Steeped in roman history, with architectural wonders galore, this was the perfect-sized city for two days’ exploring.
In this instalment of our adventures in France (I’ll get to the yoga retreat next, I promise) Rachel and I arrived in Nimes, some 40 minutes by train from Avignon.
Our Airb&b two-day home, owned by the delightful Emilia, was really central. As you’ll see from the pictures below, it is incredibly chic and tastefully decorated. Emilia made the most of her wonderful space with a sofa bed included so her one-bedroom apartment could sleep several people. It felt secure and authentic. I’m an Air&b newbie, so I was pleasantly surprised to find our new home was like a, well, home.
Above and below: Emilia’s beautifully decorated apartment with gated courtyards
That’s my bag and denim jacket slung on the floor, but you still get a flavour of how chic this flat is, although perhaps not quite how profoundly envious I am of our hostess’s decor talent.
I would say the advantages of Airb&bing it are you get a real flavour of life in your city of choice, it’s culturally more interesting than a hotel and you can buy local produce to create meals to your taste. Novotels are the same wherever you are, aren’t they, but they do come with swimming pools and aircon.
Exploring Nimes – Arenes
In some ways Nimes reminds me of Palma, Majorca, with its winding streets and twisting alleys; but with its own stunning ancient monuments, like Arenes, the ancient roman amphitheatre. A Unesco heritage site which is claimed to be the best preserved amphitheatre in the world, here we learned all about gladiators, which included women as well as men, and how gladiator schools trained their students to compete in the bloody shows. There were different weapons and armour combinations and, in its beginnings, death was rare if only because gladiators were expensive to replace. Of course it all got very unpleasant as the empire began to crumble and the number of animals dying in the arena was massive. The arena is still used for events today, including bullfighting. The audio tour is great fun though and the tour of the gladiators’ quarters area particularly dark and grimly atmospheric (kids will love it!)
Jardins de la Fontaine
Oh so pretty with its Temple of Diana, which may not be dedicated to Diana and may be a library, not a temple. There is also the Tour Magne, a tower which gives spectacular views over Nimes, once you’ve hauled your way up there. Built on the site of a pre-roman watch tower, this is view is well worth the climb.
Above: Temple of Diana… check out the ancient graffiti on the left hand column, third pic
Below: Tower with stunning panoramic views (apols for slight drunken-sailor angle there, I blame the heat).
We also watched Nimes, the movie (not called that, but that’s what it is) in the Maison Carre, which is the story of the founding of Nimes and thoroughly engaging. Go fight for the romans for 27 years and you get a city and a chest of gold (I am summarising furiously here, but you get the gist). There are no photos of this stunning building for reasons which will be explained in a later episode called Lessons Learned… (cue building of suspense).