My First Visit to Lorraine

St Remy church in Baccarat
St Remy church in Baccarat

It makes me feel old to say this, but I remember the first time I drove into France as an adult. The year was 1988, and we had  flown into Stuttgart, Germany and we crossed the border into the region of Lorraine France. At dinner one night, we got to talking  to the owner of the little cafe, as he served us some tiny fruits. “Mirabelle,” he said. “they only grow here, in Lorraine.” I have never been served this little piquant fruit again but I never forgot that Lorraine is where I first tried them.

We drove around Lorraine and there were two towns that I vividly remember. The first was Verdun, where we walked up massive steps of their World War One memorial. The name Verdun is synonymous with trench warfare, mass casualties, and the use of poison gas during the terrible war. But today it’s a pretty town to visit and a highlight of the region of Lorraine. Nearby is Baccarat where there was once a hospital built to treat those gas victims.

The other city in Lorraine we visited back in the late ’80s was Baccarat. When I first arrived in the town I only associated it with the name of a game that my grandfather used to play sometimes. Visiting it I was surprised to know that the city has basically nothing to do with the game of baccarat itself but it offers history and some interesting attractions.

Sadly, though the small town is home to the maker of the famous crystal, the population has been declining and now stands about 2000 fewer residents than in 1962. When we were there, in early summer, the town’s famous flowers were in bloom making for a lovely town center. The town has been awarded three flowers by the National Council on Towns and Villages in Bloom, a noted distinction.

The town’s Musee du Cristal shows off Baccarat’s famous heritage, with four rooms full of jewelry, tableware, lighting, decorations all glittering crystal. It’s not a big impressive museum, but if you like the sparkle of crystal you’ll be in heaven. The museum is located at 20 rue de Cristalleries 54120 Baccarat. Tel : 03 83 76 61 37. Admission is 2.50 euros.

The other top attraction in Baccarat is the church of St Remy built in the 1950s. The church is located on the site of an ancient church that sadly was blown up in 1944 during the war Though the outside may look like a futuristic aircraft carrier with its soaring modern spire, there is pretty Baccarat stained glass inside that’s definitely worth a look. .