There is so much history in Nîmes to appreciate. If we merely go back to Roman times, then this was a great place to be – the French Rome, some call it.The main splendor to see is the arena of the second century AD. It is considered the most complete and best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world. As with all such monuments, it was roughly treated by the Visigoths, and made into a fortified village in the middle ages, but all in all, there is a whole lot left to admire.
And it’s not a dead museum, either. Bullfights have been a feature of life in this area for over 2,000 years, and they continue in the arena to this day. The proud tradition of the gladiators is still alive too…
The symbol of the town includes a crocodile chained to a palm tree. Didn’t see any crocs, except for the Lacoste shop, but did find some palms. Overall, a very lovely town with – get used to it – a fabulous market with mouth-watering displays.
The next remarkable souvenir of the Roman presence to see here is the Maison Carrée, one of the best preserved Roman temples to be found anywhere in the territory of the former Empire. Part of the reason it has survived so well is that fact that it has been continuously used – though only originally for religious purposes – for the last 2,000 years. Beautiful, even if its neighbor is an excrescence of modern architecture for which we can thank Sir Norman Foster. Interesting drawing of its original positioning.
Nîmes is also noteworthy for the Jardins de la Fontaine, the first civic park project. Lovely enough for a king, but meant for the masses, they are still beautiful. and a great place for a hen party, or for a bride’s pictures – following her phone call.
But there is one more very special thing to know and thank this city for. In the 1700’s, the textile industry was booming in Nîmes, where heavy cotton serge was produced and colored with indigo. Serge de Nîmes, now known as denim, is responsible for covering at least 50% of the bodies currently strolling the streets of Nîmes. And just imagine what Levi Strauss and California gold-rushers would have been without this product!
Naturally, Nîmes also offered a lovely lunch in a restaurant whose pastries were unavoidable. All in all, a very worthy place to spend a day.