Stepping Back in Time: Nîmes

On Tuesday, I arrived in the city of Nîmes, which was once a Roman city. Since then, I’ve explored the city a little bit and have taken two day trips (Avignon and Pont du Gard, which will be featured later on this blog). Walking in Nîmes is like stepping back in history, which is absolutely marvelous to me. I’ve always been fascinated with time travel, but I don’t have a TARDIS like the Doctor* and I don’t have a magic tree house. ** So, I have to make due with walking among the ruins.


Upon arriving in Nîmes, I tried to find a tourism office in the train station, but the train station is very, very small. So, I walked into the bright sunlight and wished for one. And then, I stumbled across a tourism office…and they had a map. Kellene does well in cities when she has a map. It makes her very happy.


Moving on with this story, I looked at the map and said to myself, “Gee, Kellene, we’re pretty close to the ancient Roman arena, aren’t we?”


And BAM! I looked up and there it was! Then I said to myself, I wish there was a Quick*** nearby. And BAM! I saw one and ate lunch. Then I said to myself, I wish I had a pony, a nice looking European boy and a million dollars.


But I didn’t get those wishes. Maybe you only get three per visit in Nîmes and I “wasted” mine on a tourism office, a Roman arena and fast-food restaurant. Oh well. Now I know. When I come back, I’m wishing for the pony, the nice looking boy and the money.


This is the fountain near the tourism office, arena and Quick. It is where my dreams came true. I am convinced this is a magic fountain.

This is the fountain near the tourism office, arena and Quick. It is where my dreams came true. I am convinced this is a magic fountain.

I visited the Roman arena first, which reminded me a lot of when I visited the Coliseum in Rome. The façade of the arena in Nîmes very well-preserved, even better than the Coliseum. Of course, the Coliseum is bigger and the interior and perhaps more interesting than the arena in Nîmes. What I find fascinating, though, is that the arena is still used for shows today. In fact, in a week they will be hosting a huge historical event where gladiators will fight. I’m so sad I’ll be missing this event. It seems like a lot of fun. The arena also hosts concerts and bull fights.

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This statue is of a bullfighter.

This statue is of a bullfighter.

I then went to the Maison Carrée which is a Roman temple. When I arrived, there were a lot of people there. Apparently, the temple shows a 3D movie and that’s it. You can’t really look around. And, apparently, a lot of groups booked Tuesday in advance. There was only one man, named Jimmy according to his name tag, working at the site. He had to explain to us waiting in line that there wasn’t room in the next few showings because there were a lot of groups that booked in advance. I was okay with this because I still had a lot of other things to see and they showed the movie every thirty minutes. But others? They weren’t so happy. One lady practically started a riot by exclaiming that she wanted a refund. Others demanded to know who was in charge. They were just vicious. I understand, Jimmy. I do. I work with Arts and Entertainment and sometimes people aren’t happy. However, you have to do your best to make them happy. And that’s exactly what Jimmy did. He was very calm, even as one lady was about to rip out his throat.


I was the last person he got to and he looked a little scared. “When would be a better time to come back?” I asked.


17h30,” he replied nervously.


That was like in an hour and a half. Seriously? Could people not wait?


That works well. Thank you,” I said with a smile.


Poor Jimmy looked quite relived that I didn’t try to kill him and ran inside, away from the cruel crowd. I went to the Jardin de la Fontaine which was absolutely stunning. Nîmes is the place you want to live. It’s the place where old men play poker in the shade. It’s the place where kids play football. **** It’s the place where old ladies sit on park benches and feed birds. It’s the place where more old men play pétanque (a traditional French game with balls).  It’s lovely.

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In the gardens, there is the Temple of Diana. No one really knows the history of this place, but it is clear that it was a temple. It is mostly deteriorated, but some of it still stands.

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Then, I made my way up to the Tour Magne. Let me tell you…it was a hike. I climbed up and up and up. Finally, I made it. I then waited in line forever until another man rushed around trying to get everyone’s department number (which is how they tell where people are from in France – I told him I was from the United States). After much waiting, I went up a spiral staircase. I went up and up and up. To get to a tiny platform where no more than seven people could stand. I’m not even kidding. Yes, it provided a nice view of Nîmes, but seriously? I got a discount on all three of the major monuments because I am a student, but I don’t know if I would want to pay for it without my student discount. I don’t know – maybe. If you’re in Nîmes, you have to do it because it’s just something you have to do.

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I returned to the Maison Carrée later that evening. I watched the 3D movie, which was good because it had lots of interesting historical information, but a little strange too. The name of the movie was the “Heroes of Nîmes.” It told the story of different heroes throughout history with the frame narrative of a guy walking into the temple asking the Roman Gods who the greatest hero of Nîmes is. He blows on some smoke and a giant smoke bird leads us throughout history. Furthermore, the movie was entirely spoken in Latin, except for modern day portions which were in French. I kid you not. Latin. It was strange, but cool because I took Latin last semester and loved it. I think we should start speaking Latin again. We can make it the new trend, the “hip” thing to do or whatever you kids call it today. We can make it go “viral!” Getting back to the film, it had subtitles in French and English, for those of us not entirely fluent in Latin. The ending was a little cheesy because the man opened the doors to the temple and announced that the Gods said that there will always be a brave hero in Nîmes so long as the arena stands.

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I haven’t done much in Nîmes since then, but I know that this is a great city and I’m so glad to have visited. It was like stepping back in time.





*If you don’t know what this is, please Google it. It will change your life. Doctor Who is amazing. Thank you late nights with college friends in the Honors Hall for teaching me about this awesomeness.

** Children’s series by Mary Pope Osborne. I loved this series as a kid and I still remember my second grade teacher reading the books to us. I remember the exact phrase he told us as the end of the year, “I won’t be your teacher next year so you’ll have to keep reading these books on your own.” I did.

*** Quick is the European equivalent of a McDonald’s…cheap food, quickly.

****American translation: soccer