Visiting Nimes took me back to Miss Clegg’s Latin class in high school.
Some of you reading this story remember Miss Clegg. You probably don’t know that I had English translations of Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey and Virgil’si Aeneid, loaned to me by my beloved Aunt Edna.
I still have nightmares that Miss Clegg discovers my secret and I get an “F” and I never graduate from high school.
Nimes (pronounced “Neem”), named for the Celtic God Nemasus, dates back to the first century BC. Soldiers of Julius Caesar were given land in Nimes, after 15 years’ service in the army, to create the town as a Roman colony.
During the rule of Augustus, Nimes was a prosperous city and boasted a population of 60,000 citizens. Mighty structures such as the aqueduct Pont du Gard were built to serve Nimes (see earlier post on Pont du Gard), and a regal temple was erected, Maison Carrée, to honor the Roman Gods.
Another landmark is the Amphitheater that dates back to the 2nd century BC.
Both the Amphitheater and Maison Carrée are in a huge area in the center of town that is designated as a historic district. The sides of the district are bounded by four boulevards. It takes about 25 minutes to walk the circumstance of the area– if you don’t stop.
I bought the Gran Tour ticket to visit 3 sites for 11 euro ($14.50). It included an self-guided audio tour of the Amphitheater (or Arena), a 3D video in Maison Carrée, and entry to The Tour Magne for a panoramic view of the city.
As described above, this building is magnificent. Seeing the stately temple truly made me feel I was in Rome, not France. The 3D production told of the heroes of Nimes who lived through the various ages of the city.
Jefferson was so taken by Maison Carrée when visiting Nimes as Minister to France that he wrote his friend, Madame de Tessé: “Here I am, madam, gazing whole hours at the Maison Carrée like a lover at his mistress.”
Today it is one of the most well preserved temples from the Roman Empire to be found anywhere.
The Amphitheater, also called the Arena, is one of the 10 best preserved Roman arenas in the world. Currently it is being renovated, but even now, the space is being used for public events. A stage was being erected while I was there for an upcoming rock concert. It accomodates up to 25,000 people.
The audio guide was quite entertaining since you could walk into the arena, sit in the stands, and relive stories of gladiators and lion slayers.
This is where the spectators entered.
This is where the gladiators, prisoners, lions, or others entered to meet their destiny.
Le Tour Magne
The Tour Magne stands on the highest spot in Nimes and can be seen for miles around. It is all that remains of the Wall that surrounded the city built by Augustus.
To take full advantage of my Gran Tour ticket, I walked to the top of the hill, then up the spiral staircase to the top of Tour Magne. It’s one of those things I can cross off my list and say, “Whew!! Don’t have to do that again!” The view was amazing. The walk? Let’s just say that’s why I ate pizza when I returned to Uzes. I earned it!
One of the most enjoyable parts of the walk to the top of Tour Magne is that to get there, you walk through the Jardins de la Fontaine, considered by many the most beautiful gardens in the world. As I was on the path up the hills winding through the garden, I thought to myself how wonderful it must be to live near such a place.
Jardins de la Fontaine
The people of Nimes and visitors were out by the hundreds today, enjoying the perfect weather and well-maintained property. Like other tourists areas I’ve seen on my trip, the place was immaculate– from the trimmed shrubbery to the stone stairways.
One of my most striking impressions of Nimes is how two worlds — the ancient and modern– are coexisting in such harmony. The rock poster on the Amphitheater says it all.