Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nimes and Pont du Gard

Today we followed in Alan’s footsteps with a trip to Nimes and Pont du Gard (click here see his photos and read the post about his trip there a few weeks ago). Our one problem was that our map covered Pont du Gard, but stopped just short of the city of Nimes. We figured we could get close enough to just follow signs, but it was still a little nerve-racking!

So we went first to Pont du Gard. It is really a very lovely aqueduct, built for practicality not beauty; how is it that ancient things always look so much more beautiful to us now? Note the random rocks that jut out of the sides—these were used to hold scaffolding during construction, and were simply left behind as the looks of the aqueduct really didn’t matter to the engineers who were much more concerned with obtaining the exact slope needed to move the water along. Twelve arches on one end are missing; the rocks to build other things taken after the aqueduct fell out of use.

I love how the windows have arches just like the aqueduct

This sweet dog was waiting for its people
to finish looking through the museum.
I'm not sure we could ever get Kira to wait so patiently!
Before leaving for Nimes, we asked at the information office at Pont du Gard to see if they had a map that would help us get there. They young man behind the desk said “Je suis désolé” which means “I am devastated”, to tell you no, we do not have a map. It was very French and funny, and I am determined to work the phrase in as often as I can!

While I have bemoaned having no map before, I have to give it to the French that they do put up a lot of signs—so many sometimes that it is confusing, but once you get the hang of them they are pretty useful. We got into Nimes and even found the parking area we wanted next to the area, which is very well preserved. Built a little while after the Colosseum in Rome, it is smaller but very nice.

From the top of the arena - you can see the Tour Magne in the distance
From the arena, we walked to the Masion Carre, the best preserved Roman temple which is, ah, still being preserved as you can see by the scaffolding. It does look very nice, and they project is supposed to be done in the next few months. Taking a few side streets, we went the back way to the Tour Magne, the tower that overlooks the town and whose purpose is under debate as it was build during the Pax Romana and therefore probably didn’t serve a military purpose.

Doesn't this look like just the place to read a book?

The steps were not for the faint of heart.

We wandered back to the car through the city gardens, which were the first gardens built for the public and not a monarch or other royalty, past the mysterious temple of Diana, and along a shady canal with a heated boules match taking place along its banks. Boules is favorite sport of the French men that involves seeing who can throw their metal ball closes to a small target ball (apparently ladies have better things to do than to argue over a few thrown metal balls).

I was actually more worried about getting out of Nimes than into it, but luckily the signs again came to the rescue, though we laughed because they would say “tout directions” which means “all directions” this way. How can all the directions be one way? Lol. We took a different route home (we had come to the north through Avignon but were going to avoid it and the traffic) and so followed the old roads, lined with gorgeous plane trees, supposedly planted by Napoleon so his troops could walk in the shade. However the tradition started, it is one of the coolest things in the world to drive for mile after mile through a winding tunnel of magnificent trees.

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