Day Trip to Nîmes
Nîmes is a small city at the border of Provence and Languedoc. It is home to the best-preserved Roman Arena in the world, where the traces of the 2000 year long history are visible everywhere. The eclectic mix of Roman, Spanish, and French flavors are apparent in the city’s architecture. It was another city that visited in day trip while we were staying at Sète.
Nîmes is nice to explore on foot, this way we have had the opportunity to find hidden gems, see the little streets and canals. Passing through the canal lined by trees, we headed to the amphitheatre, or Les Arènes, one of the Nîmes’ most important buildings. We learned that it was built around 70 AD to seat 24,000 spectators. As the Roman Empire fell, the amphitheatre was fortified by the Visigoths and surrounded by a wall. During the turbulent years that followed the collapse of Visigoth power in Hispania and septimania, not to mention the Muslim invasion and subsequent reconquest by the French kings in the early eighteenth century, the viscounts Nîmes constructed a fortified palace within the amphitheatre.
Later a small neighborhood developed within its confines, complete with one hundred denizens and two chapels. Seven hundred people lived within the amphitheatre during the apex of its service as an enclosed community. It was remodeled in 1863 to serve as building. The Arenas is still used for bullfights, concerts and other public events. It was fun listening to Marie-Louise telling us the history of the place and information on gladiators. We also explored the gladiator’s quarters where we saw the weapons and techniques of gladiatorial combat along with the magnificent costumes.
After a quick lunch at a nearby fast food joint, we headed to the Maison Carrée. This is a temple dating back over a thousand years–in the center square houses an ancient history museum surrounded by charming cafés and bistros. This is an ancient building in Nimes. It is one of the best preserved temples to be found anywhere in the territory of the Roman Empire. It was built c.16BC and reconstructed in the following years, by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, who was also the original patron of the Pantheon in Rome and was dedicated or rededicated to his two sons, Gaius Caesar and Lucious Caesar, adopted heirs of Augustus who both died young.
We next followed the palm tree-lined canals leading out of the city center, and we reached the eighteenth-century Jardins de la Fontaine, where today the Nîmois are playing petanque.
They’re home to the spring that was once the city’s main water source, and have a classical layout with shady benches, hidden grottos, and sweeping staircases that lead up to a medieval tower and a view of the red rooftops of Nîmes. We also visited castellum (a circular tank) with holes for lead pipes which distributed water throughout the city.Then it was a time to take a train back to Sète.