, folks, but I don’t work like that. Certainly, I Iike all the afore-mentioned attractions but my primary reason for travelling is interacting with people and I spent a very decent day in a few different bars chatting to some interesting locals. I got a bit of this journal somewhere less than a month behind (I really was slipping by this point) and just generally immersing myself in ordinary French life.
Yet again I slightly astounded myself by conversing in French the whole time. I doubt I spoke a word of English the whole day. It was actually quite satisfying when I paused to consider it. By now I had even got to the point of making (very poor) jokes in French. This is not surprising as my jokes are pretty weak in English anyway.
Another day in this most pleasant of cities and more to come in the next instalment so stay tuned. and spread the word.