On the last day of our French road trip, we made two stops on our way back to Toulouse, where it all began almost two weeks earlier, and where we flew back to Madrid late that evening. We drove from our Airbnb to Nîmes, now a good-sized city of about 150,000 people, but thousands of years ago, it was one of the most important cities in Roman Gaul, and today it still has the monuments to prove it.
We had quite a few stops to make in Nîmes, but that didn't keep us from appreciating the Nîmes Cathedral as we walked through town. The cathedral sits where a Roman temple to Augustus once did, and construction on the church began in the 1100s.
Les Arènes has seen its fair share of change as well. It was built by the Romans in 70 AD, and looks great today, but if you dig a little deeper, you find out that along the way the amphitheater has been used as a palace, and later on, a small neighborhood, complete with two chapels. In 1863, the French switched things up to use it as a bullring, which is how it is (infrequently) used today, as well as for other public events, although mostly it just sees lots of tourists coming through with their cameras, selfie sticks, and audio guides.
Even older than Les Arènes is Maison Carrée, a Roman temple finished in 2 AD. It's incredibly well-preserved, although apparently that's partially due to 19th century efforts, as well as some more recent restorations. Nowadays, it looks good, although I guess it's been that way for a while since back in the day it inspired the Virginia State Capitol, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson (he served as minister to France in 1785).
D - As you can see from our pictures, Nîmes is just a really cool town with some great sights in it. I had never heard of it before visiting, and even afterwards I had kind of forgotten much of it until this post. I guess it just goes to show you how much there really is to see in the world! Way more than one might already know of or be familiar with!
We also took a walk through Nîmes' stately Jardins de la Fontaine, with mature, leafy trees, and in the spirit of a town with a Roman history, lots of stone walkways, marble statues and broad staircases. At times it felt like we were in the gardens of a palace, not a city park that's almost 300 years old.
We climbed up and up in the park until we reached La Tour Magne, an 18m tall tower that stands at the highest point of Nîmes, and offers views over the city and beyond. The structure was once 32m high, enabling it to better serve its purpose as a strategic watchtower. Honestly, there's not loads to see in Nîmes (from the tower, that is), so I wouldn't pay extra to go to the top of La Tour Magne, but it was included in our tickets for Les Arènes, and I wanted to visit the park anyways, so we checked it out.
See more from our road trip around southern France: our day in Toulouse here, and all of our stops on our first day: Cahors, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Bouzies, Rocamadour, Padirac Cave, Loubressac, and Figeac. We began our second day in Marcillac-Vallon and Belcastel, made a stop at the Viaduc de Millau before heading into the Gorges du Tarn, and finally checked out the lovely Sainte-Enimie. That night, we stayed in Le-Pont-de-Montvert.
We started our third day in Labeaume before driving through the Gorges de l'Ardeche and stopping afterwards in Aiguèze and then spending some time checking out Roman remains in Orange and staying the night in Vaison-la-Romaine. The next morning we explored Vaison-la-Romaine, drove on to Sisteron and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and through the Gorges du Verdon and stayed the night in Castellane.
The morning of the fifth day of our road trip, we drove to Grasse, onto Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and then to Antibes and finally onto Nice for the night. On our first morning in Nice we took the train to Monaco and then started explored Nice in the afternoon.
We started our second day in Nice by taking the train along the coast and visiting different towns, the first being Villefrance-sur-Mer, traveling onto Menton, and then to Ventimiglia and finally Èze. After our third night in Nice we packed up and drove to Cannes and then to Aix-en-Provence where we stayed overnight and in the morning we drove onto the Arles, and then Avignon and finished up at the Pont du Gard.
On our final day in France we drove to Nîmes to start the day.