Wednesday, March 14, 2012


After the two hour drive from Cassis to Nîmes we checked into our hotel, the Hôtel Royal, and headed out for dinner. As the hotel is located next to the Carré d’Art and the Maison Carrée, I didn’t have high expectations for finding a great restaurant and I was prepared to settle on tourist fare. However, we ended up in a great little tapas place, Carre Jazz. Being a Saturday night the place was lively, and when we sent in a scout to check for availability, the host, waiters and cooks spent five minutes discussing the best place to seat our party of five (avec stroller and toddler). Finally they took us into the adjoining lounge area and we plopped down in deep leather couches. The food was good after a long day, we snacked on a tortilla dish, gambas and chevre drizzled with honey before digging into some serious calamari, potatoes and entrecôte. When I say serious calamari, I mean we were served two entire squid.

The Nîmes Amphitheatre

The hotel was my favorite of the trip. A spacious room, we had the only balcony on the floor and a big tub that Lauris tremendously enjoyed during his evening bath. Affordable with a perfect location halfway between the Amphitheatre and Jardin de la Fontaine, there is also a tapas bar which we didn’t try out this time because of the crowd. According to the Michelin Guide it’s a favorite of the bullfighters during the Whitsun feria at the end of May when the whole town becomes involved with the bullfighting festival traditions.

Sunday morning we grabbed a coffee on the Maison Carrée plaza before continuing to the Amphitheatre. While Roberts and Lauris headed off for their own adventure, my mother, Mikus and I headed inside armed with an audio guide and baby bjorn. This was my first time inside of an ancient Roman amphitheatre and I’m happy I chose this particular one, it was extremely well preserved with thought-out informative placards throughout. I’m also pleased we were there in March, as I’m sure during the peak seasons it can get quite crowded. As far as ancient Roman amphitheatres go, I am also quite sure I will never have to tour another! (Not that those in Rome and Arles aren’t wonderful, but I feel like if I’ve seen one, I’ve seen them all…) I was impressed by the size (seating capacity of 24,000, or the same as Ohio Bobcats Peden Stadium) and captured by the accounts of combat, styles of armor, and the frequent use of the word vomitaria.

Meanwhile, Lauris and Roberts were off doing their own thing, which involved fountains, tractors and carousels. And I only know this because I saw the pictures.

Lunch right across from the landmark refueled us for the walk past Maison Carrée to the Jardin de la Fontaine. We had hoped for enough time to visit Carré d’Art, a museum of contemporary art, but it wasn’t in the cards, so we passed on by with a pause in Square Antonin. Lauris and Roberts were delighted when we found ourselves in the midst of a skateboarder flash mob. We were photographing the interesting fountain when along with the sound of a hundred little wheels on pavement came at least fifty teens and twenty-somethings. After ten minutes of skating they left as quickly as they came and we were on our way once more.

Maison Carrée

We followed the tree-shaded canal (into which Lauris heaved his sippy-cup, but what's done is done!) to the gate of the jardin, where we entered and spent the last of our time in Nîmes. An 18th century army engineer created the gardens which funnel the Nemausus spring through several pools into the canal. Historically the area also contained baths, a theatre and temple. The ruins of the Temple of Diana (which dates from the 2nd century) are still present, and recently excavations brought to light an ancient mansion and opulent public building. After investigating the balustraded walks we took a seat along the main path and paused for a snack, to blow some bubbles and to watch the kids on rented tricycles zooming around the track.

Can you spot the sippy cup?

And so ended our tour of Provence, as after the park we packed up to head home. The halfway mark home from Nîmes is the Millau viaduct, and we stopped in the aire to use the restrooms and stretch our legs. My mother opted out of the climb to the scenic viewpoint due to the slow drizzle, and soon both boys were back in their carseats for the remainder of the trip. A nice circle; literally, as our trip took us in a large circle, and also in the sense that what started with a bridge (although the ancient Pont du Gard), ended with a bridge. Provence, I will be back.
With the boys in Jardin de la Fontaine


  1. I had no idea there was a Roman Amphitheatre in France OR bullfights! We really need to get out of Brittany and travel to the South of France more often.

  2. I love Nimes! They have a great Pentecote festival every may that is worth the trip.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...