Hi there Polkadot,
Nancy might not be the obvious choice for city tripping in France. The best sign of that would be the lack of travel guides maybe, but also when you visit REAL touristy places like Strasbourg in Elzas, you get smacked over the head with all sorts of shops selling souvenirs and such. None of that in the city of Nancy. But they are rightfully proud of their heritage.
As you probably know already, I’m deeply in love with everything Art Nouveau. I don’t know exactly what it is that draws me to it, but I love almost everything about it. So, one time in life I questioned what brings me true joy in life. Art and beauty came to mind, as did nature. When you combine those things together you automatically come to the Art Nouveau conclusion… That’s what I like to think anyway.
So I got reacquainted with my dream to visit all the Art Nouveau cities in the world. Like it is mostly the case with art movements, you need likeminded artists to start this kind of motion. Several cities in the world harbored such movements, with artists and thinkers flocking together to feed this need for change and beauty. Being Belgian, this discovery for me started in Brussels, with yet heaps of beautiful buildings and interiors yet to discover! Also Antwerp with Zurenborg is worth mentioning. But THE city in France is Nancy… With the Ecole de Nancy harboring the artists and craftsmen to produce this wonderfully light version of the movement.
You can get a free map with several Art Nouveau walks at the tourists office. We tried to cover as much as we could. But we didn’t manage to see everything!
The stop you simply have to make, is the Musee de l’Ecole de Nancy. Really.
It was wonderful to see so many complete rooms, as they were intended. We simply don’t have anything that compares to this in Belgium. We visited Weimar two summers ago, and even Henri Van De Veldes home, Hohe Papeln, isn’t this complete and authentic. It is however interesting to discover the local accents to the movement in every location. Because Art Nouveau/Jugendstill/Scession/Liberty is different in every setting. Always playing with the local talents, native crafts ect. For Nancy the crafts are amazing: woodwork, glasswork, ceramics. They are so much more present then in any other AN location we visited. They were the prima donna of every Nancy creation.
We went to see Villa Majorelle on our last day in France. I had lived up to this moment literally for several years. And… after seeing the museum I was a bit disappointed.
- Of course, just as it is the case with many houses in Brussels, time has took it’s toll. For many years there was an administration occupying the building. So there were several adjustments made, messing up the original foor plan and the interior of the Villa. But still if you present this house as the cherry on top, you should at least have some hint of it’s old splendor. Our guide shared with us that one of het bedroom that is currently on show in the Musee will be moved to it’s original setting in the Villa soon. That should make up for my point of criticism.
- Second cause of disappointment the setting of the villa. The growth of the town of Nancy and Majorelles son living in Marrakesh being the root of the change. There were the Villa had a lush surrounding of nature when it was constructed, making it the center of the scenery… It has hardly room to breath let alone shine it’s light in it’s current state. That is a pity, but luckily there are many pictures inside to give the impression it used to make.
I was really taken by the stained glass windows. From the outside they appear to be in cold colors, from the inside quite the opposite! Jacques Grüber is the artist who created most of these beautiful creations around Nancy. They are to be found all over. I read you can do a special walk focussing on only his creations around the town.
The most magnificent feature of the Villa Majorelle in my honest opinion is the former studio of Louis Majorelle. It has the big iconic rounded window. Man, the lighting in that room wat too die for! So amazing, you couldn’t help but fantasize about the beautiful garden spreading out underneath it: inspiring the artwork of the master. Nowadays it is a archive and meeting room, so no magic atmosphere there.
Another thing that is a must do in Nancy, is the Excelsior. Not only for the interior, but also for the super friendly staff. I’ve been to Vagenende in Paris too. Also a little hint of Art Nouveau there, but the staff there is very Parisien, if you know what I mean. So the Excelsior was a breath of fresh air. Everybody there was really kind, and it was sincere, not just because it was their job. They are proud of their ‘old lady’ and they are very keen to share the history of this monument of more then a century in Nancy. And the food was absolutely YUM too! Classic Brasserie cuisine.
I loved it, truly and really to the very core of my fibers 🙂 I hope you give Nancy a try next time you want to make a short trip to France.