Roman Amphitheatre – Nîmes, Occitanie, France

Today started with a nice walk around the ramparts and stroll through the town in Aigue-Mortes with the dogs before the usual routine of services and paying for parking. I have still not found out why the town appears to be called sudden death (from my basic French understanding). Perhaps a good thing we left without finding out.

A nice steady drive through the Camargue countryside on the non-toll roads to Nîmes. The Camargue horses seemed to be grazing at every house, often hidden in chest high grass. They are certainly a beautiful breed and I hope to see some closer to next time we visit.

However, today was about seeing something we did not get to see on our last tour in November. There is no designated parking for motorhomes and all options did not work for our previous Niesmann Bishoff Flair motorhome. However, this time we found a newly opened private aire for 6 campers to the north of the city scoring top review scores on all the motorhome camping apps for the hospitality of the hosts. I called Bernard before we left Aigue-Mortes and he confirmed they did have space and provided some instructions for sat Nav directions.

Even though it was 11am on a Thursday morning we drive through near the centre of Nîmes with no traffic. We negotiated the small roads approaching the house with no issues in our slimmer Mercedes MLT and were surprised at the size of the two other motorhomes already arrived. We concluded they had probably scared themselves that much on the way in that they were now staying.

Bernard turned out to be every bit as nice as the reviews suggested. He showed us into our space and the invited me to their conservatory to what he laughing described as the Tourist Information Office for Nîmes. He said the one in town was just an annex. His 10ft long dining table was covered in maps and brochures for the town and he sat me down to explain the route in (via a hand drawn map) and the best things to see in the city.

Eglise St- Baudile, Nîmes

We entered to city via the Porte Augusta, a gate remaining from the original Roman wall surrounding the city, originally 7km long.

Obviously top of the list was the Roman Amphitheatre which makes Nîmes famous. Nîmes was a regional capital in the Roman Empire and home to 50-60,000, causing it to be dubbed the French Rome. The amphitheatre was built shortly after the Colosseum of Rome in 70CE. It is 21m high and 133m long. It is said to be one of the best preserved and of the 20 largest built in the amazing 400 in existence which I think really gives a scale to the empire.

Les Arènes de Nîmes

After lunch in the Place du Marche, we approached the Amphitheatre from the historic part of the city it was shrouded in scaffold and plastic sheeting and after months of waiting to get here we were somewhat disappointed. However, as we reached the front the scaffold stopped and you could see the full structure. In Rome, the full outer wall of the Colosseum was stolen to build churches and houses etc., in Nîmes these structures all remain, though you can see the replaced stones where the original sandstone has literally washed away over the years.

Within the walls of the Amphitheatre

As we had the dogs and it was 31 degrees we contented ourselves to an external tour. The Amphitheatre here is used for Roman re-enactments and also for bullfights which I had never previously associated with France

Next we went to visit the Maison Carrée, built in the 1st century AD, it is an very well preserved temple, part of what was once a forum in Nîmes. There has clearly been a lot of restoration as even all the fine patterns in the stonework are visible. It appears to the uneducated to be almost as it would have been. I am sure that purists are probably split on just how pristine it appears. However, having seen a few Roman ruins it is interesting to see something so well preserved.

On every post and pillar and in water features in the city is the symbol of a crocodile chained to a palm tree. Apparently, after the Egyptian campaign, some of Augustus’ soldiers settled in Nîmes. Their victory was symbolized by the symbol and later then taken up on coins minted in Nîmes then much later became the emblem of the city.

The sun has now reaching full heat and with a 30min uphill walk left to complete back to our camping site we decided to start to head back. It was good to finally make it an the amphitheatre especially was good to see.

We have a nice shaded spot at the campsite to enjoy a cool evening under the trees. Although when we arrived and opened the doors for literally a minute we got about 4 mosquitoes indoors in the middle of the day 😩 We have gone to full chemical warfare now on the mosquitoes now so the spray was put straight to work. We no longer rely the man-draulic swatting which was not keeping pace. Thankfully though we have flyscreens on all the windows so I am sat now in the breeze in the shade enjoying some cool after another hot day.

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