Around France

Gardens and Gladiators in Nimes France

Gardens and Gladiators in Nimes, France, 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 Nemausus. 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 which dates back to the 2nd century BC. The Amphitheater and Maison Carrée are located in a vast area in the center of town designated as a historic district. The sides of the community 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 a 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, 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 statehouse 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. It is being renovated, but even now, the space is being used for public events. A stage was erected while I was at an upcoming rock concert. The Arena accommodates up to 25,000 people.  An audio guide was available, and it was pretty 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. All that remains of the Wall surrounded the city built by Augustus. To take full advantage of my Gran Tour ticket, I walked to the top of the hill and up the spiral staircase to 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 park, I thought 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 tourist 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- coexist in such harmony. The rock poster on the Amphitheater says it all.

Arena nimes france


5 replies »

  1. Hi Debby. Safe travels onward and have fun in Sete and Barcelona. Did I mention I like Cadaques in the Costa Brava and the area around the National Park of Cap Creus? Beautiful and Salvador Dali’s and Gala’s summer house and garden in Cadaques is so worth the ride but you MUST reserve your ticket in advance before going there or you won’t get in: they only allow groups of eight visitors at a time!! Will be following you on the blog and look forward to hearing all about it, A

    • Can’t believe I’m done with the Uzes part of my adventure. But I’m gong back. You’ll have to read the blog to keep up with the story that’s unfolding. Thanks for being such a fabulous host! Left the train money for the cleaning lady..

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