The weekend of July 12th we made a little trip to Nancy, France and stayed for 2 nights.  I had been wanting to go there for quite some time because we’ve passed signs for it numerous times on other trips over the past couple of years.  The reason it caught my eye is because when we were first married, we had an awesome pet goldfish named Nancy. Why was she so awesome, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.  We had her in a little bowl on an end table next to the couch.  Whenever I was sitting on the couch I’d hear these odd little noises but could never quite figure out where they were coming from.  One day I finally realized that it was Nancy the Fish.  She was swimming around the top of the bowl and blowing bubbles.  After a while there would be this ring of tiny bubbles (hey, that sounds like it should be a song!) in the bowl and then Nancy would go around and pop the bubbles with her little fish nose.  Yes, really.  I’ve never known another pet fish who did tricks like that, have you?  Oh, and why was she named Nancy, you ask?  Because, of course, we originally we had two goldfish and they were named Sid and Nancy.  Unlike the real-life Sid and Nancy, though, in the case of our goldfish Sid died first.  But back to Nancy, the town in France.

We arrived at the hotel at around 9:30 pm on Friday night, having started the trip after my work day ended and I finished packing.  We hadn’t planned to leave the hotel that night, but the receptionist mentioned that there was a great light show at Place Stanislas, the main square in Nancy, starting at 10:45 pm.  She said it was one of the best in Europe so we figured what the heck and walked into town. She completely undersold this show.  It was un-freakin’-believable.  One of the best man-made shows I’ve ever seen, hands down.  And I don’t mean one of the best light shows – I mean one of the best any kind of show.  It was that good.  But I’ll tell you more about that later.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel, we headed back to Place Stanislas where the Tourist Information (TI) office is located.

On the way, we passed this white house.  I think these teensy houses sandwiched between two bigger houses are just so cool and always wonder what they look like inside.

When we got to the TI office, we rented audio guides to help us with our touring.  The office is located in this building, which is the Hôtel de Ville – the French term for City Hall.  It was built starting in 1752.  Remember this building because it will come up again later. 

The statue you see in front of the city hall is Stanislas himself.  Stanislaw Leszczyński was a former Polish king and the father-in-law of the French king Louis XV. The square has been named after him since 1831 and the name Stanislas is just the French version of Stanislaw.  At one time, Nancy was the capital of the Duchy of Upper Lorraine and the Duchy had been given to Stanislaw. 

There are two beautiful fountains in two different corners of Place Stanislas.  By the way, one of the meanings of the French word “place” is “square”, and as I mentioned earlier, Place Stanislas is the main square in Nancy.  This first fountain is either Neptune’s Fountain or Poseidon’s Fountain.  I’ve seen it referenced as both, but I tend to think it’s Poseidon’s Fountain and you’ll see why in a minute.

The other fountain is the Fountain of Amphitrite.  In Greek mythology, Amphitrite was the wife of Poseidon so now you understand why I think the fountain you just saw is Poseidon’s Fountain.

You may have noticed the ornate wrought-iron gates around these fountains.  They were designed by Jean Lamour.  He was from Nancy and served as a blacksmith and locksmith to Stanislaw, mentioned above.  We saw several of Lamour’s works around town.  Here is one more example, seen in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation de Nancy (otherwise known as plain ol’ Nancy Cathedral).

As we turned away from Place Stanislas to follow the audio guide directions, we saw this arc de triomphe (triumphal arch).  It is not to be confused with THE Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which is actually called Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile.  This one in Nancy is called Arc Héré, after the architect who designed it. It was built from 1753 to 1755.  The left side of the arch represents peace, the right side represents war and the central part is dedicated to Louis XV. 

Continuing through the arch, the audio guide led us to the Ducal Palace.  It was built in the 15th century and housed various Dukes of Lorraine, but much of it was torn down a couple hundred years ago.  This photo shows a gate that is one of the few remaining original parts of the palace.  The horse statue you see above the arch is a copy though.

I don’t think we will ever get tired of seeing beer advertisements showing a little boy quaffing a brew, something you would never see in the United States.

Fischer beer has been brewed in France since 1821 and is now owned by Heineken, a Dutch brewery.

When you think about France, do you ever just picture someone walking jauntily down the street carrying the loaf of bread they’ve just purchased at their local boulangerie (bakery)?  No?  Well maybe it’s just me.  But it’s not a stereotype.  Walk down any street in France and you are likely to see a scene similar to this one.

The next stop on our tour was the Porte de la Craffe.  This is the only section remaining of Nancy’s medieval walls.  It was originally built in the 14th century but the two towers (hey, that sounds like it should be the name of a book!) were added later.  One of the former uses of this gate was a prison.

Whenever we’re in France, Sean comments that he sometimes likes it better than Germany because of buildings like this.  Although this one is in pretty good shape, he likes seeing old stone buildings similar to this that are cracked and crumbling with shutters that are peeling and sagging.  He thinks they have character and that they are just the polar opposite of the fairytaleness (I’m pretty sure that’s a real word) you see in a lot of German towns.  I can definitely appreciate both.

One of the things I like checking out around Europe is the assortment of door handles and shutter holders that you see.

We continued our walk to the Basilica St. Epvre.  The present church was rebuilt starting in 1864.

I was a little nervous when we walked into the church after seeing this sign.   Nobody kicked me out, though, so I guess my attire was ok.

If you read my previous post on Delft, you know my feelings on modern stained glass.  This next photo shows why I prefer old/traditional stained glass.  I know it doesn’t really look like it in the photo, but in person that fur collar looked almost real.  No explanatory signs needed for good old-fashioned glass.

These rosette stained glass panels you see in churches are always beautiful.

Hopefully this isn’t overkill.  Just one more stained glass photo.  This is so much better than that new-fangled stuff.  Wow, I sound really old, don’t I?

This is the government palace, built in 1751 by the same guy who built the arc de triomphe you saw earlier.

As we were hanging around the government palace complex taking some photos, this very tall and very good-looking man walked up to us and said in a French accent “Excuse me, you are speaking English?”  I was totally reminded of that line from the movie Along Came Polly where Hank Azaria’s character says “Are you guys for scuba?”  Anyway, I said yes thinking maybe he was a tourist also and was going to ask directions.  But no, turns out he had grown up in Nancy and was back visiting and he wanted to show us a side street that he thought was very nice.  He was trying to describe the street to us and finally just said “Come” and gestured for us to follow him.  We obviously made a snap judgment that he was not an axe-murderer and followed him.  What he told us was that the houses on the right used to belong to very rich people.  The garages on the left used to be horse stables.  I got the impression he wanted to practice his English and it was very sweet. So, here is the street.  I took the photo higher up to avoid capturing all the parked cars along the street.  Instead you can see the rickety iron walkways.

Here we are at Place de la Carriere.  Do those gates look familiar?  This path leads to the government palace complex, and behind me while I’m taking the photo is the arc de triomphe again.  You can’t see it in this photo, but the houses on either side of this path are identical to each other.

Even the lampposts were designed by Jean Lamour.

Going to our next stop on the tour we ran across these odd-looking door bells.  There were 4 offices or whatever in this building so you would just pick the appropriate one and pull the hook to ring the bell.

Here you see the Place D’Alliance.  This baroque fountain symbolizes the alliance between France and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, hence the name of the square.

That was pretty much the end of the tour and we headed back to the TI office to return our audio guide units.  As I mentioned in my Delft post, we like to try to get photos of local kitties wherever we go.  We unfortunately didn’t see any in Nancy, but in a pinch a pup will do.  His/her pose didn’t look very comfortable but s/he seemed happy enough.

After the tour we went and had a late lunch/early dinner and then chilled at the hotel for a bit.  We went out later that night to watch the light show at Place Stanislas again.  I know I said this already, but it was that good.  We went a little early so we could get a front-row table at one of the restaurants on the square and have a drink while watching the show.  Remember the city hall building I asked you to remember earlier?  Here it is illuminated before the light show.

One of the drinks I elected to have was a Grey Goose Cosmo.  Notice the Grey Goose name etched on the bottom of the glass and also the actual gray goose holding the sour apple slices in place in the drink.  Fancy Schmancy.  I guess that and location, location, location is why I had to pay 10 Euro – the equivalent of about $13 at today’s rates – for the pleasure of this one beverage.

In the hotel room before we went back out, Sean had mentioned that it was National French Fry day.  At least in the United States it was.  The French don’t actually call them French Fries.  While I was fact-checking his statement (not that I didn’t believe him), I came across something saying it was also Grand Marnier Day.  As I didn’t have any French Fries over the weekend, I had a Grand Marnier instead as it was created in France in 1880.  (Forgive the blurriness in the photo.  It’s obviously an action shot of me raising the glass to my lips.)

I later read that Grand Marnier Day was actually on the following day but oh well, close enough.

The photos I took of the light show don’t do it justice so I’ll just post this one photo.  What you’re seeing is the city hall building again.  Even the videos I found on YouTube don’t do it justice.  This video is one of the better ones. I was taken by David Vinot in 2023, so it is a more modern version of what we had seen.

That was pretty much the end of our trip to Nancy.  On the way home the next morning, we made a little detour and visited a World War I monument and cemetery but I thought they deserved their own post.  That will be coming later.

One final note to end this post:  The day we left France happened to be Bastille Day.  I first heard this awesome song by Rush about 35 years ago and you should listen to it as well.  We didn’t get to see any Bastille Day celebrations while in Nancy but I understand they have a parade and everything in Paris every year, so we’ll have to think about going there one of these years on July 14th.

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