In Nimes – Roman ruins, French charm and birthplace of jeans

I’m back in Provence, having come in to soak in the sun for the long week-end. Nimes was an easy choice: it is the Roman town in France and sister-town to Verona. Nimes had been constructed in Roman times and is home to a wealth of well preserved Roman ruins. The charming and impressive Arene de Nimes, a small coliseum still in use today, and the beautiful temple called Maison Carree transport one to a glorious era of Gods, emperors and gladiators. Incidentally, the movie Gladiator was shot here and the arena appears in the fight scenes.

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La Maison Carree, on the other hand, is remarkable for reportedly being the most intact Roman temple in existence. Dating from around year 2 AD, it was constructed as a replica to the Temple of Apollo in Rome by emperor Augustus, when Nimes, then called Nemasus, was a prominent colony.

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In medieval times, Nimes became a famous textile manufacturing centre. What most people, including me, would be surprised to hear is that it is here that denim (de Nimes!) was invented! The fabric was then exported to Europe and, later, America, via Genes (Genova), which, mispronounced, perpetuated another name for it, “jeans”! Who knew?

The town, finally, has the typical southern European feel: narrow streets, lively piazzas, sunny weather.

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The medieval tower in Place d’Horologe changes colour at night, people eat dinner late into the night, German tourists get serenaded by Gypsy bands and everyone enjoys the balmy evenings and relaxed atmosphere of the town.

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