Always say Bonjour
As with other places in Europe, it's customary to greet the shop keepers any time you walk into a store. Always say "bonjour" and "au revior" or else you'll be considered rude - and obviously foreign. If you are there in July or January, you will be able to experince "les soldes." These are the only months when retial stores have big sales. I've experienced some crazed shoppers during this time. It's reminiscent of the mall on xmas eve.
was the tallest tower of the Roman walls and was buit on the highest hill of Nîmes around the 16-15 BC.
An irregular base supports the octagonal tower made of three storeys and with a walled terrace on the top.
Today the top floor at the time is gone and the tower is about 30 meters high.
In the 3rd century BC was used as a Gallic watchtower and traces of the Gallic are still visible today.
In the 18th century Francois Traucat, a French horticulturist who introduced the mulberry tree to France, emptied the tower in his search of a tresure which was belived to be hidden in the tower.
You owe all this infos to a pamphlet I got after paying the entrance ticket: a line of free pamphlets in different colours according to the different language welcomes you when you enter!
Jardin de la Fontaine
Just off the northern edge of the city centre are these fabulous 18th century gardens. The entrance of the park is spectacular, with a number of pools and fountains fed by graceful waterways that you can follow from the city centre to the park. The entrance also includes a couple of Romanesque follies. You can sit around in the Place de Picasso watching the French play boules, or you can walk up into the gardens themselves, and seek out the Tour Magne for great views of the city. The gardens also make the walk from the hostel to the town a delight.
First of all, I must tell you that I didn't stay in Nimes much time, so, I can't give you a proper opinion or advice about the city. I only can point out that the most famous attraction is the Amphithéâtre/Amphitheatre.
Absolutely wonderful place...blazing sunshine, exceptionally friendly people..fantastic roman remains. Great for a quick visit, as it is a little small to support a longer time there. The Pont du Gard was a little elusive - you have to get the out of town bus from behind the train station (route to Remoulins), but make sure that you get off at the right stop, as otherwise you get dumped at the side of the road with 4km to go!
The Arena was mind blowing - climb to the very top seats and gaze out over Nimes. Still used for the May Feria (Bullfights), the Arena evokes the atmosphere it must have had 2000 years ago. Very worthwhile.
Les jardins du Fontaines are surrounded by frilly and eighteenth century water features, but a good place to hang out in the sunshine - the gardens are open until 10pm at the weekends. Also in the gardens is the Temple of Diana, a little underused...there are no information points for it etc., but it remains a beautiful temple nestled under the cypress trees. Don't bother going to the Natural History Museum (about two rooms of eerie, stuffed animals that haven't been rearranged since circa 1920), but the Archaeological Museum is worthwhile as it explains the long and complicated Roman history of Nimes, and the significane of the city through the ages - which is great, as there is not much info elsewhere. The Maison Carree jumps out immediately, especially as it is juxtaposed with the Carre d'Art (modern art - small and pricey, including two dodgy Warhols and a crap Yves Klein)...stand on the steps and inmagine this place as a working temple. Its intactness is amazing considering the turbulent history surrounding it. I stayed in the Youth Hostel (Auberge de Jeunesse) which I cannot recommend highly enough - wonderful, warm and helpful staff, pretty surroundings, a pot bellied pig and ducks, good, cheap dinners and great bottle of the local booze...all for a much lower price than usual Youth Hostels. Plus everyone I met there was great fun - a good travelling vibe, ten stars!
Girls - watch out for the men, they have an unendearing habit of leering at you, especially if you are blonde, and shall we say, a little busty - you will stick out like a sore thumb. But no one seemed particularly menacing...just frown and walk on. There are quite a few opportunistic pick pockets - don't do as I did and leave your bag unattended for an instant, or you'll have to walk to the aeroport!
All in all, definitely a place in the South that deserves a visit...Pictures to follow.