When we moved to Thionville last September to be closer to our jobs Luxembourg, I was excited about getting more sleep and spending more time together in the evenings. That was about it. Metz was already super small by my East Coast American urban sprawl standards, and to go somewhere even smaller seemed like we were just asking for boredom. We’re not the kind of couple that goes out every night or are regulars at the bar down the street, but since we never really had the option, who’s to say we aren’t? And what’s the point of getting home early if there is nothing to do once we’re there??
So, in an effort to be fair to my new town, I started writing down the things I like about it. Plus my parents are here this week visiting and I was trying to think of things to do here. I wanted to find 10, since “Ten things I like about Thionville” seemed like a pretty nice title. But 8 will have to do, because if after almost a year here I didn’t find 10, I never will . . .
I also wanted it to be things about the town itself, not stuff we could have gotten elsewhere like the shorter commute or a bigger apartment. Eight (or a hundred) things I don’t like is easy, but actively trying to see the positive in what was emotionally a very hard move was a good exercise in optimism for me. I think everyone, expat or not, can always see the bad things first about living somewhere when it wasn’t your first choice.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1) There is a very yummy Italian-style ice cream place. They let you pick an unlimited number of flavors and then turn it into a pretty flower design. Their hot chocolate is pretty good too.
2) You can get to the (surprisingly nice) mall and big-box store area on a bus. A big drawback in Metz was that to do any serious shopping, you needed a car. Though there are less buses here in general, there are two or three that can get you there from the center of town. Since we’ll probably go back to just one car in a few months, this is something I really really like.
3) There’s no cathedral, but the architecture and urbanism is still pretty cool. It’s the same late 19th/early 20th century German influence that you see in parts of Metz: revival style buildings (renaissance and baroque), pink sandstone, big boulevards on angles with fountains at the end. Since it’s on a smaller scale, I notice it and appreciate it more.
4) There’s a Chinese takeout catering place where you pick and choose what you want. Early in my pregnancy I would stop there on the way home to get just one egg roll and three pounds of noodles and the guy acted like that was totally normal.
5) During the summer, the river quays are filled with chairs and tables and stands are set up to sell food and drinks. I like this much better than the tons of sand and big pool they put up around the plan d’eau in Metz. It’s only hot enough here for about three days every summer to use an outdoor pool, and it’s always crowded. Plus, I’m more of a river person than a lake person, and there is nothing more enjoyable than sipping a cool drink on a warm summer evening watching the boats and swans go by.
6) I’ve only ever spent a maximum of 30 minutes at the sous-préfecture here, compared to hours upon hours at the préfecture in Metz. This should maybe count as something that we could have found elsewhere, but the people I’ve dealt with have been pretty nice, so there are definitely points scored for having nicer than expected fonctionnaires.
7) Free trash bags. I don’t know if other towns do this (Metz certainly didn’t when we lived there), but when we went to go get our recycling bags when we first moved in, they also gave us trash bags. I realize this probably only saves us about 10€ a year, but hey, free stuff that you actually use is always cool.
8) The statue of a wild boar in one of the parks. I don’t think I need to explain this one.