Tag: arena from Roman times

Summer Concert in Nîmes' ancient arena

Nîmes Rocks! Summer in Nîmes’ Ancient Arena

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 Concert in Nîmes’ Ancient Arena

Want to know more about Nîmes and the Roman history behind its stone walls and majestic architecture? Read on here …  Why Nimes is a “Must See” for Roman History Lovers

 

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

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
.
“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

 

 

 

 

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Bullfights and Fanfare

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If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately attending as many types of events that feature bulls as the main attraction as possible. It’s becoming an obsession.

Someday soon I’m going to write a post about a bullfight. Right now I’m trying to sort out all my emotions about the controversal pastime that’s such a rage in this part of France.

Arles

 

The Feria du Riz in Arles was the perfect opportunity for me to do more research on the subject. Not only was there a bullfight, or “corrida,” there were also bulls running in the streets, an abrivado.

 

Arles

Running of the bulls – abrivado

Now that I’ve witnessed a few abrivados this year, I’m catching on to how they’re staged. Most importantly, I’m  finding there are certain vantage points that are better than others if you want to actually see the bulls.

It works like this.

Both sides of the street are lined with metal fencing. That keeps out people who wouldn’t get near the bulls anyway because it’s easy to squeeze between the bars of the fencing.  At the starting place of the abrivado there’s an enclosed truck that’s filled with bulls. At the opposite end of the route, in Arles, a flatbed trailer truck was stationed between the two sides of fencing.

 

Arles

 

For my first abrivado/bandido, I watched from the starting point when the bulls ran out of the truck. In Arles, I wised up a bit and went to the opposite end to get a better view. That’s where the bulls and horses turn around to run back to the starting place.

At the beginning of the abrivado, men and women on horseback — bandidos — start the spectacle by riding in tandem along the route, which is usually the main street of the town or village. These “cowboys” proudly parade their white Camargue horses before an appreciative crowd.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

After the horses and riders parade past a few times, the bulls are released.The bandidos run along beside and in front of the bulls to keep them herded together.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

When they reach the end of the course, they all turn around and race back up the street. 

 

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That’s when all the kids in town chase after them all.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

Now, if that sounds boring, it’s not. It’s exhilarating — for me, at least. Let’s just say, it beats watching grown men run back and forth for hours chasing a football. (Sorry sports fans!)

The arena and corrida

Anything that takes place in Arles is going to be a unique experience. It is an ancient city where the present and the past intermingle seamlessly.

Arles

 

When walking down the street, on several occasions, it took my breath away when I realized I was standing beside a Roman forum, or strolling through a park Van Gogh had sketched.

Arles

 

 

The arena in Arles is not just a shrine to the Roman days of Gaul, it’s a lively gathering place for local events, including ferias and rock concerts.

 

Arles

 

During the Feria du Riz the steps of the arena were the stage for a “battle of the bands.”

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The inside of the arena is a vision straight out of a history book. Having attended events at both the arena in Arles and in Nimes, I’m surprised there has been so little “modernizing” of either structure. These facilities would be off-limits to visitors if in the States. Getting up and around in the seating areas in the arenas is treacherous, even for the able-bodied. I’m not complaining… just saying .

Arles

 

Arles

 

Seating in the arena is on stones. Some sections have wooden seats over the stones. Depending on how close you want to get to the “action”, the price of seats runs accordingly. The most expensive spots are less than midway up the side of the arena and out of the direct sun.

Arles

 

 

As mentioned at the start, more detail about bullfights is yet to come. I’m finishing up Hemingway’s novels on the subject.  He studied bullfighting with some of the greatest matadors of all times. Next my mission is to learn more about the modern corrida and the local controversies.

Stay tuned.

 

Arles

 

For  more posts on bulls, bullfighting and events, check these out:

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Food and Fashion

The Bulls are Here!

The Fete Votive 2014 Finale: Bulls, Belles, Bands and Bubbles.

Uzes’ Fete Votive: The Psychedelic and Bizarre

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

 

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Arles: Feria du Riz Food and Fashion

In Arles there seems to always be a party going. Arles’ Feria du Riz is one of the best.

Arles, a town less than an hour down the road that’s mostly famous for being one of Van Gogh’s “hangouts”.  The Feria du Riz, the annual Rice Harvest Festival, celebrates one of the region’s top crops — rice.

Rice in Arles

Arles is on the northern edge of the Camargue which has been the subject of a few earlier blogs. Just as bulls, white horses and flamingos are indigenous to the area, rice has been produced in the Camargue since the Middle Ages. Today there are some 200 rice producers in this small area, representing about 5% of rice production in Europe. Camargue’s “red rice” is a popular local souvenir.

 

The Feria du Riz is, interestingly, a very Spanish celebration to be in France. The food and the fashions are straight from Spain.

Before I get much farther, though, let me set the scene for Arles’ Feria du Riz

When you drive into the old city of Arles, there’s a long avenue with cafes and shops that leads to a lovely park with a walkway that leads to the ancient areas of the town — the arena and the amphitheater. For the Feria, the avenue is spread with carnival-like booths with food vendors and souvenirs.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

At cafes along the way, the ohm-pah-pah bands are warming up the crowd for the afternoon festivities.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Road barriers lined the street for the running of the bulls scheduled for the early afternoon.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Since this is a Rice Harvest Festival the food booths along the way were showing off their take on  — a Spanish favorite that matches with the theme of the Feria.

I was starving when I hit town and this was the first paella stand in line, so it was my pick.

Arles' Feria du Riz

I sat on the steps of a fancy hotel and restaurant and gulped down the serving of paella with a bottle of water. It hit the spot on the already hot day.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

As I walked down the street, I wasn’t certain the place I stopped was the best choice. It all looked so good!

Arles' Feria du Riz

These photo-perfect folks were putting out some fabulous kebab dishes.

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about food

One popular food offering was kebabs — in all varieties. There were kebabs in sandwiches and kebab “stew” served over frites (french fries). The kebab mixtures were steaming away in huge pans, just as the paella.

Then there were the fish specialties — a Fisherman’s plate with calamari and pots of steaming moule (mussels).

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about fashion

My favorite stop of the day was a sidewalk shop with the Spanish dresses, skirts and all the frills. I had to hold myself back from buying one of the skirts. Imagine a holiday party wearing one of these!

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Arles’ Feria du Riz is about the scenery

Beyond the vendors I walked to the entrance to the park and walkway to the old town.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

When up the steps and around the town building, there lay before me the beautiful village of Arles, with buildings and roadways centuries ago. People were everywhere, in every square, eating and enjoying festivities and socializing the warm September Sunday.

One of the famous squares in the city, during the Feria, is a showcase of artisans and regional foods.

Arles' Feria du Riz

To my surprise, one of the new products being displayed was barbeque sauces. In France? I could hardly believe my eyes. Of course, I had to strike up a conversation with the owners to tell him I’d been to Memphis in May — the barbeque event of the year. He knew it well and hopes to make it there someday himself.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

After spending most of the afternoon walking around the town and checking out the food stands, it was time for the bulls running in the street. This time I knew how to get up close and personal. For the next post, though. Along with all the fanfare that surrounds a bullfight in the south of France. Stay tuned!

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

Village Scenes in Uzes: Public Park at Vallée de l’Eure

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Hotel in UzesNext to the Hotel Du Baron De Castille in Uzes stands the 17 century cathedral with the Romanesque bell tower, La Tour Fenestrelle.  Beyond the tower is a terrace that overlooks the Vallée de l’Eure and the public park.

The Cathedral and 12th Century Tour Fenestrelle

The Cathedral and 12th Century Tour Fenestrelle

 

 

The terrace that views the valley is also a parking area for the Cathedral.

The terrace that views the valley is also a parking area for the Cathedral.

 

Probably one of the best pieces of real estate in the city is this 17th century house behind the cathedral.

Uzes home overlooking the valley.

Uzes home overlooking the valley.

 

This “smarty cat” knows he has the best view.

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 The landscape between Uzès and the valley of the Cévennes is rolling hills, vineyards, olive groves and stretches of dwarf ilex, wild thyme, box and rosemary.

 

Vallee de l'Eure from the cathedral in Uzes

Vallée de l’Eure from the Cathedral in Uzes

 

 There are beautiful walks along the valley and the rivers, including along the streets leading into and out of Uzes.

 

  As you walk around  the cathedral’s parking lot,  you enter the public park.

 

Entrance to the city park in Uzes

Entrance to the city park in Uzes

 

Public tennis courts and swimming pool

Public tennis courts and swimming pool area

 

 

The walkway continues through wooded areas to the river valley.

 

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River runs through the valley

River runs through the valley

 

 

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I understand that at one time, the area around the river valley was active with mills and a small community of people. They have vanished, leaving only these remnants of an earlier time.

 

Abandoned mill at the river

Abandoned mill at the river

 

This is the same valley we visited in earlier posts at the remains of the Roman aqueduct (Source de l’Eure) and at Pont du Gard.  In Roman times the spring that originated here ran through the hills to Nîmes, crossing the river Gardon by means of the Pont du Gard.

 

Hopefully you enjoyed this walk with me around the village. Stay tuned for more…

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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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Uzes Day Trip: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

Let me reign in your expectations upfront. There’s no way you can take an Uzes day trip to Arles, Saintes-Maries and the Camargue and be satisfied.

I did, however, get a glimpse of these sites so that I can return for another visit. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the short preview as much as I enjoyed the day trip out of Uzes.

Uzes Day Trip

Sunflowers in France

But first, a field of sunflowers to start the day.

Uzes Day Trip to Arles. It’s More than Van Gogh.

Today most people go to Arles to trace the footsteps of Van Gogh. That idea intrigues me, but not for this trip. There were other places I wanted to see that are nearby. So I spent the morning in Arles visiting a couple of its most important Roman artifacts: the Arena and the Amphitheatre.

Frankly, I am surprised at myself, but history is taking on a whole new meaning. It’s actually fun to put together names and events now that I can put them into context.

Uzes Day Trip

Arles Arena

 Arles has a history that traces back to a primitive tribe of people who lived between the river (Rhone) and the marshes, Ar-laith. From early on, Arles was overshadowed by Marseilles, the nearby settlement by the sea, It’s interesting that the city’s fate and wealth took a positive turn when the people of Arles gave aid to Julius Caesar in defeating Pompey in Marseilles. Among other contributions to Caesar’s cause, the shipbuilders of Arles constructed twelve fighting vessels for Caesar’s troops, reading them to sail in less than 80 days.

Caesar bestowed the title “Colonia Julia Paterna Arelatensis Sextanorum” upon Arles. He then stationed his Vi legion in Arles which helped create a Roman city of great reknown. The Arles Arena is a reminder of the rich Roman city Arles became. Built on a smaller scale than the arena in Nimes, it appears to be a “mini” arena in comparison. Even so, it accommodates up to 25,000 spectators. Like in Nimes, the Arena has an active life still today, hosting popular bull fights and local festivals.

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Romulus Augustus, the last Roman emperor, died in 476 and, soon, Arles fell into the hands of barbarians. The city collapsed in 480 with the arrival of the Visgoths.The Theatre in Arles, by some accounts was built somewhere between 15BC and 30BC. Because of the religious significance of the original statues and monuments, it has been plundered repeatedly.

 

Arles reasserted itself through the years, at one time becoming the capital of the kingdom including Provence and Bourgogne.  Although the Roman architecture and magnificent structures in Arles have been ransacked and materials removed for other purposes, those that remain  rank among the finest and most important in Provence.

Uzes Day Trip

 

Next Uzes Day Trip: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer

Holidays in France: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer

 

 

 

 

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. 

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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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