Our 2012 Cathedralquest to France day 12 Avignon and Nīmes .


Day 12, Friday, Sept 14

Avignon to Nimes

We did better getting to breakfast in a timely fashion.  The Mistrail is still blowing hard.  We left about 10:30 and drove to Pont du Gard, which is about a half hour drive.  After we parked in a huge parking lot, we walked some distance to a little information center before seeing the bridge.







The Pont du Gard is part of an aqueduct that was begin in the year 50 AD to supply water to the Roman city of Nimes. Long before the Romans arrived, Nīmes's was an important agglomerate of 24 Volscian fortified cities along this hillside overlooking the source of the local God:"Nemausus".





In 120 BC, the inhabitants of these towns became Roman subjects. A century later Augustus founded the "Colonia Augusta Nemausus" (Nīmes). The Romans continued to worship the spirit "Nemausus" in his holy source. A sanctuary was built, with a magnificent basin to collect the holy waters.

The Roman Nīmes geographic position made in an important intersection of the Narbonese was embellished with its beautiful antique monuments.


The purpose of the aqueduct was to bring large quantities of water to the city of Nīmes, for its fountains, baths and gardens. Along the 31 miles covered by this aqueduct, the most spectacular part is the Ponte du Gard. It is also one of France's most famous architectural works from Roman antiquity. The height of the aqueduct is 160 feet which makes it the highest Roman aqueduct  bridge.



Above the first row of arches (that go into the river) is a bridge.  Above the very top set of small arches is the channel that carried the water.  You can go up and walk in the water channel, but it looked like too many steps.  We walked across the bridge and along the river on the other side.  The wind was still blowing very hard.  We came to a plaza that had ice cream, crepes, and a large tourist center with cases of prepared sandwiches and quiches.   We both had a quiche.  Then we walked back over the bridge and back to the parking lot.  

The Pont du Gard was a wonderful experience.   We are so happy that we included it in a side trip from Avignon.  In a gift store, I found a small model kit of the bridge. SEE MY MODEL.   It was one of Alain’s .   We have bought a book at every church and monument that we have visited – we may have to leave our clothes in Toulouse when we leave.

It was about 1:30, when we left so we decided to go on to Nimes as we had planned.  Nimes is a big town of 140,000.   The traffic was very heavy and many, many round-abouts (traffic circles) in which it was hard to count the exits, even though TomTom kept giving them.   One of our problems has been that everything is in kilometers here, so we set the TomTom for kilometers.   We start counting down at 150 meters and it hard to realize that 30 meters means you are right there.  We had it set for the parking garage at the Maison Carree.  After we made several wrong turns, the TomTom got us there.

 Our main purpose in going to Nimes was to visit the Maison Carree,  which is the best preserved of the Roman temples still standing. It was built under Augustus reign (late first century BC) and was inspired by the temple of Apollo in Rome, consecrated to the Imperial cult and dedicated to Augustus's grandsons. The temple faced the forum and was surrounded by a portico of finally carved columns. The pure lines of the building, its harmonious proportions and the elegance of its fluted columns denote Greek influence, which is also found in the temples' ornamentation. Like all classical temples, it is composed of a porch defined by a colonnade and an cella, or in a room, consecrated to a god, which is reached by a stairway of 15 steps.

This temple has survived since the Roman times.  So we climbed more steps!   The inside of the temple is not available to visitors, instead there is a small movie theater inside . They normally show the film “Heroes” in 3 D but it wasn’t working, but the 2 D was spectacular enough.  It was about some of the famous Romans who had lived in Nimes and what they had done plus scenes of gladiators and bull fights.  It was a very well done and interesting film.


Across the street was a huge modern building called Carre d’Art ,which was designed by the British architect, Norman Foster.  We had seen Foster’s work in Berlin last year at the restoration of the Reichstag and the huge dome. 




This building is a museum of Contemporary Art and its media library. We enjoyed seeing the architecture and using the facilities in the building.



The Roman Amphitheatre (Arena) was several blocks down the street.    The streets were very crowned with end to end tents selling food and souvenirs.   When we got to the Arena, which was quite magnificent, and we were told that we couldn’t go in because it was closed for the bull fight that night.  Evidently the reason for the crowds and tents was a weekend of bullfights.  

The arena was beautifully preserved and is twin to the one at Arles, both built in the late 1st century. It measured 436' x 331' and had a seating capacity of 24,000. The Nīmes's amphitheater is ranked 9th out of the 20 most significant amphitheaters discovered in Gaul; however, it is the best preserved of the Roman ones.



On our return to the parking lot, we found a beautiful church  - St. Paul's, which was built in 1849. According to a sign on the church which was written in French and English –"the city authorities chose a design by a young Parisian architect, Charles Questel, in a national competition for the building of a new church. The first neo- medieval church in France, St. Paul's makes reference to the Romanesque churches in the south of France". 



 We spent some time exploring the beautiful interior and taking photos. There is very little information about this church.

We found our car without difficulty and worked our way out of town in the 5:00 Friday afternoon traffic.  After a couple of wrong turns, we got to the “A” road and headed home.   The wind was terrific, we felt like we were going to blow off the road; otherwise it has been a beautiful day with bright blue skies.   The sun was hot – I had worn both my sweater and jacket, but when the wind blew it felt good.

We got safely back to our hotel in Avignon, and quickly found the bar in our hotel.  We did not have any reservations for dinner, but since there were so many places to eat , we thought we would just take our chances.   We stopped a very attractive restaurant, called the Opera Café.   Kathleen had a mozzarella and tomato salad for a starter, and for dinner she had lamb.   I had a onglet steak.  It was long and narrow, sort of tough but had a wonderful flavor.  I couldn’t eat it all.   It was a nice meal and service was good- and we didn’t spend the whole evening eating, which made us happy. 

After roaming around the square, we headed back to our hotel for good night sleep after a good day seeing beautiful sites.


Next Day

Day 1 - Paris

Day 2 - Sens

Day 3 - Vezelay 

Day 4 - Abbey Fontenay, Semur-en-Auxois, Vezelay -

Day 5 - Beaune

Day 6 - Beaune, Autun, Citeaux, Chateau du Clos Vougeot-

Day 7 - Cluny  

Day 8 - Cluny 

Day 9 - Paray-le-Monial and Clermont-Ferrard

Day 10 - Le Puy-en-Velay 

Day 11 - Avignon 

Day 12 - Avignon to Nimes

Day 13 - Avignon

Day 14 - Marseille

Day 15 - Marseille

Day 16 - Marseille

Day 17 - Marseille to Aigues-Mortes

Day 18 - Carcassonne 

Day 19 - Carcassonne to Toulouse  (posted 10/6/15)

Day 20 - Toulouse

Day 21 - Albi

Day 22 - Toulouse