Category: Nimes

A Romanesque town in south of France with remnants of early Gaul.

Summer Concert in Nîmes' ancient arena

Summer in Nîmes’ Ancient Arena. Nîmes Rocks!

Elton John is in Nîmes tonight. He’s just one of the stars showing up for a concert this summer in Nîmes’ ancient arena. 

Last year I saw Sting in the arena. It was more than magical. Imagine watching and listening to a 21st century rock idol in a 1st century coliseum. There’s no doubt, the French love him. What a night!

Join me as I reminisce …

Summer in Nîmes

Want to know more about Nîmes and the Roman history behind its stone walls and majestic architecture?

Why is Nimes a “must see” for Roman history lovers? Because it’s a city where you can literally see, touch and experience Roman life in France during the days of the Roman Empire.

France has so many amazing places to visit it’s hard to decide where to start. If you’re a Roman history buff, you must visit Nimes to learn about Roman life in France. Unlike other places with rich Roman history that are now in ruins, there are many artifacts from Augustus Caesar’s time that are in active use still today.

In Nimes you can walk on the same streets, into the same buildings … literally sit in the same seats as the Romans who once occupied this part of Gaul.

Visiting Nimes is more that seeing “remnants” of a Roman civilization. There are intact, still-standing Roman structures. A Roman temple, a Roman arena, a Roman tower. Places that are enjoyed now by real, 21st century people.

Read on here …  Why Nimes is a “Must See” for Roman History Lovers

 

living in the south of france

Living in the South of France

There’s nothing ordinary about living in the South of France. Especially in the spring. There’s always a festival , a brocante, a party or something extraordinary going on.

Here are a few snippets on “living in the South of France” in the month of May.

Lunch with friends

Now that everyone who has been away from Uzès for the winter is back, meeting friends for lunch is a must for catching up. Even though there were eight of us, the little backstreet cafe, La Boca, was perfect for our Saturday get together.

Ever eaten couteaux? They’re razor clams that were featured at La Boca.

Living in the South of France

Couteaux – Razor Clams

Roman Games in Nimes 

Each May in nearby NImes, there is a historic reenactment staged in the ancient arena. It’s world class. The Great Roman Games are presented just as they were 2000 years ago — chariot races, gladiators, Roman dignitaries and all.

This year the theme was “Barbarian Kings.” Romans and barbarian battles that raged throughout this area from 113 to 101 BC were brilliantly recreated during the 2+ hour show. The production crew that moved seemingly effortless on the arena floor constructed a near-lifesize fortress, a village market, and a realistic representation of the port in Marseille. For a snippet, view the video below.

Shopping at IKEA

My new apartment in Uzès is far from furnished as I’d like it. Moving from “Rapunzel’s Tower” to my ground-level flat was harder than I thought. In just five years, I accumulated a lot of stuff that’s not going to fit. Yet, I’m still shopping.

Living in the south of France, I’ve learned the French love IKEA. I haven’t checked IKEA in the US lately, but the store in Avignon is different and better than any I’ve seen. Right now shelving and storage for my kitchen is my priority.

Interestingly, when you rent an apartment in France, it doesn’t always come equipped with a complete kitchen. Sometimes there’s just a sink. Occasionally, there’s not even a sink. So renters have to create their own “cuisines.” You can take whatever you’ve bought with you to your next rental.

The kitchen in my first apartment was tiny. It had a sink, a cooktop and little or no storage. The new kitchen has bottom cabinets, a cooktop and an exhaust fan. Anything else that I want in the space, I have to purchase and have installed. Fortunately IKEA has good designs and affordable prices on kitchen fittings. Now to find the time to get it done.

What do you think of this?

living in the south of france

Renewing my Carte de Sejour

Yes, it’s that time of year … again. My appointment at the Prefecture in NImes to renew my carte de sejour was this week. Thank goodness for Renestance! Jennifer is so familiar with the people and the process at the Prefecture that it’s getting to be a breeze. That is, if you call pulling together a snapshot of your life and finances to present for your card simple.

This was my fifth year going through the French requirement for my 12-month visa. My compliments to the Nimes Prefecture this go round. They’ve figured out how to move people through the system. Perhaps it’s because of the number of Brits coming through the system due to Brexit.

Note: Tell Renestance the Barefoot Blogger sent you for a 10% discount! 

Best Steak in Town

Dining out at one of the restaurants in town is one of my favorite pastimes. I prefer not to eat alone. Ordering steak is something I’ve learned not to do. Generally, the beef that’s served is tasteless and chewy. Now there’s a new place in town for a really good steak — Paul and Cow. It’s so new it’s not on Tripadvisor. Don’t ask me why it’s not called Paul and Vache? Whatever … I don’t have to wait to go back to Atlanta for a good steak.

living in the south of france

 

Market Day in Uzès

What’s a week in Uzès without a visit to the Saturday Market? Just getting there is half the thrill. Yes, I do love living in the south of France.

Hope you had a great week too!

living in the south of france

Why Nimes is a “Must See” for Roman History Lovers

This a republished post by the Barefoot Blogger from France Today

Why is Nimes a “must see” for Roman history lovers? Because it’s a city where you can literally see, touch and experience Roman life in France during the days of the Roman Empire.

France has so many amazing places to visit it’s hard to decide where to start. If you’re a Roman history buff, you must visit Nimes to learn about Roman life in France. Unlike other places with rich Roman history that are now in ruins, there are many artifacts from Augustus Caesar’s time that are in active use still today.

Roman Life in France

Nimes

Roman Life in France

In Nimes you can walk on the same streets, into the same buildings … literally sit in the same seats as the Romans who once occupied this part of Gaul.

Visiting Nimes is more that seeing “remnants” of a Roman civilization. There are intact, still-standing Roman structures. A Roman temple, a Roman arena, a Roman tower. Places that are enjoyed now by real, 21st century people.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée

 

Roman Life in France

Roman Amphitheater , the Arènes de Nîmes

 

Roman Life in France

The Tour Magne

 

Roman Life in France

The Roman History of Nimes

The area that is now Nimes was an established community as early as 400o BC. It was founded as a Roman colony (Colonia Nemausus) by Tiberius Claudius Nero in 45 or 44 B.C. for veterans that had served Julius Caesar under his command in Gaul and the invasion of Egypt. The name “Nemausus” was derived from the name of a Celtic god — the protector of the nearby spring that provided water for the early settlement.

Roman Life in France

Coin of Nemausus circa 40 BC

 

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 AD) and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée in Nimes

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 BC) — and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond,VA

Roman Life in France

The Arènes de Nimes or the “Amphitheater”

In Roman times, the Arènes de Nimes could hold up to 24,000 spectators spread over 34 rows of terraces.  Divided into four separate areas, each section could be accessed  through hundreds of galleries, stairwells and passages.

Roman Life in France

Aréna in Nimes

The amphitheatre was designed for crowd control and ultimate viewing pleasure. There were no bottlenecks when spectators flooded in and all had unrestricted visibility of the entire arena. Several galleries and entrances were located beneath the arena so that animals and gladiators could access the arena during the Roman games.

The “games” included animal hunts with lions, tigers and elephants and gladiator matches. Executions were held, as well, where those in town who were convicted to death were thrown to the animals as punishment.

Roman Life in France

Inside the Aréna Nimes

 

Roman Life in France

After the times of the Roman Empire, Nimes fell into the hands of the Visigoths, then the Muslims. The Visigoths turned the arena into a fortress or “castrum arena” where the townspeople could gather in the event of an attack. When Pepin the Short, father of Charlemagne, captured the city in 752, the splendor that was Nimes was pretty much in ruins. It was not until 1786 that work began to be restore the arena to its original grandeur.

The Tour Magne (Magne Tower) remains a prominent structure in Nimes, erected during the reign of Augustus in 1 BC. It is said to have been built atop an earlier Celtic/Gallic tower from 15BC- 14BC. The tallest structure for miles around, the Tour Magne was used as part of the fortification that surrounded the city. What remains of the tower can be seen from throughout the city.

Along with the Roman buildings that are still in use today in Nimes, there are ruins of the early civilization that visitors can wander through or view.

 

Roman Life in France

The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

 

Roman Life in France

The so-called Temple of Diana, built during the Augustine era
(Photo by Carole Raddato)

 

Roman Life in France

Your Walking Tour of Nimes

The downtown area of the Roman city of Nimes is still alive. The most historic Roman monuments are within walking distance. To reach Les Jardin de la Fontaine, you might want to hop on a local bus. Visit the Temple de Diane while you are there. If you climb up to the highest levels of the terraced stairway, through more  gardens, you will reach the park-like area of Mont Cavalier. Further up the hill is the Tour Magne. It’s a hike to reach the tower, but it’s worth it if you want a view of the city from all directions. Take along plenty of water and, perhaps, a snack so that you can stop and enjoy the view along the way.

Roman Life in France

Historic area of Nimes

 

Step by step guide

  • Nimes can be reached by train, bus and car. The train station (GARE) is in the center of the historic area. Regional buses stop behind the train station as well. From the station, a pedestrian promenade leads straight from the station to the amphitheater.
  • Park at any one of the downtown parking lots. Just follow the blue P signs.  Some of the parking is outside and some in a garage. When I visit Nimes I park at the Marché (city market) that is outlined in purple on the map because it is so close to the Maison Carrée.
  • Start your tour at the Maison Carrée. A  20-minute film runs every 30 minutes during tourist season. It’s excellent and it gives you an overview of the history of Nimes. You can buy combination tickets that give you admission to the film, the amphitheater and the Tour Magne.
  • Walk to the Arèna (amphitheater). There are self-guided tours of the amphitheater with headphones and an audio presentation describing the days of gladiators. Stop along the way to the amphitheater, or afterwards, at any of the many cafes and restaurants for a more leisurely visit.
  • Walk past the Porte d’Auguste to view a part of the fortification that protected the ancient city. It’s not a short walk from the amphitheater, but it’s on the way to your next stop.
  • Les Jardin de la Fontaine is a “modern” part of Nimes that has a rich Roman background. It was built in the 18th century atop the ruins of Roman baths (thermal). You can stroll for hours in the garden enjoying the fountains, canals and seasonal plantings.

 

  • Tour Magne is your last stop. The tower is open for tourists (check the schedule) to wander through inside. A very narrow, spiral stairway leads to a viewing area where you can see the city of Nimes from all angles.

Here’s another reason why you must see Nimes

 Nimes blends the “new” with the “ancient”. A modern world among ancient Roman buildings.The Amphitheatre, for example, is the entertainment center used for rock concerts and other popular musical events. 

 Roman Life in France

Times amphitheater is home for huge music events

Roman history reenactments, with all the pomp and ceremony, are staged in the Nimes amphitheater each year.

 

Amphitheater in Nimes

Then there are the Ferias or bull fights in the amphitheater. The events are popular in the south of France still today and draw crowds for the weekend events. 

 

 

Regardless of the time of year you visit Nimes, there’s a party going on. 

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée

 

For more information about the arena

Maison Carrée

More places to visit history in Provence

Film trailer of the history of Nimes, on view at the Maison Carrée

 

Roman Life in France

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

Tracing the history of the Romans in the south of France is a fascination I am anxious to share with visitors.

Guests visiting from North Carolina were more than happy to take the short ride from Uzès to Nimes to attend the Roman Days extravaganza at the Arena. Even though the event was narrated only in French, we were able to understand the storyline. The anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death was being celebrated by a reenactment of important events during his life.

On top of it being a beautifully sunny day in Nimes, the opportunity to step back into a time, nearly 2000 years ago, was extraordinary. It was particularly interesting to see the costumed actors roaming through the city before the event. (For more about Roman Days, click here to see the earlier posting.)

Roman Days in Nimes

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

 

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France: Pont du Gard

Tracing the Romans in France must include a visit to Pont du Gard.
Even though I’ve been to Pont du Gard four times, there’s no better place to take visitors who come to Uzes. The aqueduct that supplied water to the Romans in Nimes as early as 1AD is still a marvel to behold. Every time I round the bend along the walkway in the World Heritage park and see the magnificent structure, I get chills. Visiting during different times times of year makes it new each time to me.

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

School children at the highest point viewing Pont du Gard put this Golden Girl in her element.

The Romans in the south of France

Avignon, City of Popes.

An afternoon in Avignon is hardly enough time to get a fair impression of the historic city, much less to write a post. For the Golden Girls, it was a beautiful and convenient place to stop for dinner.

The Roman connection in Avignon is difficult to follow because most of the Roman ruins have disappeared. However, the Pope’s Palace, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed “Palais des Papes” reminds us that Avignon was once the center of the Roman Catholic world. It is a place that is definitely worth spending time to explore. The Palais des Papes was the residence of seven successive popes in the 14th century. Avignon’s control by the Papacy ended in 1791 when the city was claimed by France during the French Revolution.

I shall definitely research Avignon and write more later. Until then, enjoy the photos of our quick visit.

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

How to get there
From Uzes to Pont du Gard is a 30- minute car ride. Buses run regularly to the park area from the station in the center of Uzes, as well. To travel to Avignon, it is another 30 minute ride or drive.

Where to eat
The park at Pont du Gard is very well equipped with cafeteria-type restaurants and snack shops. The park itself is perfect for hiking and for finding places to stop for a picnic lunch.

In Avignon we had a quick meal before returning back to Uzes that night. Nothing to brag about.

Next: Sete to Collioure. Picture book towns along the Mediterranean

Romans in the South of France

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Hot Weather In France

How to Make the Best of Hot Weather In France

As I write this post I’m a long way from the hot weather in France. I’m in the US for a few weeks spending time with my “grands.” Usually I’m not anxious to leave Uzes, but I’ll admit, the heat was getting to me. The thermometer in town was nearly exploding at 39.444 celsius, 104 degrees fahrenheit. Without air conditioning in my apartment, I was sweltering.  Nevertheless, my friends and I found ways to make the best of it.

Forget the hot weather in France with great seasonal foods

No matter how hot it gets, there’s always a respite away from the heat when there’s great food around. This day the restaurant was Le Patio Littre in Nimes, a place I had visited when I first arrived to live in France. I had forgotten the name but ran across it again in this post from long ago . I won’t forget it again!

Hot Weather In France

You don’t have to venture far from Uzes to find fresh seasonal treats like this tartine from Le Vieux Cafe in Uzes made with aubergine, tomatoes and peppers.

Escape the heat with local art 

Fortunately two of my favorite local artists were having their exhibitions before I left town. Andy Newman, an American who lives near Uzès part-time that I’ve written about before, was just setting up his show at the studio next to the Tourist Office. I had a chance to run by to see him … and to snap up a new piece of his work. The exhibit lasts until August 18th, so stop by if you’re around Uzes.

Another artist friend, François Lewandrowski, is exhibiting his work nearby, too. I’m still loving my crazy oiseau (bird) painting that I bought from Francois and I love going to his parties! The exhibit at the Galerie ”La Verrière”, 8 rue du Dr-Blanchard extends through the month of August.

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Party, Party!

As hot as it make get in the south of France, it’s always party-time. While I didn’t get to attend many of the Fete Votive events this year, I did see the electric parade. This year there were more people attending than ever before. The colorful floats and marching bands are always crowd favorites.

 

Everyone is partying around Uzes in August in spite of the weather. From impromptu aperos on the rooftop to pool parties with live music.

How are you spending the hot days of August in your part of the world? 

 

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A Bridge To The Past: The Roman History of France Revisited

A visit back to Pont du Gard and Nimes with my guest from the US reminded me how much history is so close to me in the south of France.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

Revisit some of the Roman past with a tour to Nimes — one of the key Roman towns in “Gaul” during the days of Augustus.

Here’s why Nimes is a “must” for Roman history lovers

 

Nimes

Nimes

France has so many amazing places to visit it’s hard to decide where to start. If you’re a Roman history buff, you must visit Nimes. It’s a city where you can see, touch and experience life in France during the days of the Roman Empire. Unlike other places with rich Roman history that are now in ruins, there are many artifacts from Augustus Caesar’s time that are in active use still today.

In Nimes you can walk on the same streets, into the same buildings … literally sit in the same seats as the Romans who once occupied this part of Gaul.

Visiting Nimes is more that seeing “remnants” of a Roman civilization. There are intact, still-standing Roman structures. A Roman temple, a Roman arena, a Roman tower. Places that are enjoyed now by real, 21st century people.

Maison Carrée

Maison Carrée

 

Roman Arena in Nimes

Roman Amphitheater , the Arènes de Nîmes

 

The Magne Tower

The Tour Magne

The Roman History of Nimes

The area that is now Nimes was an established community as early as 400o BC. It was founded as a Roman colony (Colonia Nemausus) by Tiberius Claudius Nero in 45 or 44 B.C. for veterans that had served Julius Caesar under his command in Gaul and the invasion of Egypt. The name “Nemausus” was derived from the name of a Celtic god — the protector of the nearby spring that provided water for the early settlement.

Coin of Nemausus circa 40 BC

Coin of Nemausus circa
40 BC

 

Maison Carrée in Nimes

Maison Carrée in Nimes

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 BC) — and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

 

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, VA

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, Va

 

The Arènes de Nimes or the “Amphitheater”

In Roman times, the Arènes de Nimes could hold up to 24,000 spectators spread over 34 rows of terraces.  Divided into four separate areas, each section could be accessed  through hundreds of galleries, stairwells and passages.

Aréna in Nimes

Aréna in Nimes

The amphitheatre was designed for crowd control and ultimate viewing pleasure. There were no bottlenecks when spectators flooded in and all had unrestricted visibility of the entire arena. Several galleries and entrances were located beneath the arena so that animals and gladiators could access the arena during the Roman games.

The “games” included animal hunts with lions, tigers and elephants and gladiator matches. Executions were held, as well, where those in town who were convicted to death were thrown to the animals as punishment.

Inside the Aréna Nimes

Inside the Aréna Nimes

After the times of the Roman Empire, Nimes fell into the hands of the Visigoths, then the Muslims. The Visigoths turned the arena into a fortress or “castrum arena” where the townspeople could gather in the event of an attack. When Pepin the Short, father of Charlemagne, captured the city in 752, the splendor that was Nimes was pretty much in ruins. It was not until 1786 that work began to be restore the arena to its original grandeur.

The Tour Magne (Magne Tower) remains a prominent structure in Nimes, erected during the reign of Augustus in 1 BC. It is said to have been built atop an earlier Celtic/Gallic tower from 15BC- 14BC. The tallest structure for miles around, the Tour Magne was used as part of the fortification that surrounded the city. What remains of the tower can be seen from throughout the city.

Along with the Roman buildings that are still in use today in Nimes, there are ruins of the early civilization that visitors can wander through or view.

 

The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

 

The so-called Temple of Diana, part of an Augusteum, Nîmes © Carole Raddato

The so-called Temple of Diana, built during the Augustine era
(Photo by Carole Raddato)

Your Walking Tour of Nimes

The downtown area of the Roman city of Nimes is still alive. The most historic Roman monuments are within walking distance. To reach Les Jardin de la Fontaine, you might want to hop on a local bus. Visit the Temple de Diane while you are there. If you climb up to the highest levels of the terraced stairway, through more  gardens, you will reach the park-like area of Mont Cavalier. Further up the hill is the Tour Magne. It’s a hike to reach the tower, but it’s worth it if you want a view of the city from all directions. Take along plenty of water and, perhaps, a snack so that you can stop and enjoy the view along the way. 

Nimes

 

Step by step guide

  • Nimes can be reached by train, bus and car. The train station (GARE) is in the center of the historic area. Regional buses stop behind the train station as well. From the station, a pedestrian promenade leads straight from the station to the amphitheater.
  • Park at any one of the downtown parking lots. Just follow the blue P signs.  Some of the parking is outside and some in a garage. When I visit Nimes I park at the Marché (city market) that is outlined in purple on the map because it is so close to the Maison Carrée.
  • Start your tour at the Maison Carrée. A  20-minute film runs every 30 minutes during tourist season. It’s excellent and it gives you an overview of the history of Nimes. You can buy combination tickets that give you admission to the film, the amphitheater and the Tour Magne.
  • Walk to the Arèna (amphitheater). There are self-guided tours of the amphitheater with headphones and an audio presentation describing the days of gladiators. Stop along the way to the amphitheater, or afterwards, at any of the many cafes and restaurants for a more leisurely visit.
  • Walk past the Porte d’Auguste to view a part of the fortification that protected the ancient city. It’s not a short walk from the amphitheater, but it’s on the way to your next stop.
  • Les Jardin de la Fontaine is a “modern” part of Nimes that has a rich Roman background. It was built in the 18th century atop the ruins of Roman baths (thermal). You can stroll for hours in the garden enjoying the fountains, canals and seasonal plantings.

 

  • Tour Magne is your last stop. The tower is open for tourists (check the schedule) to wander through inside. A very narrow, spiral stairway leads to a viewing area where you can see the city of Nimes from all angles.

Here’s another reason why you must see Nimes

 Nimes blends the “new” with the “ancient”. A modern world among ancient Roman buildings.The Amphitheatre, for example, is the entertainment center used for rock concerts and other popular musical events. 

Times amphitheater is home for huge music events

Roman history reenactments, with all the pomp and ceremony, are staged in the Nimes amphitheater each year.

 

Amphitheater in Nimes

Amphitheater in Nimes

Then there are the Ferias or bull fights in the amphitheater. The events are popular in the south of France still today and draw crowds for the weekend events. 

 

 

Regardless of the time of year you visit Nimes, there’s a party going on. 

Maison Carrée

Maison Carrée

 

For more information about the arena

Maison Carrée

More places to visit history in Provence

Film trailer of the history of Nimes, on view at the Maison Carrée

 

images-11

 

The Feria’s in Nimes. Let the Party Begin!

Enough reminiscing. Fast forward to this weekend in Nimes. The ancient Roman city in the south of France is going to party like it’s 2016!


One of the most exciting events in the Languedoc region of France is coming up Pentecost weekend (May 12-16) in Nimes. The Pentecost Feria brings Bulls, toreros, herdsmen from the Camargue, and tens of thousands of jubilant spectators to the once-Roman town of Nimes and its Arena.

Nimes Feria

Celebrated since 1952, the Pentecost Feria has become a wildly popular festival for people of all ages. There’s dancing in the streets and all types of merry-making throughout the festival, including parades and abrivados (bulls running in the street).

Feria in Nimes

Ferias are by far one of my favorite things to do since moving to France. While fighting bulls might not be for everyone, there is much more to the nearly week-long event. If you like brass bands, horses, paella, Spanish dancing and all the fanfare, it’s all at the Feria.


Nimes Feria
If you want to experience a bullfight, join the crowd. This part of France is one of the few places in the world where the tradition of the Feria, with all its pomp and ceremony, still exists.


Feria NimesExhibitions are held in the various museums during the feria, including the Museum of Taurine Cultures. Art galleries are filled with images and sculptures of toros and toreadors.

Nimes Feria

Nimes Feria

Food vendors and bars line the streets with wine, beer and pastis — one of the south of France’s famed drinks.

NimesFeria

This is by far the most important of the two Nimes ferias that are celebrated each year. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, head that way. It promises to be a party for all!

  


 

 

 

My Life in France. Pinch Me.

You don’t know how many times the Barefoot Blogger has to pinch herself to believe she is really living in France. It’s more than a dream come true. It’s pure heaven.

It’s not fair to brag about what a good time I’m having, but … just saying. Take a look at this past week. There was the Feria in Nimes; a cooking class with a French chef; wine tasting; Blanche Nuit with music and art; and a town-wide brocante. Throw in dinners and shopping with friends and tell me what there’s not to love about France!

Feria Nimes

The September Feria in Nimes is a 3-day party with celebrations all around the town for young and old. The tradition of the feria showcases the Spanish influence in the south of France where corridas are an honored tradition. (See post on “The Bullfight”)

French Cooking Class

It was pure good luck that I was invited to attend at the new Cooking With Class Uzes.  Replicated from the company’s successful operation in Paris, the Uzes offshoot offers expert guidance on cooking that is strictly Provencal. The near-day-long experience deserves a post of it’s own, which will follow. Here are highlights  — “cooking with fish.”

To find out more, stay tuned …

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Wine tasting 

How convenient!  A winery is just across the street from the Cooking With Class Uzes school. I just rolled from one to another … and took the class along with me.  How lucky, too, there was an art exhibition upstairs.

Blanche Nuit

Each Fall Uzes dazzles with white lights and the town celebrates ’til midnight for Blanche Nuit. Music, art galleries and shops are everywhere you look along the streets and alleyways.

This year the celebration started early with dinner at the newly re-opened Hotel Entraigues with Chef Axel and jazz performed by popular local musicians.

A sampling of the art …

Artists: Oliver Bevan, Anne-Marie Lanteri and Catherine Robin 

Artist: Jean-louis Dulaar

Artist: Laurent Dubè

Artist: Viva Blevis

Chapeaux et Accessoires: Petit Béguin 

Uzès Lavoir

For the first time in recent history, the Uzes lavoir was lighted and welcoming visitors on Blanche Nuit. The lavoir, built in 1854, was used as a communal house for washing clothes.

Vide-greniers UZES

A brocante sale covered the town all day Sunday with items ranging from devine to bizarre.

Dining and shopping

With friends from near and far ….

… and a beautiful full moon to cap it all off!

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How to Make French History More Fun

Female expat living in Uzes travels to Nimes and Pont du Gard for fun and learning – Join the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook, too!

“Someday you’ll be glad you’ve seen this,” was the theme of a recent tour of Nimes and Pont du Gard with my 10-year-old visitor, McKenna. As spectacular and amazing as seeing an ancient Roman aqueduct or coliseum might seem, most children would rather spend the afternoon at the pool, or at the Haribo Bon Bon Museum.

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

 

la Maison Carrée

la Maison Carrée

I’m not saying that McKenna didn’t learn something from the narrative film at la Maison Carrée — the centerpiece of the historic district of Nimes — or from walking where lions and tigers entered the arena.

She definitely took it all in. Now that she’s back in the States she is sharing the stories with all her friends.

 

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

If the truth is told, I’m guessing her favorite part of the day was cooling off in the sparkling clear waters of the river below the Pont du Gard.

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

 

Another favorite spot for the active 10-year-old was the Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes. Somewhere among the ruins of Diana’s Temple, she found a playmate.

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

 

Climbing on the pediments of the first century monument dedicated to Augustus, or exploring the vaulted ceiling rooms might have been McKenna’s best memory of the day if we adults hadn’t been in such a hurry.

I guess we just don’t get it.

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Oh! “The Places You’ll Go!”

Female expat living in Uzes travels in France for fun and education. Click here for Trip Ideas You Can Steal

 

The whirlwind tour of the south of France is now history for my recent guests, including 10-year old McKenna. Now that they’re gone, the words of Dr. Seuss’s poem seem perfect to share with McKenna as a reminder of her visit.

 

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

For five full days McKenna, her mother and I packed in as much history, animal adventures, and fun in the south of France as we possibly could. Here’s a picture view of the highlights. Posts to follow will fill in the stories and learnings.

Day One – Uzes

Saturday market and dinner with our friend, Geoffrey, at Le Comptoir 7 

How many ways can you say “foie gras”? This entree featured foie gras as pate, ice cream and creme brûlée!

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

 

 

Day Two – Pont du Gard and Nimes

 

Tracing the Romans in France started with a visit to Pont du Gard. Wading in the cool river water was a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

 

 

Day Three – The Camargue 

A safari in the Camargue gave us “up close” views of the white horses, Camargues bulls and flamingos

 

Day Four – Sete and Carcassonne 

A day on the beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

 

Day Five – Carcassonne 

 

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

… and a lot of 10-year-old craziness along the way!

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Stay tuned for the full story on each location, including the scoop on …

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Trip Ideas You Can Steal From a 10-Year-Old’s Visit to France

Special friends are on the way to visit the Barefoot Blogger, including my dear 10-year-old McKenna. Planning the 7-day visit has been easier than you’d think.

McKenna and I have always had a closer-than- usual relationship because we share the same birthday date. We both agree, that makes us “twins” of sorts.  Almost every birthday since she was born, we’ve spent the day together. Her mother and I are friends from IBM. This past birthday, McKenna wanted her theme to be “Paris” in preparation for her upcoming visit to France.

Paris themed birthday party

Paris themed birthday party

 

Here’s the 7-day itinerary. You’re welcomed to steal!

My guests are arriving the end of this week and we’ll be taking off for an active tour of southwest France.

Day one: Pick them up at the TGV station in Avignon and take a walk around the Pope’s Palace.

Day two: Saturday Market in Uzes. Of course, it’s my favorite thing to do! Trek in the Vallee d’LEure and take a swim at the public pool. Dinner somewhere fabulous in Uzes.

Day three: Pont du Gard tour followed by a visit to Nimes to follow in the footsteps of the early Romans.

Day four:  Morning tour and lunch in the walled city of Aigue Morte. An afternoon “Safari” tour of the Camargue, starting from Grau de Roi. Drive to Sete and spend the night at my favorite Airbnb apartment.

Day five: Breakfast at the city market in Sete followed by an afternoon at a beach club in Sete on the Meditterean.  Catch an early evening train to Carcassone in time to check-in our Airbnb “converted bar” lodging. View the Bastille Day fireworks display in Carcassone, along with 40,000 other tourists.

Day six: Guided tour of Carcassone and shopping (along with thousands of other tourists.) Catch the late afternoon train back to Sete. Drive two hours to Uzes.

Day seven: Say goodbye and scurry to Nimes for an early morning flight.

Collapse. Sleep. Repeat.

(Yes, there will be posts and pictures of it all. Stay tuned!)

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An Insider’s Guide to Shopping in Nimes

Last week the Barefoot Blogger took a shopping trip into Nimes, the closest “big city” near Uzes. I had curtains on my mind.

As much as I try, there’s always something I think will make my apartment in Uzes even better. This time I’m looking for some simple curtains for my “utility” room. To be honest, the room didn’t need curtains until I bought the precious daybed in San Quentin de la Poterie. Remember it from this blog? It’s now in my “utility” room, soon to be “reading room.”

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After a few times driving to shopping areas in Nimes, I’m beginning to know my way around. There’s the downtown area with it’s trendy shops and promenades. Then there’s the megastores on the outskirts of town. Carrefour is one of the biggest stores and it’s much like a Walmart or Target. The big difference is that there are a number of smaller stores under the same roof, so it’s like a shopping center with an anchor store — except the whole center has the name of the anchor store — “Carrefour.”

Then there are a multitude of huge, sprawling stores along the same highway as Carrefour. Most are named “rama“-something.

IMG_2781 My destination for the day was Castorama. 

Castorama reminds me of Home Depot in the states, complete with huge lighting displays, appliances and garden decor. (How ’bout those crazy floor lamps?!)

Wandering through the store, I couldn’t help but wish I could use a chartreuse toilet seat!

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If the wall sign “J’dore” had been in red, not hot pink, it would have gone home with me!

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Outdoor furniture was really impressive. I’m not certain I’ve seen anything quite this stylish in the Home Depots I visit. Not a bad price either!

But back to my reason for the shopping trip — curtains. There was a big selection, including Hello Kitty.

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After filling my tiny shopping cart (large carts are available) with my selection of curtains, rods and curtain hardware, I went to the checkout where I was welcomed by the friendly, English-speaking cashier. Who, by the way, loves the USA. Her cousin lives in California.

 

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Oh! One thing that I failed to mention is how you get from Uzes to Nimes by car.

You drive along a two-lane, winding road that requires a lot of concentration and courage. If you have a few minutes to watch the video, you can imagine the ride. Areas along the narrow roadway are lined with blanc trees that are so close together you don’t want to blink when a car is approaching. The mountainous curves remind you of road races you see televised from France. In fact, the route between Nimes and Uzes is often on the Tour de France course because of it’s difficulty.

(OK, so I sped up the video a bit … but you get the idea!)

Later, Dinner in Uzes

The drive to Nimes and shopping trip took less than two hours. Then it was back to Uzes for dinner with two new friends — readers of the Barefoot Blogger from Pittsburgh!

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It’s not often that I rave about a restaurant; however, this night was special. I hardly recommend Comptoir du 7 in Uzes. Our dinner in the garden was devine.

First course, salads (anytime a salad is served with a puffed pastry, it’s a winner!)

Main course

Beef course served by Cyriel

Beef course served by Cyriel

 

… and a very special dessert — an assortment of sorbets with spun sugar and chocolate lace on a cookie crumble

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A very fine day, indeed!

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Romans in France: The Mini-Series

Four days and nights I was glued to the TV last week. I watched the entire two-season mini-series, “Rome,” and I did it with the same intensity that I devoured “Gone With The Wind.”

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, Art or Architecture?

You see, ever since I moved to the south of France, I’ve been living in a Roman time warp. You’ve heard me say that many times, especially after visiting the aqueduct at Pont du Gard. Or after seeing the ruins of Roman-style villas in Orange; and the arena in Arles. So much of what is revered today in this part of France was established by Romans when they occupied “Gaul.” Miraculously, in spite of wars, weather, politics, and developers, lots of it still stands — from as long ago as 25BC and before.

Watching the HBO series saved me days of laboring through the historical novels I thought I’d have to read about  the Romans. Especially if I wanted to know about the “Caesars,” Julius and Augustus, who left such big footprints in France.

I know you’re thinking a mini-series is hardly the most factual way to learn history. Well, that’s probably true; however, I figure it’s close enough to give me a high-level view of what I wanted to know.

Now, it’s not that I didn’t study ancient history in high school and college. I did. More than that, I took four years of Latin and “translated” the “Aeneid.” Nevertheless, the mini-series had to remind me that Octavius Caesar became known as “Augustus” and that he wasn’t the “true” son of Julius, as if that makes any real difference in history. Also, I was reminded of the importance of “Gods” and “Spirits” during the period when images were carved, engraved and built in their likeness throughout the empire — including “Gaul”, the early name for what was later much of France.

Being armed with a bit of new knowledge, I’m looking forward to delving back into my tours through the south of France and taking notes on more Roman sites. Stay tuned!

For more information on Romans in Gaul check out this article on NYTimes.com

For the mini-series:

 

 

 

 

In Awe of the French: History Preserved

In awe of the French

Anytime I take a trip in France and walk among ancient Roman ruins, I am thankful to the French.

In French towns and villages where the Romans used to roam, you can actually see, feel, touch and experience the places of the past. There are arenas, forums and amphitheaters in the center of towns that are as active today as they were 2000 years ago.

Maison Carree in Nimes

Maison Carree in Nimes

 

 

 

Arena in Arles

Arena in Arles

 

Arena in Nimes

Arena in Nimes

You can climb on and over the walls, paths and steps where Caesar’s men walked.

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

 

You can tread the same routes where early villagers pushed their carts and lead their horses.

 

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

 

l'Arc de Triomphe in Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe in Orange

 

Thank you, France, for preserving these sites; for leaving these places open and

available to the public.

Roman Baths in Arles

Roman Baths in Arles

 

Théâtre antique d'Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

 

Thank you for enabling us to re-live, revere and learn from those before us. 

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

 

 

Amphitheatre in Arles

Amphitheatre in Arles

 

Tour Magne in Nimes

Tour Magne in Nimes

 

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l'eure, Uzes

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l’eure, Uzes

 

Amphitheater in Arles

Amphitheater in Arles

 

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

 

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Thanks to Pete Bine for contributing photos for this post!

For more information on the sights, visit these “sites”

In Nimes:

Arena

Jardins de la Fontaine

Maison Carree

Tour Magne

 

Pont du Gard

 

In Arles:

Arena

Amphitheatre

Roman Baths

 

In Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe

 

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The Bullfight: A Dance with Death

The Bullfight: A Dance with Death
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When I decided to move to France, bullfights never entered my mind. Who knew the traditionally Spanish events exist in the south of France?

Years ago, I attended a bullfight in Spain. It was the “thing to do” for a 20-something college kid visiting Barcelona. All I remember about it was that I bought a poster; I carried it around for years; and life went on.

This summer I was invited to a bullfight in Nimes. Visions of bulls, matadors and swinging red capes have been swirling in my head ever since.

I had no idea bullfights were such a big deal in France. In Nimes they’re called “corridas” and draw quite a crowd. My first corrida was a full-fledged “Feria” in the ancient Roman arena.

The Feria de Nimes

Feria des Nimes

Feria des Nimes

Downtown Nimes was packed with people of all ages for the Feria de Nimes. There were white-topped tents with food and drink set up around arena as far as you could see. Music poured into the streets and alleys from every bar and café. Vendors selling matador capes and flamenco dresses lined up next to hawkers with tickets, t-shirts and posters. The circus-like atmosphere was exhilarating.

 

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Bands joined the fun around the arena

Bands joined the fun around the arena

 

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Close to five o’clock in the afternoon, the raucous crowd around the cafes and drink stands started moving toward the arena.

Feria crowd in NImes

Feria crowd in NImes

 

 

Along with others, I filed into the spectator area of the “plaza de toros” to find my reserved seat. Climbing very cautiously up the rough stone steps into the “bleachers” of the two thousand-year old coliseum, I found my place. Better said, I found my “stone seat with backrest.” Fortunately, it was out of the blazing hot sun.

Once in my place, I noticed the people around me were very quiet. Almost silent. The sounds of piped in music filled the space that I had expected to be boisterous, like a pre-game football stadium.

 

 

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In no time my mind wandered off. My imagination kicked in. I was transported to another time, same place.

 

013be59de4a12654927eef3a460b700a86823e64d3It was Roman days again, in this arena in Nimes, with onlookers gathered to see a gory contest of men against beasts.

When the band started playing and the pomp and ceremony of the paséillo began, it was if the first act of an extravagant ballet had begun to unfold before my eyes.

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A dance with death. Put to music. With extravagant scenery. Skillfully orchestrated.

 

 

Dance with Death Feria de Nimes 2014

Dance with Death
Feria de Nimes 2014

 

Act one – The “suerte de varas.”

Corridas have three acts. It’s been that way since early times. Hemingway calls act one the “trail of the lances.”

The opening scene begins with a fighting bull on the stage. There are hundreds of unfamiliar sounds and objects around him. At first he is dazed, then he’s angry. He runs around the arena, butting his head into anything that gets in his path.

 

Two horses with riders come onto the stage (picadors.) 

Picadors

Picadors

 

The bull sees only one of the horses. He recognizes it as a target from his days in the wild.

Picador

Picador

 

The bull charges. His impact, on the horse’s underside, picks the horse off the ground momentarily.Until now, the bull hasn’t seen the rider on the horse. The picador, who is carrying a sharp-ended rod, stabs the bull between the shoulder blades. The bull, seemingly undaunted, pulls back and strikes the horse again.

 

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The act is over when the “president” of the bullring — an official appointed by law to supervise the corrida—- signals the bugler to blow his horn.

The bull thinks he’s the winner. Everyone else has left the stage.

Act two

Act two features a troupe of fancy-dressed “banderilleros ” who run the bull nearly breathless around the ring. Hemingway calls act two the “sentencing.” It appears the dastardly banderilleros with flying darts are in the scene only to taunt the injured bull. The fact they play an important role in the drama of man vs. beast is not at first apparent.

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Banderillero

 

 

Done well, act two is over quickly, without destroying the bravery and strength of the bull.

Banderillero on the run

Banderillero on the run

 

Act three

Act three, the “execution.” The Spanish call this act the “moment of truth.” It is performed in fifteen minutes. The curtain opens with the matador on center stage. Waving a red caped muleta in his left hand, he waltzes around to show how artfully he dominates the bull. If the animal hooks from one side or another the matador corrects his charge.

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He makes the bull lower his head.

To kill the bull quickly, the matador must drive the sword between the bull’s shoulder blades. In doing so, the matador is in line with the bull’s horns. One wrong move can mean death.

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With the muleta in the left hand, and a sword in his right hand, the matador urges the bull forward. He strikes from the front, driving the sword in smoothly.

The bull dies.

Bulls often survive the strike of the sword. It takes a perfect hit by the matador to lay the huge creature dead . For a matador to fell a bull with one sword, in the correct position, he is highly praised and rewarded.

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Epilogue


The story of the “Dance with Death” is fairly simple. It is the story of a fighting bull and a matador who meet in a crowded arena and fight for glory and honor to the death. Through the story, actors with minor parts parade on stage with much colorful fanfare.

For thirty minutes of the performance, the bull and the matador try to kill each other. The matador gets a lot of help from his friends. The bull, however, is nobody’s fool. He shows his innate ability to spar with each aggressor, to self-protect, and to prove what the Spanish call “his nobility.”

It seems at times the bull might win.

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A twist in the story comes when the matador, seeing the bull in his full glory, realizes that he has fallen in love with the bull. But he must kill him.

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The matador has fifteen minutes to decide between love and glory.

He brings the bull close to him for their last “dance with death. ” He weighs his options: “kill my beloved ” or “miss the final act of my masterpiece.”
The outcome of the drama is a mystery until the end of the last act.

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The bravery of the bull is at the heart of the corrida drama. The honor of the matador determines the outcome. There are no re-runs, no second seasons with the cast. Like other art forms, the truth and beauty is for the beholder.

Writer’s Note
Since the Feria de Nimes I have attended twenty or more corridas in the south of France, I’ve read books by Hemingway and I’ve studied books and articles by experts who love bullfights and by those who hate them. I’ve also done a lot of soul-searching.

I’m an animal-lover. it’s not pleasant to see an animal killed in front of my eyes.

In my research a statement by Orson Welles, great American film maker and writer, helped me understand how I can draw a line between the “animal-lover” part of my brain and the part that really enjoys corridas
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“Either you respect the integrity of the drama the bullring provides or you don’t…. what you are interested in is the art whereby a man using no tricks reduces a raging bull to his dimensions, and this means that the relationship between the two must always be maintained and even highlighted.”

 

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different-perspective

 

 

 

 

Visit Nimes

Party Time in Nimes: Jeudi de Nimes

Visit Nimes on a Thursday night during July and August if you want to see how to throw a party. Tourists, locals, singles and families join in the festivities referred to as Jeudi de Nimes that center around the ancient Roman arena and forum (Maison Carrée).

Visit Nimes

Maison Carrée

 This visit to Jeudi de Nimes I was intent on watching the Tango exhibition. Along the way, however, there were markets; lively cafes on every street; as well as music and dancing of all sorts and origins.

Visit Nimes

80’s Rock Bands

Visit Nimes

Flamenco Band

Visit NimesThere, in the back streets of Nimes, was the event I was looking forward to seeing. Tango dancers from around the area merged together for an evening of music that lasted until midnight. Not a moment longer. City authorities in Nimes and other towns are very strict about noise. Fines are steep for anyone who disobeys party closing times.

Definitely a few dancers stood out from the rest

Oh, that I could learn Tango just by watching.

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 I did learn there’s a strict Tango tradition. A woman can never asks a man to dance. It’s just not done. So women pretty much sit around the dance floor and wait until someone invites them to join them to Tango.

Visit Nimes

The men check out the available crop of dancers.

Visit Nimes

Then assuming everything goes well … and everybody gets along…

 

Visit Nimes

…almost all are matched up for the next Tango.

Visit Nimes

Thursday nights won’t be the same until this Jeudi de Nimes next year. I can’t wait to visit Nimes again. Meanwhile, tango classes start in Uzes in September. Hmmm…

 

Visit Nimes

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Tour de France Up Close

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Good luck just seems to be with me these days in France. My bonne chance this week was visiting a friend in Nimes who lives only a few blocks from the Stage 15 finish of the Tour de France

 

Setting up the Tour de France finish line in Nimes on Sunday morning

Setting up the area around the finish line of the Tour de France in NImes took place literally at the end of the street where I visited. 

Preparing for the Tour de France in Nimes

Preparing for the Tour de France in Nimes

 

 

The course leading into town was ready.

Tour de France Nimes

 

The Finish Line was ready.

Tour de France Nimes

 

 

News crews from around the world were readying their equipment.

Tour de France Nimes

Sports newscaster from Australia

Sports newscaster from Australia

 

Boutique with Tour de France branded merchandise

Boutique with Tour de France branded merchandise

 

The Roman Arena in the center of the action was a contrast of ancient and modern sports venues.

 

Tour de France Nimes

 

The crowds were gathering.

Tour de France Nimes

 

Tour de France Nimes

The race was over in the blink of an eye with a sensational finish.

Tour de France Nimes

 

Norway’s Alexander Kristoff  finished in 4 hrs/ 56mins/ 42secs.  Jack Bauer, the number one cyclists for most of the race, was rushed by a group of riders the last 50 meters. He was pushed back to finish at number 10.  It was a heartbreak for Bauer who wept when it was over. He had led the pack for 221.9km of the 222km (138 mile) Stage 15 race that ended in Nimes.

Here are photos of cyclists as they approached the finish line.

There were some mighty happy Norwegians!

 

Tour de France Nimes

 

 

Wish I’d picked up this piece of memorabilia at the brocante! 

Tour de France toy cyclists from Uzes Brocante

Tour de France toy cyclists from Uzes Brocante

 

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Nimes Arena: The Great Roman Games

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Imagine revisiting the Roman Games of Augustus Caesar’s time. Now place yourself in the very spot where the “games” were actually held. Then add the fanfare, color and a raving crowd. Such just happened this weekend in the Arena in Nimes, France.

Battle reenactments are popular in the States. In fact, I’ve enjoyed going to a few while living near Washington, DC and Richmond. Our re-creations go back  to the battlefields of the American Revolution. Also to the mid-1800’s to revisit the “War Between the States” (or as Southerners say: “The War of Northern Aggression).

A chance to see over 400 actors from France, Germany and Italy relive the Roman games from 2000 years ago, was an event too good to miss.

The first Roman Emperor and founder of Nîmes, Emperor Augustus died in 14 AD — 2000 years ago. The re-enactment in Nimes commemorates his death and stages the Roman Games in Nimeevents that led to the accession of Augustus to the highest position in the Roman Empire — Emperor.

Fortunately my visitors from North Carolina were here to join in on the adventure.

The Venue

Nimes Arena

Arena in Nimes France

Imagine a Roman Arena — the best preserved in the world today. Now imagine gladiators, horses and chariots running through the halls and tunnels of the arena, then running out before the crowd in the amphitheater.

The Event

The reenactment honored the death of Augustus Caesar 2000 years ago. In a variety of scenes, it told the story — all in French — of the events that led up to the rise of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor and founder of Nîmes.

The program, with all its granduer, vividly demonstrated the passion and excitement of the times: Emperor’s parades, military parades, gladiatorial combats and chariot races.

The death of Julius Caesar and the reconstruction of the great Battle of Philippi were the final attractions.

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The Death of Julius Caesar
The Battle of Philippi

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Back to Modern Times

Meanwhile, back on main street, Nimes. The old and the new meld together seamlessly. 

IMG_1715If you enjoy reading these adventures, please take a moment to like the Barefoot Blogger page on Facebook.

Uzes in November: A Two-Day Tour

My  first house guest came to visit recently. During her two-day stay, my college-aged friend and I visited some of my favorite spots around Uzes : Pont du Gard, San Quentin La Poterie and Nimes.

When I learned that my friend from North Carolina’s daughter wanted to visit Uzès in November as part of her break from college, I was thrilled. She is a student at Tulane and is studying a semester abroad in Copenhagen.

Imagine: A “20-something” wants to spend time with me!”

Through emails I learned my visitor wanted to plan her time around a market day — either on Wednesday or Saturday. Since she reads my blog and she knows how I rave about “markets” she wanted to see one for herself. Plans worked out that she would arrive in Nimes by train on Tuesday evening and return for the train on Thursday evening.

Perfect. 

The “agenda” we decided upon would give her a chance to go to the Wednesday market in Uzes, and then see Pont du Gard, shop a bit in San Quentin les Poterie and tour around the quaint pottery village. Then on Thursday we would see the sights in Nimes — remains of Roman civilization — before meeting the train in the evening.

Uzès in November: Day One

I was so excited about meeting my visitor at the train that I got to the station in downtown Nimes well ahead of time. The train was delayed but she arrived close to schedule at 7pm. When she stepped off the train to greet me she was more adorable than I remembered. The last time we saw each other was when she was in middle school.

After quick “hellos” and hugs, we took the elevator in the train station to the parking lot below. We hopped in Mustang Sally and took off for Uzes — a 40-minute drive along a very narrow, curvy, downhill road. The same route the Tour de France cyclist often travel.

First impressions of Uzes – When we entered the town of Uzes I deliberately drove slowly down the tree-lined street, around the tall cathedral and along the walled passage. I could tell my young friend was taking it all in. Before we got to the main street, I pulled Sally into the almost-empty underground parking lot. We walked up the steps, through the staircase that leads from the garage, and into the fresh air.

A short walk through a backstreet alley led us to the plaza of the Duche — Place de Duche.

“Oh my,” my friend blurted out as we rounded the corner; I knew the feeling. Seeing the Duche, the towers, and the ancient stone buildings for the first time is pretty amazing.

When we reached the apartment building and entered the massive entrance door, I led her up the fifty-five steps to my place and to her room for the next few days — decorated just in time for her visit. A room with a view.

Uzes in November

Knowing we would be returning to Uzes late, I’d planned a simple dinner, one of my favorite meals in France so far: Mont d’Or over boiled potatoes with a green salad. As hoped, she loved it and claimed Mont d’Or is” the best cheese I’ve ever eaten.”

Rise and shine – Not one to awaken early, I made an exception this day so that we could cram in as much sight-seeing  as possible.

Our first stop: a cafe for “petite dejuener”. After going by three of my favorite places,we learned that cafes around here don’t serve pastries with their coffee. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to bring in a bag with your own. (You can tell that eating out this time of day isn’t part of my routine.) Happily, we went to the boulangerie to choose from a decadent selection of fresh, hot bakery items. Our choice:  croissants — two chocolate, two almond. Then off for coffee and latte at the nearest cafe.

Uzes in November

Uzes in November

Wednesday Market

Market vendors and tourists are dwindling down in numbers with the cooler weather in Uzes.  Anyway, there was enough activity that my guest could picture the Place aux Herbes crowded with people and things to buy.

Shops were open that displayed the season’s new fashions. Wishing she had brought a bigger suitcase, my young friend found a linen, ruffled dress that she could easily stuff into her backpack.

Pont du Gard

The aqueduct built by the Romans to supply water to the early Gaelic city of Nimes was next on the tour.

On the 20-minute drive from Uzes to Pont du Gard, I became concerned about the weather. The sky was cloudy and the wind was ferocious at times. I was a bit concerned about our plan to walk through the expansive, open grounds at Pont du Gard, then across the long, open bridge that is part of the aqueduct.

My mind darted back to last summer when, crossing the Pont du Gard, my hat flew off and it almost went over the side.  It’s a long way down to the river and valley below. I didn’t want to be a “killjoy” but I related the hat story and added that the wind was blowing much harder now. My companion wasn’t worried at all. She had seen worse in Copenhagen. We forged ahead.

There’s a blog about Pont du Gard that I wrote this summer. It goes into detail about my feelings the first time I saw Pont du Gard. I really hoped it would have the same affect on others. I wondered how I would react seeing it again.

Uzes in November

Uzes in November

In the fall, with few visitors in the park, the view of Pont du Gard is still amazing.

San Quentin la Poterie

Right on schedule after a half day at Pont du Gard, there was plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping in the small village on the other side of Uzes known for its artists, pottery and laid-back atmosphere.

Uzes in November

San Quentin la Poterie

Uzes in November

Uzès in November: Day Two

We accomplished a lot in Day One of the two-day tour, including plenty of time to eat lunch at Pont du Gard, to sip lattes in a tiny cafe/reading shop in San Quentin la Poterie, and to enjoy “mashed cod and potato” pizza at “Pizza les Duche” when we returned to Uzes.

The next day was just as busy, filled with visiting more sites of the Roman occupation of Gard. A tour of Nimes.

Nimes

The city of approximately 150,000 citizens, is proudly called the City of Art and History. Its beginning starts over 2000 years ago with many sites dating back as early as 25 BC.

To include Nimes on a visit to Uzes is not only a must-see, it’s convenient. The train station is in the middle of the city — the closest around. Trains connect to Paris and the rest of France where you can get most anywhere in Europe. My house guest’s train to Marseilles, then onto Nice, was scheduled for early that evening, giving us time to leisurely walk around the historic town.

La Maison Carrée – To me this is the practical place to start the tour. The grand, majestic “forum” is in the middle of downtown.

A 20-minute movie plays constantly during the daytime at la Maison Carrée that presents the city and its history in 3-D. It seems a bit “hokey” because the scenes are intended to represent people and events 2000 years ago; however, it’s entertaining. I definitely enjoyed the film more this time than when I saw it last summer. Then there were lots of tourists and I had to sit on the theater steps.

Uzes in November

The Arena – Also known as the Coliseum, is one of the most spectacular places to see in Nimes.

It is one of the few remaining arenas from the Roman days and, reportedly, it is the most well-preserved. We both agree it is a more impressive landmark than the Coliseum in Rome. The park-like historic district where the arena sits in Nimes gives the giant structure the space it deserves. Even though it is in the center of town, there are no tall buildings around that hinder the view.

Ooops!   Ok, there was a slight interference with the view that day — a ferris wheel

Uzes in November

Just a reminder that Nimes is a lively, modern town. Uzes in November

Uzes in November

Our lunch stop in Nimes gave me a chance to introduce a local dish to my guest — moules and frites.

When I see mussels and fries offered on a street menu as the “plat du jour”, I go for it. To pay nine or ten euros, it’s a good value. Plus, it’s really tasty! Especially with an icy, cold glass of beer from the tap.

Uzes in November

Tour Magne – The Great Tower is at the highest spot in the city of Nimes and the only remaining remnant of the ancient wall built by Augustus near 15 BC.

Getting to the Tour Magne is a mission in itself. Standing tall above the beautiful Jarden de la Fontaine, the monument is reached only by climbing the stairways that lead to the top of the terraced garden. The views along the way are magnificent, even in late fall.

Uzes in November

By the time we reached the monument visitor hours had just ended. Just as well for me since I swore the last time I climbed the stairs of the tower would be … well … the last time. My energetic friend could have easily taken it on, but she assured me she wasn’t disappointed. To see Nimes from this height was quite enough.

Uzes in NovemberUzes in November

Missing the climb to the top of the Tower meant we had more time to relax, visit and see other parts of Nimes.

Uzes in November

It also meant we had time to take in one of the most interesting, amusing spots of all — the cafe near the train station. My guest agreed these out-of-the-way places and people you meet make France the place to spend as much time as possible.

          Uzes in November   Uzès in November: Farewell

The non-stop, three day visit to this part of the Gard in southern France was over.

Before leaving on the train, I heard my “20-something” friend proclaim: “I’ll be back … soon!”

For another view of Nimes visit this earlier blog post 

For another view of Pont du Gard visit this earlier post

For another view of San Quentin la Poterie visit this earlier post 

Expat Moving Tips for France

Nimes, France: Gardens and Gladiators

Visiting Nimes took me back to Miss Clegg’s Latin class in high school.

Some of you reading this story remember Miss Clegg. Or you had a teacher like Miss Clegg. She never knew 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” in Latin and I never graduate from high school.

Nimes (pronounced “Neem”) dates back to the first century BC and was named for the Celtic God Nemasus. It was created as a Roman colony by Julius Caesar who gave land in Nimes to his soldiers after they served 15 years in the army, During the rule of Augustus, Nimes was a prosperous city and boasted a population of 60,000 citizens.

Maison Carrée in Nimes FranceMighty 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.

Arena in Nimes FranceAnother 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.

Maison Carrée
Maison Carrée in Nimes FranceSeeing the stately Maison Carrée, formally a Roman temple, truly made me feel I was in Rome, not France. The 3D video production, shown almost every hour during the day, told of the heroes of Nimes who lived through the various ages of the city. La Madeleine in Paris was modeled after the Maison Carrée, as was the Virginia state house in the US, designed by Thomas Jefferson It is said that Jefferson was so taken by the beauty of the 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

The Amphitheater, also called the Arena, is one of the ten 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. The Arena accomodates up to 25,000 people.  An audio guide was available and it was quite worthwhile. You can walk into the arena, sit in the stands, and relive stories of gladiators and lion slayers.

 

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!

 

Jardins de la Fontaine

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.

 

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.

A city of two worlds 

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.

Arena nimes france

 

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