Tour de France – Nîmes
Stage 13 of the Tour de France is still in the Languedoc-Roussillon region which stretches from the foothills of the Pyrenees on the Spanish border to the mouth of the Rhône. This stage starts from Narbonne and ends in Nîmes, a town known for its Roman antiquities such as the Roman amphitheatre “Les Arènes”, the Maison Carrée (Square House Temple) and the Tour Magne.
When we did our “Tour de France“, in a motorcoach, we stayed at the Imperator Concorde in Nîmes, a very pleasant hotel in the city centre. Nîmes’ Amphitheatre is one of the best preserved of its kind and the arches reminded us of the Colosseum in Rome. Construction of the Colosseum was completed in 80 AD under Titus and “Les Arènes” was built at the end of the 1st century AD, so maybe that’s where the inspiration came from. Nîmes 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 anyone who’s worn denim jeans has this town to thank as denim originated from Nîmes or ‘de Nîmes’.
Nîmes is also very privileged to have a dynamic mayor who engaged great contemporary architects to modernize its cityscape. Philippe Starck redesigned the city’s pedestrian zone and its swanky bus-stop whereas Norman Forster designed the trendy arts complex. Blending old with new, you’ll also see the Maison Carrée in the city. This ancient Roman temple, now used as a museum, is one of the best preserved in the world.
If the cyclists arrived in town via Avenue Jean Jaures, they would have seen the Jardin de la Fontaine in the north-western part if the city. This beautiful formal garden is quite magnificent even though it’s slightly faded these days. After a hard day cycling, a stroll in this garden is very soothing. 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.