A Visit to Jardins de la Fontaine or Fountain Gardens:
A delightful place to enjoy some quiet time in Nîmes is at the Jardin de la Fontaine or Fountain Gardens. The Hotel Imperator, where are staying, is located on the Quais de la Fontaine, so we are within easy reach of the gardens. The Quais de la Fontaine were the embankments of the spring that provided water for the city.
When the Romans arrived in Nîmes, they discovered a town built by the Gauls and which was centred around the sacred spring. They named it Nemausus after the God of Rivers.
In the 18th century, the first civic gardens of France, were laid out here. Its classical beauty, which reflects the style of Mediterranean gardens, was enriched as changes were made. Today, Jardins de la Fontaine is on the Ministry of Culture’s official list of remarkable gardens.
Designed by a Military Engineer
Jardins de la Fontaine was designed by Jacques-Philippe Mareschal, the military engineer of King Louis XV, who was in charge of the fortification of the Languedoc province. Mareschal’s design included as many of the ancient features as possible and was very much an enlightened ideal of town planning. This extraordinary garden was intended to be a central part of a spacious city, designed with the communal good in mind. That Jardins de la Fontaine continues to be so important to the people of Nîmes today and is one of the city’s sightseeing attractions bears testament to the success of Mareschal’s design.
Except for a couple of graceful swans in the pond, the garden was quite deserted during our visit. All the action was down by the embankment where groups of local men were engrossed in their pétanque games. So, we were able to stroll around the garden in peaceful abandonment, enjoying its features, including Nîmes’ intriguing coat of arms on the wrought iron gate – a crocodile chained to a palm tree. The former symbolizes the Kingdom of Egypt which Augustus’ soldiers defeated and it seems that some of these Egypt veterans were part of the Roman army that founded Nîmes.