Last year while holidaying in London we had a week to spare and thought of France next door so convenient by Eurostar,  city centre to city centre.Very often I choose a destination by looking at a map. Due east of Paris are the areas of Champagne, Lorraine and Alsace. Champagne like headiness? Lorraine like quiche? Alsace like Alsatian? A bit of reading up and we took the Eurostar to Paris where we spent two days of museums and restaurant hopping. TGV from Paris Gare de L’Est to Nancy in Lorraine in an hour and forty minutes. Booked at Hotel Grand de la Reine on Stanislas Square through MS Travels. Less than a kilometre from the train station Stanislas Square is a stunning place,never expected something so spectacular.

Lorraine fed by the rivers Moselle , Muerthe and Muese is home to historic cities of Metz famous for its Cathedral, Nancy for the Nancy school of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Baccarat for crystal and the stained glass church and Verdun for the battlefields of World War I where 800,000 llost their lives between 1916-17. Lorraine is also the birthplace of Joan d’Arc, France’s national heroine .

Lorraine, a dukedom from medieval times  was given to the deposed king of Poland Stanislas I Leszczynski in 1738 by the treaties to end the war of Polish succession. He was also the father in law of Louis the XV of France and ruled as the Duke of Lorraine with his capital at Nancy. On his death in 1766 Lorraine became a part of France.

Stanislas Square is a huge cobbled pedestrian square with the Ducal palace flanked on either side by symmetrical baroque buildings for the princes and nobility. All buildings are interspersed with the most beautiful gilted wrought iron gates. Now the Ducal palace is the Town Hall and the rest museums and hotels. In the centre of the square on a high pedestal is an imposing statue of Stanislas I , Duke of Lorraine. At the far end of the square is the fabulous  Rococo fountain of Neptune and Aphrodite. Our hotel was in the palatial building next to the Ducal palace-Grand hotel still maintained in the style of the nobility.We dumped our bags and I darted around the square clicking pictures. A place picked out of an atlas to have such grandeur- a feast of decorative arts and architecture.

Adjoining Place Stanislas and through the majestic Arc de Triompe is Place de la Carriere, once a promenade and riding area flanked by four rows of Linden trees. At the end of this beautiful walk through a gilted gate over hung with lanterns is a stone archway dedicated to De Gaulle with the famous double barred cross of Lorraine which leads to the old medieval city Vielle Ville built before 14th century. Undulating with cobbled narrow streets lined with three storied houses. On the left is the 18th century Nancy Cathedrale and opposite open air cafés with a bakery serving hot fresh breads and pastries.

The evening held more surprises,lamp lit cafés spring up in front of the buildings in the square and a grand sound and light show on the life of Stanislas projected on the Ducal palace. The buildings on either side, our hotel included, beautifully illuminated . Had a very nice meal at a cafe in the square which was filled with locals and tourists.

Next morning walked south from Place Stanislas to Ville Neuve  new town 16th century!! Mathematically planned, perfect right angled roads and squares. Very nice open air cafes and restaurants and buzzing with tourists.

Afternoon taxi to the famous crystal and glass factory in Baccarat 55 kms down south. Built in 1760 by the Bishop of Metz and sanctioned by Louis XV to provide employment to the village of Baccarat. Over the next century glass making was perfected. Brilliantcrystal and coloured glass introduced, also opal glass made of glass and Agate, enraved glass,glittering crystal chandeliers, candlabras and their famous stemmed glass. Baccarat houses its prized pieces in a museum in the factory premises.Bought a couple of glasses from the factory shop,very expensive and a big heavy asymmetrical purple crystal bowl made in the village of Baccarat not the Baccarat.

Across the river Meurthe to the famous Eglise St Remy, a concrete structure. The old church got bombed in World War II and was rebuilt and decorated in 1950 by the owners of the Baccarat glass factory with 4000 panels of crystal stained glass windows. Its like no other church one has ever seen. The interior is dark andlight shines through the panels in a myraid of colours like a cubist kaliedescope. The Apostles are in modern cubist desigh and Christ with an awesome face. The bowl for holy water is of thick clear Baccarat crystal. Definately worth a visit.

Hotel very comfortable and so conveniently placed.Evening taxi to Brasserie Excelsior to dine amidst Art Deco and Art Nouveau elegance.What did I eat? Quiche Lorraine!On our return square alive and teaming with people,cafes full and at the corners shops lit up,especially the Daum Shop,with incredible works of coloured glass. There is a lively charm about Nancy.

Next morning back to Ville Vieue-old town- to walk around the cobbled streets.There is so much history here. The Ducale Palace of ancient dukes of Lorraine before 14th century is now the Museum of History. The very sombre Port de la Craffe entry to the old town 14th century with huge grey hooded turreted twin towers used mostly as prisons. A prominent double barred cross over the gateway. A Francescan monestry in gothic desigh 15th century now museum for Art & Folklore and adjascent is Chapelle Ducale,the burial place for the Dukes of Lorraine.At one street corner is a plaque of College de la Craffe – Institute Mathematique& Physique. Old town built between 14th to 16th century. Quick meal at a cafe, Ashok trying hard to go through their speciality a huge knuckle of pig. At adjoining bakery bought incredible fruit pies of local fruits and berries and merrigues. 2 pm to Strassborg in Alsace.