dimanche 17 février 2008
To celebrate Valentine's Day and Alain's Birthday (Feb. 15th) we spent this weekend in Nîmes, a city about an hour and half from Marseille, to the northeast. Nîmes is quite well known for the tri-annual ferias (bullfights) that are held in the Roman Amphitheater (Arene). We left Saturday morning and arrived at our hotel a little before noon.

Wikipedia article about Nimes

We checked in, then walked the short distance into the centre ville, smack dab into Les Arenes. It was built in the 1st century AD, is 130 m by 100 m, and is described as being the "best preserved of all Roman amphitheaters." However, this isn't really true. It is the "best rebuilt". It was used for gladiator fighting, animal fighting, and prisoner execution, and could seat up to 22,000. After the collapse of Rome, it was used as a fortress, then as slum housing. In the 19th century the outer walls were still standing but the seating area was almost completely torn up. We ate lunch then went to visit it. We paid for the combined attraction ticket, which also included the Maison Carrée and the Tour Magne, for about ten euros. This included the audio guide. I always feel so stupid walking around with the audio guide pressed to my ear. I guess you learn a lot but it always takes forever. You listen to each main section, then you get "To learn more about the blah blah press 51. To learn about the ble ble ble press 52. To learn about the bloo bloo bloo press 53." Also learned that there are about 400 Roman Amphitheaters in the world. Wow. I would have guessed about 50, 100 max. Anyway, we spent a good two hours visiting the arena, then we walked to the Maison Carrée (or Square House). Once again, the guidebook lists this as the Roman world's best-preserved temple. It was built by Augustus's son-in-law Marcus Agrippa a long long time ago. Unfortunately, the exterior was covered in scaffolding, they are redoing the facade. We went inside, saw a 22 minute 3D film about the history of Nîmes and.. that was it. Went back outside.

From there we walked to the Jardin de la Fontaine. An underground spring was "harnessed" here in the 18th century (how do you "harness" a spring anyway?) and has been built into a very nice park with statues and fountains. We walked up the path to the Tour Magne, which is from 15 BC and is the earliest surviving Roman building in France. Unfortunately, we got there about 15 minutes too late, and it was closed. Supposedly it has great views out over the countryside. For anyone who visits Nîmes, I would suggest taking a nice picnic and visiting the park.

We walked back towards Les Arenes, and went into a cute little tea and coffee shop, called Tendance Saveurs, with one worker who was quite overwhelmed. We had some tea, some small navettes, then bought a specialty chocolate bar (nice, but perhaps not worth the 3.60€) and a cute bottle of mulled wine that I will save for next Christmas.

We asked the lady at the tea shop where would be a good place to eat, and she gave us instructions on how to get to a certain restaurant. Totally were not able to find it. Chez Paul, sorry, sure you would have been great. We went back to the hotel and rested a bit, then went out and followed our concierge's instructions to a place called Restaurant Nicolas. The food was okay, not too expensive. We got back to the hotel and went to sleep around 10:30. The next morning (Sunday) we woke up at 9, had breakfast in the hotel (which was surprisingly worth the 5€ each), and set out to explore again, this time the museums. The weather was overcast and cold. We first went to the Musée de Vieux Nîmes, which was free. Interesting fact that we learned- where does denim come from? It is material from Nîmes- de Nîmes. Get it? We learned about denim cloth, and saw more old maps of the city, pictures and drawings of the monuments, etc. Then we stumbled upon an exposition of mosaic reconstruction in an old Jesuit building- they had found a huge very well-preserved mosaic and had it on display. Then we went to the Musée Archéologique and Musée d'Histoire Naturelle (again free). Saw a bunch more old Roman carvings (hey, after awhile they get tiring) and some poor moth-bitten animals that had been taxidermied. We left around 1:30 and went to eat at Fast China Express before heading back to Marseille around 2:40.
It was a good weekend, and I am glad we went. I think two days was enough to see everything. I think my favorite is still Arles, then perhaps Nimes, then Avignon.
For more pictures from our trip to Nimes, please go to this album.

4 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

hi Megan and Alain,
I've really enjoyed reading your blog. I'm an american, but lived 9 years in France. 2 years in Aix and 7 years in Ensues - La redonne, which is 20 Km ouest of Marseille. If you haven't been to La Redonne or the Calanques aux Fiqiueres, Mejan, I think you would enjoy the scenery. There is a small resto in Mejan, just in front of the sea. Anyway, I was wondering if you had an email address, as I'm planning to return to Provence and have some quetions.
Jurek Dabrowski

Starman a dit…

How many times have you been told that you could be a double for Sarah Jessica Parker?

Where the wild ones grow a dit…

Where are you going to visit next? Maybe you should write weekly about a place in Aix ( I adore this place, but sadly haven't visited it often, and it's only an hour away!)

Take Care


screamish a dit…

oh yeah the Museum of Natural History in Nimes...real Sunday afternoon stuff, I love those dusty stuffed animals.

actually, thinking of that, have you checked out the museum at Palais Longchamp? I went years ago and it was pretty 19th century...worth a look!

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