The Good Life France Magazine

The Good Life France Magazine brings you the best of France - inspirational and exclusive features, fabulous photos, mouth-watering recipes, tips, guides, ideas and much more...

Published by the award winning team at The Good Life France

1 year ago

Issue No. 17

Packed with fabulous features: Carcassonne, Nimes, Orange in Provence, Nice Carnival, Paris at Christmas, Laval in Mayenne, absinthe, the fashion district of Paris, recipes, guides and more. Our secret ingredient is passion!

If you arrive in Nimes

If you arrive in Nimes via train as I did, the Roman connection is obvious before you even leave the station, the vaulted ceiling and arched passage ways are the clue. Wander out to the centre ville with its palm tree lined avenues and in the distance straight ahead, a Roman tower looms. Walk for ten minutes into the centre of town and there, right before your eyes, is one of the best preserved Roman arenas in the world – it is a stunning sight. The Roman influence is everywhere here, even in the names of the streets like lovely Rue Agrippa by the beautiful Jardin des Fontaines. In these lovely public gardens is a fresh water spring which was likely the reason the romans chose this area to settle.

Today it seats 17,000 which is around 30% of the population. They come here for the entertainment that takes place from festivals, concerts, opera, theatre, bull fights and more. There are lots of gaps in our knowledge of this immense arena, it’s not known if any Roman emperor visited for instance. And experts are sure that there were no lion fights here, the walls in front of the seating are too low apparently. They know that gladiator fights took place and plenty of relics have been found including evidence of a school of gladiators. Whatever went on here, the air of history is unmistakable. That it has survived so intact is due to the fact that in the middle ages, the arena was turned into space for houses which were built up against its walls and inside once the floor level had been raised by filling the centre with rubble. Essentially it served 900 years as a shelter for the poor and that (like the Roman theatre at Orange) saved it. Useful buildings with a purpose tended to last longer than those that just looked good in the old days. Roman Games in Nimes The Roman Arena of Nimes The Roman arena is the beating heart of this cosmopolitan little city. From the outside it's impressive enough. But enter through the desk of the arenas and you'll discover an awesome spectacle: an elliptical shaped ring with 34 seating rows. It was built at the end of the first century and in its heyday this place seated 24,000 people and that might well have been the entire population and then some. Each spring Roman Games are held here taking visitors back to the era of Julius Caesar. Channel your inner Roman, rent a toga for a few Euros, fling on your sandals and join in the fun. Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner and her bullfighter lover, Dominguin, were regular visitors to Nîmes, staying at the now genteelly decaying grand Hôtel Imperator. Picasso too loved it here. There are year-round events – see Nimes tourist office website for details