Nimes is such a neat and compact town of 150,000 Nimes "La Ville avec un accent", and the best and most helpful tourist office in Europe. Monika and the rest of the staff were superb. The city is on the TGV Mediterannee route from Paris Gare de Lyon in less than 3 hours at 180 mph via Lyon, Avignon and on to Montpellier, and eventually the Spanish border.
It used to be run by the communists and went to seed but now the mayor Jean-Paul Fournier wants to make it the cleanest city in France and Europe. It's definitely well cared for, and even outside my hotel in a narrow street just 100 metres from the Arena the cleaning wagon with its revolving brushes comes past every morning. No cock crowing needed to wake me up.
Every morning I stroll round the corner to the shop selling newspapers and buy the daily L'EQUIPE, reading reports of les matches HIER,-Yesterday and what's on AUJOURD'HUI -Today, and sit and read in the park of Esplanade Charles de Gaulle in the sunshine. I walked along la Quai de la Fontaine, narrow tree lined canals, to Place Picasso where I stood and watched three different games of petanque as old and not so old compete under a canopy of trees with the spectacular Fountaine in the background. I was told they were playing the Provencial version: feet must be together and other variations.
Then through the impressive and massive wrought iron navy and gold gates into the Jardins de la Fontaine with the Temple de Diane and lots of sweet smelling flowers and shrubs, with lawns for sun worshippers and steep paths up and up the hill to the highest point and the 1st Century Tour Magna,with a great view of La Gard and Nimes.My favourite plant was wild fennel with tiny snails clinging to the twigs, and used in salads. Half way up I paused to get my breath and to take a photo of a grotto with beautiful lillies, water plants and goldfish and a small waterfall with a mini rainbow, or in french Arc en Ciel (arc in the sky).
In the afternoon I caught the bus to PONT DU GARD, built AD 38-52 by the Romans, or at least by 1,000 of their slaves. They wanted much more than drinking water for Nimes, but also lots of water for their fountains, their pools and their baths, which the slaves would heat. A bit like the MLS Commisioners Office in NYC and the rookies with the LA Galaxy! It brought 20,000 cubic metres or 5 million gallons a day to the city.
The nearest spring, fontaine d'Eure, was 50 km away near Uzes,and the aquaduct was built with only a 17 metre drop the whole length. The most spectacular surviving part is a demonstration of Roman technical skills. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, with 1.5 million annual visitors. The Pont du Gard is 49 metres high and 275 metres long. You arrive at Rive Gauche (left bank) and can stroll along the lower level across the River Gardon, a tributary of the mighty Rhone. Upstream you can canoe or swim.www.pontdugard.fr Not far away is the Perrier factory and museum.
On my return I dined in Nimes under a giant palm tree and chose 'Salade Paysanne' with diced bacon, boiled egg, sweet onions, chopped carrots, cheese, lettuce and more, followed by 'Guardianne de Taureau'(sauteed black bull)with black olives, herbes, spices soaked in red wine,and with Camargue rice, washed down by a glass of sangria, and finished with some apricot ice cream.
Next morning on the way to the airport I passed the 10 block long daily market:old and new clothes, antiques, food, bric a brac which continued into the car park of Le Stade Costieres, to catch my 2 hour Ryan Air flight to Liverpool's John Lennon Airport for only 1 Euro and no taxes. Magnifique!
IF you did not get my last blog, titled UZES, click on www.ronsblog.com. It was about a beautiful little town and a match: Uzes v Olympique Marseilles. My army of technicians are working night and day to rectify the problem.