From Carcassonne we travelled by train to Nimes where we spent three night. Our hotel was well out of town, which I vaguely remembered from when I made the booking because there wasn’t much accommodation available. We soon discovered why. It was a long weekend in France (Pentecost) and the annual Spanish Festival was in full swing.
Nimes is 2000 yrs old – the founding of the city goes back to the sixth century BC. The Nimes amphitheater (Les Arenes) is one of the best preserved in the Roman world and continues to be used as a venue for conferences, sporting events, concerts and bullfights! There were bullfights held over the long weekend and I would have loved to have gone if only it didn’t involve watching a poor creature being tortured and killed. The amphitheatre was built at the end of the first century to accommodate 20,000 spectators who would have watched hunting and fighting spectacles featuring animals and gladiators.
We visited La Maison Carre (square house), also first century, and Le Temple de Diane, one of the more romantic and enigmatic monuments of Nimes, which was associated with the imperial temple. The highlight of our French journey, so far, was a day spent at the Pont du Gard, the spectacular vestige of a Roman aqueduct which wound through the hills of the Uzege to bring water to Nimes, for five centuries. This magnificent structure was the tallest aqueduct in the Roman world and was built in only five years. It spans the River Gardon and there are places to swim and walk, restaurants and a museum and information centre. It is a great place to spend a relaxing day.The constant backdrop to our wanderings around Nimes was the Spanish festival – crowds of people, French and Spanish, music, horses, Flamenco and paella. It was hectic and very colourful.