Nimes – Country Roads of France

Nimes’ Roman amphitheatre (Les Arenes) is one of the best preserved of its kind and its arches remind you of the Colosseum in Rome.  Construction of the Colosseum was completed in 80 AD under Titus and Les Arenes was built at the end of the 1st century AD, so maybe that’s where the inspiration came from.  Nimes had a turbulent history and suffered during the 16th century Wars of Religion.  Fortunately, the town prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries from textile manufacturing and, voila, anyone who’s worn denim jeans has this town to thank for as denim originated from Nimes, “de Nimes“.

Although Nimes is known for its Roman antiquities, it is also privileged to have a dynamic mayor who has engaged none other than Philippe Starck to redesign the city’s pedestrian zone and bring about its current design renaissance.  Check out the Philippe Starck designed bus-stop and trendy new arts complex.  Blending old with new, you’ll also see the Maison Carree in the city.  This Roman temple, built around 2 AD is one of the best preserved in the world.  It’s now used as a museum, but we did not get to visit as it was closed at the time of our visit.

When you’re through exploring the city, don’t forget to visit the Jardin de la Fontaine in the north-western part.  This beautiful formal garden is still quite magnificent although slightly faded these days.  If you have a powerful camera lens, you will see the octagonal Tour Magne, high above the garden on Mont Cavalier (too far for us to climb in the time we had).  This used to be a key part of the Roman walls and the views of the city from the viewing platform up there must be fantastic.

If you enjoy petanque, you’ll get to watch groups of men very seriously engaged in their petanque competition on the way to and back from the Jardin.  One of their markers unfortunately shot into the canal and it was amusing watching some of them contemplating how to retrieve this from the water.. pas de chance! 

Helen Page 

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