It’s time for a short uphill walk to enjoy the views across the beautiful city of Nîmes, in southern France. This place has a long, long history going back to the Roman Empire, when it was regional capital and home to a population of at least 50,000 people, about a third of its current size.
We’ll start out at Place de la Maison Carrée, where we have both old and new Nîmes: the ancient Roman temple of Maison Carrée, and the modern gallery of Carré d’Art. We’re going to make an early start to avoid the extreme summer temperatures, and enjoy the golden light, and these key sites will be waiting for us when we get back.
Facing the Carré d’Art, we turn right up Boulevard d’Alphonse Daudet. On our left, just before the junction ahead, there’s a small square calling us in. This is Place d’Assas, which has a stream of water running its length, between two formidable heads: Nemausa, the spring forming the origin of Nîmes, sits at one end, facing the god Nemausus, the male force of the city.
This pleasant square has a cooling water feature in the centre, and a number of cafes – another temptation for later today.
Now back onto the main road and it’s time to pause at the large square here. This is Square d’Antonin, with a small fenced garden and a marble statue that commemorates the Roman emperor Antonin Pius. His father and grandfather came from Nimes, and he became emperor from 138 to 161, favoured by Hadrian and adopted as Hadrian’s son.
Now we’ll turn left and wander along the shady Quai de la Fontaine, to the peaceful gardens at the end.
The Jardins de la Fontaine date back to the eighteenth century, and feature statues, vases, fountains, steps and greenery. There are also the remains of the Temple of Diana, another reminder of Nîmes’ Roman times, which went on to serv as a church for a Benedictine convent.
Finally, we’re going to head upwards for the views that I promised. There are steps at the back of the gardens and the route is simply upwards, through the gardens of Mont Cavalier, until we reach the old Roman tower, Tour Magne.
The original tower was pre-Roman, but it was heightened and fortified by Emperor Augustus, becoming the largest tower in the city walls. For those with energy and a head for heights, you can clamber up the tower using a somewhat dizzying spiral staircase inside. The views are worth it: if you look closely you can spot all of the key sights.
Now let’s simply sit a while and enjoy the setting, then a race back down to town for a casual petit déjeuner.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 20 August 2018
Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walks