Thursday, December 24, 2015

Nîmes, France

Actual date of this event: 9 May

When planning our week in the South of France, I found a cheap flight back to London from the Nîmes airport, so it made sense to check out the city for our last few hours. We had also been given several recommendations for Nîmes from our friends Kelly and Stephen, who had visited just a few days before. Even more so than Arles, Nîmes is filled with Roman history (it can be nicknamed the French Rome). There are also many water fountains throughout the city that give it a nice Mediterranean feel, even though it isn't on the coast.

The first of the Roman sites we saw was the Amphitheatre. Similar to the one in Arles, it hosts bull fights each year, and is very well preserved. We chose not to go inside since we only had a couple of hours in Nîmes before our flight.

Next, we came across Maison Carré, the old Roman Temple. It looked extremely clean as it was restored just a few years ago - the door was very very tall. I later learned that the temple was the inspiration for the Virginia State Capitol building.

The city was pretty quiet as we walked around, but it was barely 10:30am. We passed by several churches, a few squares, and decided to sit for a coffee and juice.

We made our way to Jardin de la Fontaine where other Roman sites are located. We followed a long canal covered by trees along the way. The garden was huge, very open, fountains and water were everywhere, but by this point, we were very hot from carrying our rucksacks on our backs. We needed a shade break pretty bad, so we sat on a bench under the trees to eat our sammiches for lunch.

After a short break, we decided against walking up the hill to the other Roman Temples, and made our way back into the city center. We sat for a drink at a small tapas place before catching the 2:30pm bus to the airport. Even though we only spent about 4 hours exploring, Nîmes was a great little stop before heading off to the airport. It was very sad to say good-bye to the South of France. We had the most magical week... it felt like a second honeymoon! And it was all Luke's idea :-)

More from the South of France: IntroNiceAntibesMonacoEze VillageAvignonPope's Palace & Pont d'AvignonPont du GardBuissonSt. RemyLes BauxArles, Nîmes

Nîmes is known for its textiles, and more specifically, denim gets its name from the city - serge de Nimes in French.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Arles, France

Actual date of this event: 8 May

After spending Thursday driving to several different places around Avignon, we decided to visit Arles on Friday for our last full day in the South of France. We debated visiting Arles by car the day before, but as the city is accessible by train, we decided to hold off. Throughout our week, one thing we were shocked to learn was how many Roman ruins were in the area, and Arles was no exception. The 20 minute journey got us there around noon, and the first thing we did was visit the Roman Amphitheatre.

The Amphitheatre is two tiers and was built sometime around the 1st or 2nd century. It is much small than Rome's Amphitheatre, but it looked just as impressive, and just as nice.

There is still some stone seating, but there are also metal stands for seats. Today, the stadium is used for bullfighting during the city's two bullfighting festivals.

After visiting the Amphitheatre, we stopped for a savory crepe for a snack, before moving on to visit the Roman Theatre. It was mostly in ruins except for the seating. There wasn't a whole lot to see, but we walked around anyway. Ancient marble slabs lay on the ground like they were placed there yesterday.

From there, we wandered the city. Some streets were quiet, some were busy. A few squares were crowded with people and few had no one in them. We passed by a few of the other Roman sites (the thermal bath, church, forum, and crypt) but decided not to visit them.

We stopped for a drink in Place du Forum. Unbeknownst to us, we were sitting at the restaurant where Van Gogh painted several pieces (Le Cafe de Nuit). Luke kept seeing people take pictures, so he looked it up.

After about four hours in Arles and enough wine to put us in a cheery mood, we were pretty much done exploring, so we made our way back to the train station.

Just before reaching the train station, we walked along the Rhone River, and came across the spot where Van Gogh painted Starry Night - I'm not an art person, but I do know that one. River boats took up the majority of the view of the river - hah! Oddly, even though Van Gogh lived and painted in Arles for a few years, none of his works reside in the city.
Arles was a nice city with loads of history. Without the Roman ruins, there wouldn't be a whole lot to it. I did enjoy the quiet and quaint feeling of the streets as we wandered. Even though it was our last full day in the South of France, we still had time to squeeze in one more destination before flying back to London...

More from the South of France: IntroNiceAntibesMonacoEze VillageAvignonPope's Palace & Pont d'AvignonPont du GardBuissonSt. RemyLes BauxArlesNîmes

Documented as the longest living human being, Jeanne Calment lived her entire life of 122 years and 164 days in Arles. She passed in 1997.

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