Nancy

Back in March I went to North Carolina for a conference and gave a talk, and following that I got invited to talk at a conference in Nancy.  They offered to pay my expenses while I was there and provide money towards the travel (and it looks good on my CV!) so I’ve just got back.  Overall, the conference was ok, but Nancy was lovely! 

I hit the first hitch after arriving at Metz/Nancy airport.  The journey had been fine until then, but about halfway to Nancy on the airport shuttle bus we got a call to let us know that I’d left my folder with my travel documents and hotel booking behind!  So as soon as I got to Nancy it was back on the shuttle bus to return to the airport, and then off to Nancy again.  I then got a taxi to the hotel no problem, but discovered I didn’t have a room there.  This was Tuesday, and they only had me down for Wednesday through to Friday (and my flight back was on Saturday).  The Friday night was no problem, they extended my booking for the extra night, but they were fully booked for Tuesday night.  I don’t know if it was a mistake made by the hotel or the conference organisers (who handled the bookings), but I’m guessing the hotel as there were a couple of other people in the same boat as me who were nothing to do with the conference.  The receptionist was phoning round frantically as it turned out most of Nancy was booked out, and finally managed to find us rooms at what turned out to be the best hotel in Nancy!  The room was quite nice, and the location was lovely – in the city centre on Place Stanislas.  It was about 10pm when I checked in, and the last time I’d eaten was that morning before my flight left from Birmingham (I’d had a stopover in Lyon, but hadn’t been hungry then), but I discovered that the restaurant shut at 9.30pm, and there was no room service :-(  So after checking out my room I popped out to see if I could get a bite to eat and take photos of the square at night (in this one the hotel is the building on the left). 

 Place Stanislas at night

The next morning I checked out, and asked the hotel to call a taxi (as the hotel and conference I was supposed to be at was out was out in Vandoeuvre, a suburb of Nancy), only to discover there was a taxi strike!  The reception at the hotel gave me directions to the tram line, with instructions to go to the terminal and ask for directions, but on the way I passed the tourist office who were fantastically helpful and gave me full directions (including tram number, which stop to get off at, and how to find the hotel from there) so I was finally able to show up at the conference only a bit late! 

The meeting itself was a bit mixed.  There were some good talks, and I met up with several familiar faces from other meetings as well as meeting new people, but it was clearly a small conference that was just beginning to get bigger.  The biggest hurdle for me was the language barrier – I did take French at school, but as a second language after German, I haven’t had need to use it for over 10 years, and this was quite technical French!  There were speakers from all over the world, and for many of us the only common language we had was English – those not from English or French speaking countries knew little or no French but had learned English as it is the most common language for international conferences and publications.  This was fine for the actual talks as there was no problem in giving the talk in English, and question sessions were translated when necessary, but following each session of talks there was an hour long round table discussion which was held in French – meaning that for many of those who had given the talks it was pretty much impossible to take part.  On the other hand our hosts were extremely kind, sorting out any problems (like my hotel booking) quickly, and taking all the invited speakers out for meal on Wednesday followed by an evening meal at the organiser’s home on Thursday.

Nancy itself is a beautiful city.  There was some time free in the conference schedule, and as the conference finished at Friday lunchtime I had the rest of that day to explore.  The first thing I did was visit the helpful people at the tourist information office again, and they recommended I take a bus tour to see the city, which I followed up by walking to the places that I wanted a second look at.

Place Stanislas Place Stanislas Place Stanislas Gatehouse pict0184-small.jpg pict0204-small.jpg

Nancy was a major centre for the Art Nouveau movements, and a lot of the building have little flourishes on them…

Balcony Carvings

…and some trompe-l’oeil both inside and out.

pict0079-small.jpg Trompe-L'Oeil

Finally, on my way back to the hotel I cut through a park, and came across this small zoo with birds, farm animals, and deer in open enclosures.

Stag Fawn Peacock

My favourites were these small, stubby-legged goats – they looked so sweet, and reminded me of Donkey in Shrek!

Goat

I also shopped, buying macaroons, brandy made from Mirabelle plums and bergamotes (bergamot flavoured sweets) – all specialities of the area. 

Just to round the trip off I hit one last problem before I made it out of the city.  I’d booked a taxi for early Saturday morning as my shuttle bus to the airport left the station at 4.30am.  The taxi showed up on time, but the taxi driver kept trying to tell me (between his bad English, my bad French, and the helpful but not much better night receptionist) that I didn’t want to go to the station as there were no trains at this time in the morning!  I finally managed to explain that it wasn’t the trains I was interested in, but the shuttle bus (I showed him the timetable, but he couldn’t read it as he didn’t have his glasses), and we set off through the quiet streets with the driver kindly assuring me he’d bring me back to the hotel if/when the bus wasn’t there.  Happily, it was waiting at the stop when we got there, and my journey home went off without a hitch.  Phew!

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