9th October 2012
We are staying in Bouillargues, a village, or small town of about 6000 people 7 km out of Nimes. Nimes has a rather unusual coat of arms, a crocodile chained to a palm tree. It originates from Roman times, when Colonia Nemuensis, was established by veterans from Egypt. Besides the famous, Pont du Gard, which used to bring Nimes water supply, Nimes has some of the best preserved Roman remains in France including the Arena, which is still in frequent use today, The Maison Carre, a classical temple dedicated to the sons of Tiberius and the Tour Magne, part of the Roman wall of Nimes. Theses monuments have suffered various indignities in the past, the arena was fortified in late Roman and Visigothic times and was also used as housing, the Maison Carre, was turned into church and the foundations of the Tour Magne were so weakened by treasure hunters, acting on some words of Nostradamus, that it had to be strengthened in 1843, so that it could serve as a telegraphic relay station.
When we were last in Nimes – eeek, 35 years ago – the arena was being used for a tennis tournament, the Maison Carre was an empty shell, though it did have a statue of Diana inside, now it serves as a movie theatre for a rather corny presentation of some of the history of the city. The Tower was pretty much abandoned, as I recall, and the circular staircase had no railings, but now it is developed, including ticket office, so we were able to enjoy the panoramic view of Nimes and the surrounding countryside.