Monday, 14 September 2009

Nimes - What A Fantastic Place!

Saturday 12th September

I didn't get up until about 10.30am today but I was definitely tired after the last few days and I hadd opted not to have a breakfast in the hotel anyway - I didn't fancy paying €5 for stale bread again! I had a shower and woke up properly before deciding to take a look around Nimes and see what was there and to get some photos. I was really impressed with the history on display here. In fact, I have been impressed everywhere I have been in France so far. They seem to have different attitudes towards history in France - it is not only embraced but takes a very important part within the towns and cities.

My hometown, Chester, is steeped in Roman history but this is not capitalised on properly and, in fact, is actually disregarded in places. Things in Chester seem to be hidden away whereas in France everything is signposted that is worth seeing. There is an ampitheatre in Chester that is only half uncovered - there have been petitions for years to get the other half uncovered but it has always been blocked for one reason or another. It's ridiculous really that such heritage can exist yet be so readily disregarded.

Nimes is a particularly stunning place in France. It's not only the quantity of Roman history that is on display here but the quality with which it still survives today. The Roman gardens here are truly spectacular and really put Chester to shame - it's ironic that so many people visit Chester for the Roman history when there is so much more and of more quality in other places around the world. The ampitheatre here is also breathtaking and is something that I really recommend you take the time to go and see - even if Roman history does not particularly interest you I fail to see how you could not be impressed with it.

The ampitheatre in Nimes is, of course, nowhere near the size of the Colosseum in Rome but, in a lot of ways for me personally, was actually a better experience. The condition of the ampitheatre in Nimes far outdoes that of the Colosseum in Rome, although the deteriation of the Colosseum has had a bit to do with earthquakes there I believe. One of the things I really enjoyed about the ampitheatre in Nimes was the fact that pretty much every part of it was open to you. You could, if you so chose, climb all the way to the top to get a view of the arena from up high or even to take in the view of the town from an elevated position.

To make things even better they had even taken the time to make the most of the underneath of the arena with designated rooms in the archways with displays of equipment that would have been used and clothing that would have been worn. There was a room specifically for the gladiators and also one for the bull fighters. To go a step further they also had relevant films being shown in these rooms such as Spartacus. I was really impressed with the amount of thought and effort that had gone into making the experience as good as possible for visitors. As recently as a few years ago, 2005 I think, the arena was even used for a live display with a crowd - on this occasion there was a bullfighting display as would have happened in times go by.

The Maison Carrée was aloso another marvel to behold. It is a Roman civic temple that was built around 2,000 years ago and although the architecht is unknown it is believed that he either came from Rome or had very strong connections with Rome due to the style in which it was built. There are also some distinctly French styles within the building so the common thinking is that the architecht was in fact French but had strong connections with Rome. I'm not sure if that is romanticism on the part of the French or not but it sounded logical enough. The thing that struck me most about the building was the almost perfect state in which it still stands today. The roof has been restored but other than that it is exactly as it would have been 2,000 years ago. It really is a stunning piece of architechture and gives a huge insight into Roman culture.

I have eaten better quality food than I have had for a while today and I am feeling the benefits of it already. The only drawback is that it is costing me around €14 a meal including a drink and it's these sorts of prices that really killed off my quest. I am happy to be eating good quality food again though and, with the pressure off, I don't have to budget so much anymore. I had a calzone this afternoon for lunch and was so impressed that I decided to return to the same place for my evening meal and I had a lasagne. You can get these things cheaper than I paid but you tend to find they are pretty poor quality whereas the food today was really good.

After looking at various options today to see where I will go from here I have decided that my next call will be to a place called Nice. I really wanted to go to Monaco and Monte Carlo but really couldn't afford to pay the kind of prices that a place like that would have. Nice is a 15 minute €3.30 train ride away so I have decided to stay a couple of nights there to give me plenty of time to go to Monaco. After that I have decided to go to Milan - the ticket to Nice is €45.30 whereas I can get a ticket from there to Milan for only €30. Although I have been to Milan before it made sense to go there as it has a massive station and pretty much the whole of Italy is open to me from there and it breaks the travelling up nicely whilst putting me in familiar territory.

I have always wanted to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two towns buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79ad. I have decided to get the train from Milan to Naples on Tuesday which will give me the opportunity to visit both places. It will also be an opportunity for me to take a few days out and relax on the beach in Sorrento Bay - a place I believe is very beautiful also. Although I have failed in my quest to walk to Rome it has not been all bad news for me as I would not have previously had the opportunity to visit these places and they are places I have always wanted to go - expect lots of photos from those visits...

I plan to get the train from Naples to Rome on Monday 21st September and then the real hard work will start - I will have to do all the bureaucratic stuff required to allow me to live and work there and then I will have to start looking for somewhere to live and some kind of work. I am hoping that arriving earlier will be to my advantage as the tourist season will not quite be over which gives me the opportunity to get some English speaking work whilst trying to get to grips with Italian. I am hoping that this will buy me a little more time and make things easier in the long run.

I spent about 4 hours on the internet today updating my blog and photos and also took the time to send a message out to my Facebook group to inform them of my failure to complete the walk. I offered anybody who had donated the money back from my own pocket but not one person has taken me up on this yet. Everybody has been really supportive and understanding to be honest and I am very grateful for that. I was worried that people would feel let down but the reaction has been pretty good and most people have said I should be proud of what I did do rather than be disappointed with what I didn't manage.

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