Hi everyone! Another quaint place I was able to visit on my work trip was the French city of Nîmes. If you remember correctly from my previous post about some medieval sites, the Pont du Gard aqueduct provided water for Nîmes for many years. The aqueduct isn’t the only bit of Roman history you can find in Southern France however–Nîmes can often be referred to as the French Rome!
It has that nickname because one of it’s most popular landmarks has some similar resemblance to the Colosseum in Rome (on a much smaller scale of course). The arena of Nîmes was built in 70 AD by the Romans. Used for theater performances & gladiator battles, this area provided entertainment for the city.
In 1863, the arena was remodeled to serve as a bull-fighting ring. To this day, it actually still hosts two bull-fights a year, to celebrate the Feria of Nîmes. (Bull-fighting & Feria are two things I usually mention when talking about Spain, but because of it’s proximity, a lot of similar traditions can be found in this part of France!)
Nowadays, separate from the two bull-fighting matches, the arena is used as a concert, theater or event venue! It can hold 24,000 spectators and even has a moveable roof that can be put in place to cover the crowd during inclement weather. It costs 10 euros to enter the Arena and comes with an audio guide. For more information about visiting, check out the link here.
Another interesting fact about this French city, is that its coat of arms is a crocodile & a palm tree! It may seem strange since there are no native crocodiles to this region but this symbol first became the coat of arms for Nîmes in 1585 thanks to a Roman coin that was once minted here to celebrate Augustus’s victory in Egypt. (Hence, where the crocodiles come from). You can see this emblem everywhere!
An interesting place to stop & check out is actually inside city hall! It only takes a few minutes inside the building to notice something is a little off. When you look up, you can see real stuffed crocodiles floating above the hall as decoration!
One of the last sights I stopped at in Nîmes was Maison Carrée. Built between 4-7 AD, this is one of the oldest well-preserved Roman temples in Europe. In recent years, the temple was cleaned and restored to look brand new, which is why the stone is so bright!
Although I didn’t go inside, it was beautiful to admire from the outside. (You can purchase a joint ticket to visit both the arena & Maison for 13 euros).
Although I only had a few hours in this city, I found it to be much more impressive than what I was expecting. Nîmes is the love-child of France & Italy. There’s chic French apartments & bistrots, with Roman ruins across the street! It’s worth at least a day or two if you’re in the region. Check out some of my favorite photos from my time here below.
Finally, I would like to end his post by sharing my favorite fun-facts about Nîmes. In the past, people in Nîmes started producing blue died cotton pants for workers to wear, a fabric which originated in the city. In French, “de” means of, or from. “De-Nîmes” is what they called this style of pants. In 1864, Webster dictionary shortened this to create the english word denim. We have this quaint French city to thank for our stylish denim jeans–how fun!
Next on tap–the famed French Riviera!
Au Revoir, Amanda