Saturday, May 25, 2013

Nimes Photo Bomb!

This week, we had an opportunity to go on an excursion to Nimes, which is the ‘sister town’ to Montpellier. They are the two largest towns in the area, and my understanding is that’s what makes them ‘sister towns’. So… Vancouver/Victoria? Edmonton/Calgary? Ottawa/Toronto? Anyway, Nimes was beautiful, in a very different way from Avingon, but still definitely pretty. Avignon was an old, walled city with a great big castle and many Popes. By contrast, Nimes has a very long Roman heritage, and that meant lots of old Roman ruins. The rest of the public areas have a bit of a more modern feel to them. For example, the plaza and esplanade just in front of the train station have these wonderful wavy structures that provide shade when it’s very sunny out. A nice touch, given that Nimes is farther inland than Montpellier, and so doesn’t get the benefit of the sea breezes when June, July and August hit.

Shade structures in the main plaza.
Old Roman ruins does mean a tiny coliseum, and plenty of other buildings done with the iconic pillars and intricate stone carvings. Some have been well kept and beautifully restored, like the second building, some have been pretty ravaged by time and pollution, like the tiny coliseum. This one isn’t a true coliseum though, it’s an oval instead of round, has only two levels, and it’s more of a theatre than anything else. That being said, it was definitely used for public events like gladiator battles in ancient times, and today is used for the running of the bulls and bullfighting spectacles that still happens in Nimes.

Tiny Coliseum
Better preserved Roman ruins, across from the very modern library.
Once we’d made it past the Roman ruins, our guide brought us to a much tinier plaza with a fountain and a large palm tree. The main decoration in the plaza was the fountain, which happened to be much more modern than most of the fountains typically seen here in that it had an alligator at its center. The alligator and the tree are the twin symbols of Nimes. Unsurprisingly then, the alligator was also present throughout the rest of Nimes on everything from parking signs to library buildings. 

Emblem of Nimes

Alligator Fountain, look at his shiny nose!
Of course, vigilante alligators were also present.

Vigilante Alligator
Our tour ended in a massive garden. It began at the base of the hill, complete with fountains and Roman statues, went all the way up the hill, and spilled back over the top where a tower was perched. I know I’ve griped about the lack of green space in Montpellier to you a little bit before (something about being thrilled that the tram tracks are on grass strips…) but Nimes has no shortage of green, and the green they have is well cared for. I was hard pressed to find litter (uh… assuming we magically forget to count cigarette butts) throughout the park, and that was pretty impressive given its size.

At the gate to the park.

Statues were a pretty normal add-on to the flower beds.

Coming back down after seeing the little tower at the top of the hill.

We wrapped up our free time with highly delicious, wonderfully warm, and exceptionally sweet nutella crepes back at the main plaza, then napped on the bus ride home. There was definitely more walking involved in Nimes than in Avignon. Ok, and tour buses are pretty much my arch-nemesis. There is literally no other vehicle that I have encountered in my life that makes me motion sick like a tour bus. Fortunately if you nap, it’s over quicker. : )

The Nimes Crew! Michelle, Kelly, Me, Maribell, Olivia and Nicole


  1. With respect to the sister cities thing: being sister cities can refer to simply a historical/cultural pairing between the two cities involved which make the informal usage of 'sister cities' appropriate. However it could also refer to an actual, official agreement between two cities with the intent of promoting exchange of culture/business/ideas/etc between the cities. For instance Calgary and Quebec city have such an arrangement.

    Glad you're having fun! Thanks for the cool pictures!

  2. Hey Something Homotopic,

    I used the term 'sister cities' because I don't have a good translation for the phrase that was actually used by our tour guide. What he was referring to was that in each province of France the two largest cities are considered linked. He didn't go into how they're linked, just that Montpellier and Nimes are the two largest cities in the area, so they're linked. Given that the provinces over here can be pretty tiny, (and there are many of them) that means there are many smaller, linked cities throughout the country.

    I probably should have made that clearer when I started linking Vancouver/Victoria, Edmonton/Calgary, etc. because it's not a big official deal like the Calgary/Quebec City, it's a regional thing. Does that makes sense?

    1. Ah ok, cool!

      What phrase was actually used?