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Nîmes: a Centurion holiday, the Great Roman Games and Pont du Gard

Nîmes: a Centurion holiday, the Great Roman Games and Pont du Gard

May 2nd, 2017, 01:54 AM
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Nîmes: a Centurion holiday, the Great Roman Games and Pont du Gard

I have just had one of the loveliest holidays in Nîmes. At first, I wanted to go there for the southern sunlight, the Mediterranean cuisine, and the Arena of Nîmes. Then, I saw that they would have Great Roman Games at the Arena which reenact the tale of some Celtic Queen. Great, what could be more amusing than a Roman Game, which involves a Celt, at an ancient amphitheater 2000 years old!

I planned my trip around the game, then saw that Pont du Gard is not far from Nîmes, so I added it to the itinerary. One month before the trip and my (wishful) schedule of Nîmes time was already full to the minute: so many things to see and to do. Needless to say, once I arrived in Nîmes, the schedule went out of the window. I simply ran after whichever that caught my eyes and had no capability of resistance over that matter.

For transportation from Paris I took an Ouigo train which departed from near Disneyland. It's a rather far location and it doubles the transportation time, it requires you to arrive at boarding 30 mins before departure (because the train was huge and there were lots of passengers), but the price is 3 times cheaper than normal trains which go from the center of Paris. The Ouigo train was quite comfortable and had large seats even in 2nd classe.

Nîmes was very beautiful and The Roman Games exceeded what I expected for. I took many photos and videos - for the 1st time I ran out of camera memory, though I brought 2 SD cards of 7 GB each with me. Approximately 1000 photos over the course of 3 days, I must be some kind of lunatic. But the sky was so blue and the people were so photogenic, I couldn't help it.

Here is my itinerary
Day 1: Pont du Gard, museum and cinema
Day 2: The town of Nîmes, Centurion parade, Roman Games
Day 3: The town of Nîmes (cont.), some comedy, some medieval workshops
FuryFluffy is offline  
May 2nd, 2017, 03:58 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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A few years ago, we had a wonderful 4-day holiday in Nîmes. No Roman games, but we saw the Pont du Gard, the Arena and other ancient Roman sites, and took a day trip to Avignon.

The Pont du Gard is in a very nice park; we should have allowed more time for that visit.

I can heartily recommend a trip to Nîmes!

Do you have a link to some of your photos, Fury?
bvlenci is online now  
May 2nd, 2017, 04:51 AM
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bvlenci: my photos of Day 2 will be up tomorrow, Day 1 after tomorrow, and Day 3 after that. I need to sort through them and resize them before uploading: my camera skill is so low that I need to take 10 photos to have a decent one^^

I agree about Pont du Gard: I should have allowed more time for it. I spent a whole afternoon there but still missed out plenty of things.

I went to Avignon last year but haven't got time to write about it yet. A lively and majestic city.
FuryFluffy is offline  
May 2nd, 2017, 04:56 AM
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You did great to organise around the games ! Good idea.
WoinParis is offline  
May 3rd, 2017, 01:50 AM
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Day 2 - part 1: The town of Nîmes, Centurion parade, the Arena and the restaurant

My photos of the part:

Paris was raining and grey at the moment, but here in Nîmes the sun couldn’t have been shining clearer. Pradier fountain, carved in white marble, solemnly guarded the entrance to the town center from the train station. The Arena looked breathtaking. Colosseum in Rome had awed me, but seeing a complete one in Nîmes, all round and unruined, certainly helped.

There would be a Centurion parade at 10h30, I arrived at the Arena half an hour before the parade, and the Roman army already assembled there with their legionaries, auxiliaries, mercenaries, dancers and even slaves. Common people in medieval garment are wandering around, looking very serious.

Senators of the Republic, all wise and fashionable in their pristine white robs, stayed away from the low people. Bare chest gladiators (in diapers!) stood near the proud bullfighter statue. Nîmes Arena is still frequently used for bullfighting. Maybe that’s why the amphitheater was so well preserved after nearly 2000 years (one of the best preserved in the world).

It is said that the reenactment respected historical details as much as they could, down to military techniques and clothes. I looked up a little bit and at least their varying shield & standard motifs seemed genuine.

After the assembly, Caesar proudly led his legion into the traffic. They snaked along streets & shops & pubs and made it was quite a funny sight.

I followed Caesar and his VI legion, they carried on their standard the symbolic she-wolf with baby Romulus and Remus suckling. These 2 boys were rumored to be founders of Rome and descendants from Troy refugees – the Troy that was destroyed by Helen and the bloody horse.

The reenactors came from France, Italy, Belgium and Austria; this VI legion was an Italian troupe, their marching orders shouted in Italian made for a more ambient parade (the minor fact that the Roman Empire actually spoke Latin and not Italian is of no importance).

They went deeper into narrow alleys. Among civilian houses and cobblestone paths, their marching footstep and war shouts sounded much more ominous. A brave delivery man dared to bike pass them, holding 2 big strawberry tarts on his hand. Soldiers paused from time to time, they profited to sit down on a sideway cafe, or to pick fight with children. I got a picture with the Caesar guy. While I was posing next to him, his general jokingly put his sword at my throat. I could feel the cold blade on my skin and it sent shivers down my spine. Of course, they don’t do this joke with teenagers.

The whole town was dressed in Roman terms. Several antique markets, children Olympic games and medieval workshops were installed everywhere. Some metal master or leather master were at work, making shoes and ornaments right in front of my eyes from weird-shaped pieces. I talked with them and they said it was difficult to maintain it as profession. There were not many places left which provide materials and tools for this kind of job.

When the parade finished, I wandered the streets for lunch. I saw this “Restaurant de l’Etoile”, which I had a discount voucher from my hotel, so I jumped in. The patron was a smiling old man, adequately dressed. The food was nice and not pricey: I took piquillo pepper stuffed with brandade for starter (8 E) and royal paella for main dish (15 E).

After a while, the 2 nîmois ladies sitting at the next table started to talked to me, and they are very sweet. I leisurely finished my meal, said good day to them and went to the Arena for the Roman Games. 45mins before the show, and there’re long security queue outside of the amphitheater. Inside, the crowd already started to roar.
FuryFluffy is offline  
May 3rd, 2017, 02:10 AM
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Wo: thanks, the games are the best kind of reenactment that I have seen, they were very professional and spared no efforts.
FuryFluffy is offline  
May 5th, 2017, 01:58 AM
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Day 1: Pont du Gard & evening Nîmes

My photos:

I arrived in Nîmes at noon from Ouigo train. My accommodation, Hotel Caesar, was 2 steps from the station, on the beautiful Avenue Feuchères which opened wide and large into the town. Great location for the price of 49E/night/double room. When there is no event in town such as the Roman Games, the price will be cheaper.

I had only enough time to put my luggage into their locker, bought a sandwich at Paul bakery, then ran back to the station to catch the B21 bus at 13:20 to Pont du Gard. Even the Paul in Nimes tasted better than the Paul in Paris.

Pont du Gard is a huge Roman aquaduct to bring water from Uzès to the town of Nîmes during ancient time. And I mean it’s huge, especially when you stand at its feet and look up its enormous limestone blocks. However, that doesn’t take away from its elegance. The sun shined though its vault and printed half-moon windows on the ground.

The road from the bus stop to Pont du Gard was full of quarry and thousand years old olive trees. The Gardon River gently flows through the bridge, between two green bank, dotted by tiny white beaches that I’m sure will be very pleasant during summer.

Some prehistoric cave was nearby, next to an ice-cream shop, so I think the life of those prehistoric men were not that bad. Many people were rowing on the river, in parrot-colored kayaks – event the water seemed to have colors of parrots.

The ticket to the bridge also includes its small museum, exhibition and cinema. It was all worthwhile and I wished I had more time to explore them – the Pierre Parsus exhibition was quite vivid. The artist is still painting at 95 years old, amazing. The cinema has a real screen (not some video in the corner), with a decent movie about the Pont.

I spent the whole afternoon at the Pont site but still regretted I didn’t have time to:

Do a kayak down the stream
Finish that movie in the small cinema
Walk more on the other bank

For that I’ll probably need an entire day. Bus back to Nîmes (frequency of 1 bus/hour, the journey takes 50 mins, costs 1.5 E, not expensive at all).

The town was in dim light. Next to the Arena, I saw 2 tall ships quietly stationed, no doubt for the Roman Games tomorrow.

I dined at “Le P’tit Nîmois”, in the picturesque square “Place du Marché”. I ordered gardiane de taureau (a kind of bull bourguignon, a local dish) with Camargue rice, then ice-cream for dessert. The price is okay (11.9 E in total) but the quality is nothing special. There were not many people on the streets now, the town gleamed for its own content.
FuryFluffy is offline  
Dec 8th, 2018, 06:53 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Sounds like a few wonderful days, FuryFluffy! I've been considering whether to include Nimes in my next trip, and hadn't yet heard of the Roman Games -- which I could, possibly, catch. You certainly make it sound like a fun and interesting event! Thanks for the report.

I hope all's well with you!
kja is offline  
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