Nimes was the first of the French cities to be taken over by the Romans and they really went to town to stamp their mark on the indigenous population. It was great to see the “terminal” of the Pont du Gard aqueduct and imagine the gentle rush of water. The cynic in me speculated on the panic that may have befallen the town’s population if the water stopped flowing—but I guess the mighty Roman Empire would have legislated for that outside possibility. The Castellum, a Roman water tower on Rue de Lalpeze, was the main storage and distribution source for this precious resource
But the most outstanding Roman remain in Nimes is the amphitheatre. My son and I paid our admission fee and clambered to the highest point of this impressive space. From the top there were some great views of the City and a real sense of the enormity of this entertainment centre. In its day it would have accommodated just over 21,000 people and the restoration of the Roman equivalent of the “show case cinema” has been delightfully restored. It was originally designed to allow flooding for aquatic events, but no one gave us an explanation as to how the water was released from the arena.
Over the years the site has been used as a defence fortress and later as a centre for over 2,000 paupers, but now having being restored to its former glory “entertainment” has returned. There are regular bullfights held in the arena both the traditional style (Nime still has a close relationship with Spain) in which the bull is taunted and then killed, or the more refined Provençal style in which they only taunt the bull and remove rosettes from its torso. The later is a much more comedic affair, but participants do get injured by the agitated, angry bulls.
The town has some super little alleyways to explore with many cafés spilling onto the pathway with their tables and parasols. Check out the carved façade of a building opposite the town hall. This was formerly an armourer's shop and the brightly clad statue is known as the Jack o' the clock; the old Fort Vauban, dates back to the wars of religion; Maison Carree is a 1st century B.C. temple and is reputed to be the best preserved temple of its kind in the world. Porte Augustus (on Boulevard Gambetta) is all that remains of the original entrance to the town and it was so designed to give two way traffic access and smaller arched entrance for pedestrians.
Nimes is a fairly relaxed town with picturesque parks, numerous water features and some good solid medieval architecture. We saw a number of buildings sporting religious murals, some interesting squares, clock towers and spire churches. All in all this is an interesting town to visit—a reminder of the greatness of the Roman empire and the solid nature of their engineering masterpieces.