Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wonderful Nîmes in the south of France

Pull up a tall beverage, this is going to be a long blogpost.

For the first time since I arrived in Lyon, I had a little down time from my coaching duties so I opted to take a trip to the south of France.

My plan was to sandwich a day trip on Saturday in the Provence city of Arles with a Friday and Sunday in my weekend home base city of Nîmes.

While Nîmes is officially in the region of Languedoc, it really does believe itself to be a part of Provence. I have no problem with that.

The Villa as Art 

While packing for the trip, I got this interesting shot out of a window in The Villa.

Prominent since the Reign of
Caesar Augustes (27 B.C.-14 A.D.)

Aha, my hotel is on this corner,
only a three minute walk from
the Nîmes train station

The Majestic Hotel 

The Majestic's colorful courtyard . . . 

Doubles as a drying rack

After settling in, it was time to start exploring the city that is a footnote to California history and American pop culture.

How's that?

By the 19th Century, Nîmes was famous for producing a long wearing blue cloth known as "cloth de Nîmes." An Austrian immigrant to Nîmes exported this heavy fabric to California to make into work pants for gold rush prospectors.

The "cloth de Nîmes" soon was being called simply denim. The Austrian immigrant was none other than Levi Strauss.

The rest, as they say, is history.

One of Nîmes' GREAT Fountains 

Panther Power? 

Who does his hair?

Lady Justice above with her
Sword of Justice

 Amphithéâtre Romain de Nîmes

This is one of the best preserved Roman arenas in the world. It is two stories high with each floor boasting of 60 arches. The arena is built of huge stones that were painstakingly fit together without the benefit of mortar.

It held more than 20,000 spectators in its heyday to watch gladiator fights and wolf or boar hunts.

It is still used today for everything from concerts to bullfights despite being built in 70 A.D.

A Bullfight was scheduled
for late Sunday afternoon 

Interesting Hallways 

This facility is magnifique! I spent most of the morning on Friday roaming throughout this architectural wonder.

Did you know that there were seven distinct styles of gladiators? Here are two of them that you might recall from the epic movie Spartacus.

Think Kirk Douglas

Think Woody Strode

Marvelous, just marvelous.

I had to finally leave the arena to walk the intriguing streets of Nîmes.

Nice Knocker

La Fiesta Brava


The Maison Carée

Built by Caesar Augustus, it would inspire the likes of Thomas Jefferson amongst others. 

Ceiling of the entryway of the
Maison Carée

Lunching in the warmth of the
south of France 


Hail Citizens!

On the way to the
Jardin de la Fontaine

Autumn in France

Jardin de la Fontaine


Zamfir tribute? 


School is in session at the
Jardin de la Fontaine


Just outside of the Jardin de la Fontaine's gates is one of Nîmes' Pétanque courts made of hard packed dirt and gravel. This is the French version of the game of boules that we have seen played so often in Sweden and Switzerland.

I had to watch.

Total Concentration

Object: Be closest to that little
ball in the middle

Are you kidding me?
That's the best you've got?

The men also play cards in this park

And kibitz a bit too I would suspect.

At the top of the hillside Jardin de la Fontaine is Nîmes final great monument from Roman times.

The Tour Magne 

If you climb the over 120 steps
inside the Tour Magne, you'll get . . .

A Wonderful view of Nîmes 

And you'll get some much needed exercise as well!

Jail Break!!!

Chick Magnet

Nîmes Café Scene

Rafael's place?

The streets were alive

Epic Cathedral Relief

More of the same 

I need to start thinking about
Christmas presents for he grandsons 

Chromosome Building? 

The 1789 French Revolution
in a nutshell 

Catholic Churches are everywhere

Bearing his cross

On Friday night I was searching for something to do and came across this concert poster . . .

Gospel Music in France?

The concert poster was in front of a large Protestant church known as the Grand Temple de Nîmes and I figured that it must be a group touring from the southern part of the U.S.A.


The thirty person choir was from the southern part of France. They had great voices as they sang what their conductor referred to as "Negro Spirituals."

Now, while the voices and energy were great, the diction was quaint at times.

"Swing low sweet CHAIR-EE-OH . . ."


It reminded me of how funny I must sound to the Falcons with my feeble attempts at speaking their beautiful, melodic French tongue.

It was a great 90 minute concert, well worth the 10 Euros price of admission!

I thought that I would revisit my favorite Nîmes spots again either on Friday night and in the morning during Saturday's "Magic Hour."

Amphithéâter on Friday night


Court House on Saturday morning

Maison Carée at night

The Amphithéâtre
on Saturday Morning

Did I mention how impressed I was with this edifice?

Before boarding the train for the 20 minute ride to Arles on Saturday morning, I wanted to be sure to visit Nîmes' famed marketplace, Les Halles.

Les Halles is reason enough to visit Nîmes.

You'll find . . .

Meat and . . .

Paella and . . .

Fish and . . .

More Fish and . . .

 Mushrooms and . . .

Grapes and . . .

Potatoes and . . .

Chesse and . . .

Olives and . . .

Much, much more.

Why the French are so laid back 

Being on time is not a big French priority. This is Nîmes' main clock tower and serves as Exhibit "A" in my case.

Note that one clock says it is 7:58 while the other one says that it is 5:36. My watch and IPhone both said that it was 8:06 and as I started to focus this photo, the tower bell started tolling 8:00.

I hope I make my train's departure time whenever that may be. 

Famous French Chair Stacking 

For sale in Nîmes

Yes purists, I know that Nîmes is in Languedoc not Provence. Try telling that to the people of Nîmes. 

French War Memorial

Did I ever mention that Laurie used
to work in her Father's hardware store?

French Classic

Fountains Everywhere 

Sunday morning shutters

Nîmes' Cathédrale Notre Dame
et St-Castor

I decided to attend the 10:00 a.m. Mass at the Cathédrale on Sunday.

Uh-oh, look at all of those candles

They meant only one thing. We were about to take part in a Solemn High Mass with lots of singing, incense and intense organ music for the next 90 minutes.

The Bishop of Nîmes himself led the congregation in the celebration of this Mass.

The Bishop spoke very slowly and distinctly, savoring every beautiful French word before moving on to the next one.

Normally, the speed of the French speaking their Mother Language leaves me understanding about 5% of what they say. At the Bishop's pace, I understood about 25% of the proceedings.

Dying Crusader? 

This was one POWERFUL organ!!! 

For the entry song, the organist nearly exploded this magnificent instrument with what is considered to be the best piece of organ music ever written, Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor."

Incense and Bach . . . hard to beat that combo in a Gothic French Cathédrale on a Sunday morning!

If you are not sure about Bach's masterpiece go to this link and turn your speakers UP


Red Hair


I really like Nîmes' Amphithéâter!!!

Nîmes is just a wonderful city. Its people are warm, friendly and wonderful.

Though I will address my great day in Arles in tomorrow's blogpost, let me just say that one really does not visit the south of France or Provence or Nîmes or Arles.

What you really do when you enter this beautiful part of the world, if you are wise, is savor a particular brand of French pace and lifestyle that is so very, very good for the soul.

OK, tomorrow we will discuss Arles, the city that was home to great artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin amongst others. It was wonderful as well.


Olivier R said...

I m not purist georges, Provence is not the compliment you might think it is for people living in areas areas near provence, like nimes in the west or nice in the east. In fact they hate to be put in the same bag with hated Marseilles...

Olivier R said...

Btw, I love nimes, but when you live in Lyon, capital of the only serious boules game in the world you don t get crazy watching guys playing the lazy game of petanque

Laurie said...

Fantastic photos, Georgie!

George said...

That is Georges my dear, GEORGE'S!!!