Time to do some backtracking! All the way back to the end of April, when I visited Nîmes with fellow assistant Sarah. We had already visited quite a lot of the region on our previous weekend adventures, so we decided to take our last trip to Nîmes in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Well, I should say our last trip during the assistantship, because I definitely hope to see her again!
I know I just went to Rome, but the above temple is actually in France. Nîmes became a Roman colony around 28 BC, although it became an important center during the reign of Augustus when he made it the capital of the Narbonne region. This is when most of its monuments were built, including the above Maison Carrée (Square House), considered to be one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world. After being used for everything from a church to a horse stable, it now houses a 3D movie. We didn’t see it on purpose, we thought there was actually something of the temple inside to see. But the movie was over-the-top and ridiculous fun, so we were entertained.
After the 3D film experience of the history of Nîmes, we got lunch at the delicious Mezzo di Pasta (which should really open up some stores in the States) and then strolled along the lovely canal to the Jardins de la Fontaine. There was some sort of comic book fair going on, but it was mostly raffles and kids sitting on the dirt reading Tintin, so we continued walking. The park really lived up to its “Gardens of the Fountain” name and was almost like a little Venice with its waterways and bridges. It was also incredibly green and the warmest it had been in a long time.
At the top of the park was the Tour Magne, a tower that was formerly part of the Roman ramparts surrounding the town. I should mention that I didn’t make it to the aqueducts, which are probably the biggest Roman attraction in the town, but are unfortunately not reachable by foot. Well, I always like a reason to return to a place. Maybe next time I go to France I will rent a car.
Also in the Jardins de la Fontaine is the Temple de Diane, which is actually not a Temple of Diana, as its name might lead you to believe. No one is sure what the Roman ruins that make up the “temple” were for, but the name stuck when a statue of Diana was found in an excavation. Whatever the case, there was a cafe right next to it where we got ice cream.
The last stop on our Roman tour was the Arènes de Nîmes, the town’s Roman amphitheater and current home of bloody bullfights. I’d already been inside the amphitheater back when I was studying in Clermont-Ferrand in 2006. We were riding the train back from a visit to Barcelona and had a couple hours in Nîmes to see it. This time we just saw the outside, but it is the most breathtaking that way. Its the best-preserved of all the Roman amphitheaters, having more of its original stones than the Colosseum in Rome.
We caught the TGV back to Valence and Sarah took the bus from there to Privas. It was sad to say goodbye, but hopefully we will have more travel adventures some day soon.