|All photos by the author|
Richard Nahem, an ex-New Yorker living in Paris, leads private insider tours showing visitors the Paris most of them never see on their own (www.eyepreferparistours.com), and also writes a popular insider's blog www.eyepreferparis.com.
There is a vast menu of day and overnight trips from Paris easily accessible by train, and Versailles, Fontainebleau, Giverny, and Chartres, are some of the more popular destinations.
Nancy, one-hour and forty-five minutes east of Paris by the high-speed TGV train in the Alsace-Lorraine region, is an undiscovered gem of a city not known to most tourists.
One of the big draws of Nancy is the formidable Place Stanislas, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Long considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, Place Stanislas, measures an impressive 410 ft. in width and 347 in length and was commissioned by Stanislas Leszczyński, the king of Poland (also the father-in-law to King Louis XV), who was named Duchy of Upper Lorraine after the War of the Polish Succession in 1737. It was designed by the court architect to the king, Emmanuel Héré de Corny, and was built between 1752 and 1755. The square is surrounded by the Hotel de Ville/City Hall, the Opera theatre, Museé des Beaux Art/Fine Arts Museum and an Arc de Triomphe, along with pleasant cafes and restaurants. The finest features of the square are the lavishly detailed iron gates with gold leaf.
Nancy is also known as the birthplace of the Art Nouveau movement in the early 1900s. Dozens of buildings across the city exemplify the beauty of Art Nouveau with their distinguishable details. Visit the L’ Ecole de Nancy Museum to get a glimpse of the extraordinary furniture, objets d'art, glasswork, ceramics and fabric from the period with pieces from the most recognized creators and designers of Art Nouveau including Emile Gallé, Victor Prouvé, Louis Marjorelle, Antonin Daum, Jacques Gruber and Eugene Vallin.
Last but not least for must-see things in Nancy, are the exhibitions dedicated to the architect and furniture designer Jean Prouvé, a native of Nancy. Prouvé was the foremost leader of industrial design after WWI, turning out useful and innovative furniture and homes way ahead of their time. His highly collectible furniture now commands record prices at auction and antique dealers worldwide.
At the Musée des Beaux Art/Fine Arts Museum is the permanent collection of Prouvé’s, showing the genius behind many of his finest pieces with text explaining his design theory and philosophy. Of special note is the Tropicale house, a unique pre-fab house he built in 1947, which was forgotten about for over 40 years and recently shipped back to France from the Congo in Africa to be restored and displayed in the museum.
To get a more personal view of Prouvé the man, visit the fascinating exhibit Jean Prouvé in Nancy: Building Better Days, at the Lorrain Museum, the former Ducal Palace of Nancy built in the 15th century for René II, the duke of Lorraine. The exhibit delves into Prouvé’s history and humanitarian acts, including details of his involvement in the Resistance in WWII, his appointment as Mayor of Nancy after the liberation and his deep commitment to the reconstruction of France after the war, plus designing emergency housing for displaced war refugees.
Musée de L”Ecole de Nancy
36-38 rue du Sergent-Blandan Nancy, 54000
Open Wednesday to Sunday 10AM to 6PM
Museé des Beaux Art/Fine Arts Museum
3 Place Stanislas 54000 Nancy
Open everyday 10AM to 6PM except Tuesday
Jean Prouvé in Nancy, Building Better Days
64 Grande Rue 54000 Nancy
Open 10AM to 12:30PM, 2PM to 6PM daily except Monday
Till October 28