Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crocodiles, Matadors, And A Roman Coliseum? Are We Still In France?

Welcome to Nimes, only 200 km from our starting point in Millau on this morning, but a world apart in terms of ambiance. We took the long way around in order to visit the Gorges of the Tarn (point B on the map), but still arrived early enough to settle into the hotel and then take a walking tour of the city.

Nimes occupies the site of an ancient village dating back to the Bronze Age as long ago as the second millennium BC.  The town became a Roman colony sometime before 28 BC and eventually became a crown jewel of the Roman Empire under the attention of the Emperor Augustus near the beginning of the first millennium AD. Today, the city boasts some of the best preserved examples of Roman architecture anywhere in the world, including an amphitheater first built around 70 AD and rebuilt in 1863. These days, the amphitheater hosts bullfights, sporting events and concerts, and it served as the set for the movie Gladiator.

The Maison CarrĂ©e, built around 16 BC, is one of the best preserved Roman temples to be found anywhere.  All of its columns and roof are in tact.

The coat of arms of Nimes includes the image of a crocodile chained to a palm tree.  Say what? What do crocodiles and palm trees have to do with a city in the south of France?  It might be because soldiers of the Roman Legion who participated in the Nile River campaigns of Julius Ceaser were awarded plots of land on the plain of Nimes as their retirement pension, a tad better pension than our foot soldiers earn these days I would say.

This may also explain why Lacoste, which originated in Nimes, uses a crocodile logo on their golf shirts. Another interesting tidbit is that denim was invented in, and named for, Nimes.  Then in 1870, along came a German by the name of Levi Straus who chose the fabric from Nimes, "de Nimes", to use in making his trousers in the town of Genoa (i.e. jeans), and thus was born the most ubiquitous clothing article in history.

After a very pleasant meal under the stars in historic Nimes, we got a good night's sleep and departed the next morning for Avignon, the final destination of our two-week tour.


  1. Big lover of travels,have been in Italy several times.Enjoyed your adventure.

  2. Thanks Dzoli. Hope to get to Italy one day soon.