A French city built by the Romans: Nimes
On the day after my second exam I found myself browsing through the webpages of budget airlines in an attempt to distract myself from the large piles of folders on my desk. And voila in that moment Ryanair decided to surprise me and pop up a 20€ return flight to Nimes. It was utterly tempting. I secretly clicked on in while my roommate Katie resumed her revision and found out that this oh-so-cheap flight was coincidentally on the weekend after all my exams. Now I must admit that I don't usually believe in coincidences and so the cursor on my laptop screen hovered over that flight for a mere few seconds before it landed in my basket and I checke out. A happy "oopsie" escaped me and Katie looked up at me with cu. "I just booked flights to France for Tuni and me. On the same weekend that you will be flying to Turkey." She started giggeling and I joined in before we called Tuni to give her the news. I had promised her a surprise flight at the beginning of our friendship and now I had made that promise come true. Once Tuni came over we all broke out in laughter and wonder about whether or not Katie's romantic escape to her boyfriend in Turkey or Tuni's and my spontaneous trip to Southern France would be a bigger disaster - ehem... I meant to say "adventure." Once the girls and I are reunited at the beginning of the new school year, I will dedicate an entire blogpost including an introductory video to them. It is time you all get to know the two lovely ladies I will be spending the next years with.
And so Tuni and me embarked on our four-day-escape to Nimes after sending Katie off to Istanbul. We both love history and have strong yearning for the stories of the old and ancient remains of old and majestic times. Nimes hence ticked all of our boxes and our three day stay turned out to be more exciting than expected. We stayed at a little hotel named Abalone right by the central train station Gare du Nimes - a great value deal with a fantastic location! Our first few hours in the dreamy city passed swiftly. We treated ourselves to proper crepes and walked around in the tree-lined historical boulevards and cozy little streets for hours until we knew the tiny street map in our pockets by heart.
Durin our walk we reached the famous Arenes de Nimes, the city's twin-tiered mighty amphitheatre. It is the best preserved in France and a standing testament to the skill and ingenuity of Roman architects. Built around 100 BC, the arena once seated 24,000 spectators and staged gladiatorial contests and public executions, and today it's still an impressive venue for gigs, events and summer bullfights (but more about the bulls later). We grabbed two audioguides and started exploring the magnificent sturcture and it was not hard to imagine what the atmosphere must have been like when it was filled to capacity in its days of glory.The seating is divided into four tiers and 34 rows; the higher ranked you were in the old social system, the closer you sat to the centre. The amphitheatre’s oval design meant everyone had an unrestricted view. A system of trapdoors and hoist-lifted beneath the arena enabled animals and combatants to be put into position during the show. We sat at the very top and took in the breathtaking view with the sun highlighting every little architectural detail.
My favorite part of Nimes were the Jardins de la Fontaine, beautiful and peaceful gardens lie on the site of an ancient spring. According to history, the Gauls had built a city around it and thee Romans later named this town Nemausus after the God of Rivers. Decorated with monumental vases and Baroque-style statues, the gardens were part of a project to embellish Nîmes in the 18th century. They were absolutely beautiful - it felt as if we had discovered paradise. We explored the richly ornamented water basins and waterways and then stumbled across the romanitc ruins of the ancient Temple de Diane, the sanctuary of a sacred spring and part of an ancient bath complex. We followed the lush vegetation and came across two swans gently cooing with each other in the sun before we continued on to the shady footpaths of Mont Cavalier that took us to the highest parts of the beautiful gardens.
Nimes was absolutely magical and bursting with so much history and charme. No photo could express the warmth of this place. The people we met were all incredibly kind and welcoming and the city is small and unknown enough among travelers, that it was not run oer by tourists. Oh, and fun fact: During the middle ages up unto the late 19th Century, Nimes forged a wealthy vocation as a textile centre, including its famous blue cotton cloth "de Nimes" (thus later "denim") that was imported to America by Levi Strauss for use as clothing for working men and has now become a fashion trend.