Colonia Augustus Nemausus
Saturday, 1 March 2008
I arrived in Nîmes yesterday lunchtime.
The hotel was easy to find, but hideously grim and unimpressive. To name and shame: it’s the Hotel de Provence, Nîmes. When I checked in, the concierge apologised about the room, and I said no, I’m sure it will be perfectly alright, but I was horribly wrong. The walls are grimy and the shower overflows. There’s a smell in the corridors, and there’s a continuous grinding sound somewhere on the second floor. There’s only one power point. I got home this evening to find that no one had done the room. Avoid.
The hotel put me in a bad mood, so I went off to look at the town. At first, I was unimpressed. It was like a grim country town in New South Wales: wide streets and shitty Chinese restaurants. Like, say, Guyra, only not as nice. But then I turned a corner, and at the end of the street I saw the Maison Carrée.
And from then on, I started to cheer up. After the Maison Carrée, you turn another corner and there are clothes shops and nice bookshops and trendy cafes with alfresco seating, and a few hundred metres further there’s a giant Roman amphitheatre.
I visited the amphitheatre in the afternoon and took dozens of pictures. They’re all up now. It’s the best-preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world: in fact, it still seats 15 000 for the annual bullfights. I hung around there until it closed and then went off to find somewhere to drink. Most places were full of soldiers, as has already been noted. I wonder why.
This morning, I spent an hour booking my ticket to Rome (overnight, via Paris again), and another hour trying to find a bus to take me to the Pont du Gard, which is a stretch of Roman aqueduct about 20 km from Nîmes. It’s beautiful. It spans a valley covered in what I want to call bushland; three levels of beautifully preserved arches, built in the first century to supply Nîmes with water. The pictures don’t do it justice, of course, but I’ll try and upload more of them tomorrow.