Paris Below: Journey to the Source: Crystal in Nancy

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF YOU like things to be made clear, make a detour to Nancy next time you're in France. This sophisticated town in the Lorraine, eastern France is not only famous for the opulent Art Nouveau collection that poses in the Musee de L'Ecole, nor for the savoury tart named after the region. It is also the twinkling home of fine crystal and glassware, most notably that made by Baccarat.

Possibly the most famous of the cristalleries, the village from which the crystal takes its name is about an hour's drive south-east of Nancy (though, if you get waylaid by the exhibitions at the Musee de L'Ecole, there is a Baccarat shop in the city at 2 rue des Dominicans). The factory itself is not open to the general public, partly so as not to interrupt the 900-odd workers from their delicate tasks but also, apparently, as a safety precaution.

Instead, make straight for the Musee de Baccarat (00 33 3 83 76 61 37). If you're really curious about what makes the glass so special, one of the museum's rooms contains a couple of helpful workers dexterously demonstrating how the crystal should be formed. But, for most visitors, it's the other exhibits in this 19th-century chateau that persuade them to make the journey there.

The 1,100 shimmering pieces on display include Tsar Nicholas II's carafes and that must-have household item, a two metre-high crystal candelabra. The Lonely Planet Guide to France sensibly advises visitors not to let their vocal chords run away with them: hitting top C might be an expensive musical mistake. If you feel the urge to sing, run off to the Baccarat shop (00 33 3 83 76 6001) instead, where the damage should be less costly.

The most popular item here is the decanter stand, a sparkling snip at pounds 31 when you compare it to the pounds 40 you'd pay if you bought the same item at the Baccarat shop in London (37 Old Bond Street, London W1X 3EA, 0171- 409 7767: call for a brochure). Buy up 12 in Nancy (along with plenty of tissue paper) and spend the resulting profit you will make selling them to bacchanalian friends back home on the pounds 109 return Eurostar and train journey (Rail Europe 0990 848848) to Nancy to raise a glitter-glassed toast to the Bastille celebrations.

Rhiannon Batten