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Published: November 9th 2017
With my stay in Bordeaux over, it was time for another long drive on Tuesday. The drive to Nimes was longer than it needed to be because I took a lengthy detour north from Toulouse. When I visited France back in 2005, I read about a new bridge that had opened a few months earlier, the Viaduc de Millau. It is the tallest bridge in the world and I had wanted to see it, but it was well out of my way on that trip. With my Bordeaux diversion on this trip, it became feasible.
After leaving the motorway north of Toulouse, the going slowed down and I didn’t reach the bridge until 4pm. The bridge is part of another motorway and I hoped there would be somewhere I could stop to take a photo or two. There was! In fact, there was a museum and everything. I skipped the museum and just took the 500m walk up to the vantage point. It was about 6 degrees outside and the wind blowing down the gorge valley made it even colder. With everything packed in my suitcase, including my jacket, it was a chilly walk so I went as quickly as
I could. The view was worth it though, and with the sun low on the horizon, the photos came out pretty well.
I got back in the car and continued driving to Nimes. I stopped once for another photo opportunity as I descended down a spectacular mountain pass descent. Then it was straight to Nimes… sort of. Unfortunately, the motorway from Millau did not join directly with the motorway to Nimes and I had to drive through Montpellier and hit some pretty heavy traffic. But I reached Nimes about 7pm and after struggling to find a park in my hotel’s significant carpark (turned out the hotel was hosting a seminar) I retired for the night.
My plans for Wednesday were to investigate Nimes’ Roman remains. I was slow in heading out and probably didn’t give myself enough time to explore the beautiful city centre. My hotel is about 3km out of the centre, but I decided to walk in. The walk was pleasant, and I really liked the vibe of the city, even the more suburban parts. Outside of the city centre, it’s quite spacey which was a nice change from Bordeaux.
My first target was the
amphitheatre, which was one of the largest built by the Romans outside of Rome’s famous colosseum, and apparently the best preserved one in the world. This is partly because it was so well constructed that it was difficult for people to take apart for building materials, which is what happened to many Roman buildings during the middle ages. The other reason was that it was regularly used over the years. Not for gladiator bouts though, but as part of the city fortifications, as a castle (which gave rise to an order of knights, the Knights of the Arena), as a residential neighbourhood and then for bull fights. In modern times it has hosted many music concerts, including Metallica, which would have been awesome.
Anyway, as I arrived at the amphitheatre there was nothing on so I was able to look around. I bought a ticket that gave me entry into the amphitheatre and the two other Roman sites in Nimes, plus two sites in Orange which I will be visiting on Friday on the way to Lyon. The fellow kindly recommended that I visit the Tour Magne next and then come back to the city centre for the Maison
Carree because they close at 4pm and 4:30pm respectively. I wasn’t too worried about that yet, as I had plenty of time.
Or so I thought. The visit to the amphitheatre took longer than I expected. The audioguide was packed full of information and also gave options to hear more about gladiators, Rome, the Knights of the Arena, etc. As the clock kept ticking, I actually found myself wanting less information for once! Exploring the arena was also enjoyable, even though there were some hefty climbs in parts. There were also few other tourists which made a pleasant change from everywhere else I’ve visited. I’m not sure why, but I won’t complain. I also bought a nice dagger at the gift shop, so I’ll get to join the fast line at Australian customs when I go home. I’ve not had any problems getting swords in before, but the dagger is smaller so hopefully there won’t be any problems.
I left the amphitheatre and it was nearly 3pm. There was a bit of a hike up to the Tour Magne, so I got moving. The walk was beautiful so it was a bit of a shame to rush it.
To get to the tower, you have to climb a hill in the Jardins de la Fontaine, which is an absolutely stunning park.
Out of breath when I reached the top of the hill, I was there in plenty of time. I also timed it well because they only allow 15 people to climb the tower at once and there was nobody up there when I arrived. After the climb up the hill, ascending the steps was another exertion but worth it for the view from the top. The tower was built by the Romans as a lookout, so that makes sense. Other than enjoying the view and reading a couple of information panels, there wasn’t much else to do so I headed back down.
The next stop was back in the city centre - the Maison Carree, a Roman temple of the Imperial Cult. It is well preserved but unlike the other two Roman sites in Nimes, has had significant restoration works done over the years. The spectacular part is the outside however. Inside, and what you pay the ticket for, was a movie that shows every half hour. I arrived just in time for the 4pm
session and headed in to take my seat. After so much walking and being on my feet for hours, it was a welcome relief to sit down for a bit. The movie was quite interesting too, following a young Gallic chieftain on his journey from serving Julius Caesar and his successor, Augustus, to founding the Gallo-Roman city of Augusta Nemausus.
It was now 4:30pm and it was too late to visit the archaeological museum so I headed back to the Jardins de la Fontaine for some more photos and to check out the so-called Temple of Diana (so-called because the archaeological evidence indicates it was dedicated to the Imperial Cult as well, not to Diana). It is a really nice park that dates back to the 18th
century and I got some good photos.
Thoroughly exhausted, it was time for the walk back to the hotel. It was dark when I eventually got back and I hadn’t eaten all day. Probably not the best idea on an empty stomach, but I opened a bottle of wine while I processed the days photos. So hopefully they still turned out okay! I eventually went out to have some
dinner and by the time I got back and finished the photos, it was time for bed so I left writing the blog until Thursday morning. I will now be heading off to see some more Roman sites over in nearby Arles.
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