Nimes, the Roman Maison Carre

A return to sunny Nîmes in the Gard

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The ease and convenience of Nîmes

I had an opera ticket for Montpellier, but chose to stay in Nîmes. Why? my friend in Montpellier asked.

  • The airport transfer is much easier. (See my post on the region’s airport connections)
  • There are pleasant and affordable apartments within a block of the train/bus station, no need for a further transfer
  • Trains between Nîmes and Montpellier are frequent, the trip takes 25-45 minutes, and the fare can be as little as 5 euros each way (or as much as 10)
  • I wanted to see Nîmes again anyway!

Memories of my first visit, 2022

Nîmes is where I started my explorations of this western section of the Mediterranean coastal region, a year ago, and that was because of its convenient connections. After a few nights in the Zenitude hotel across from the station, we decided to stay in Nîmes and make day trips, because the city was so pleasant and so convenient; and we could get a nice apartment just around the corner, with a kitchen and a balcony; who could ask for anything more?

We’d had an especially enchanting introduction to the city, as a festival of the tastes of the Gard was going on during our very first nights. I’d explored the Halles, the indoor produce market, my first morning, and been very impressed. It’s open every day till about 1 pm, so also pretty ideal. The city is clean and attractive and has a stunning Roman arena right in the heart of town, and an outstanding museum of Roman history. We both ended up with a very good feeling about the city, pleasant memories, pleasant mental images.

But I’ve wondered, how much does the experience of starting off from there, and getting familiar with the town as a base, affect my assessment of the city? Familiarity gives comfort, which bolsters a positive impression, and perhaps occludes any less positive observations. Can I have an objective view of Nîmes? Should I have?

In fact, it is unlikely to matter, as I don’t think I can afford to buy a property in the town. I’m finding myself priced out of cities. But – you never know what might turn up – and I am trying to figure out how I feel about different regions as well as cities. What would I most like to be close to? So, I headed back to Nîmes.

Getting another perspective

An Englishwoman on the plane had started a conversation with me after overhearing something I said. We met again Monday morning at the cafe at the Jardin de la Fontaine, a lovely park and promenade area, between the canals and an overlook. In the process of selling her home outside Nîmes and returning to the UK, Sue was eager to tell me about Nîmes and offer helpful suggestions. We had a very pleasant time, and it interested me to hear what she said about the community and how much there is to do. It seems such a quiet town, but she was very enthusiastic about life here.

Culture does have a home here!

Last year, I’d noted little cultural activity aside from festivals – which the city does manage very well. Now I passed a theater I hadn’t seen before. Nice to see, and to note a wide variety of programming.

Les Halles de Nîmes, conveniently open every morning

Now that I’ve seen so many city Halles around France, I wondered if I’d still be impressed with Nîmes. Yes! The market is clean and attractive, has lots of variety, and, seems to me, favorable prices compared to others. I couldn’t resist getting photos of the great variety of new potatoes, all at less than half the prices of the ones my friend in Deal (UK) finds. I bought wild caught fish fresh from the coast that morning, white asparagus and the other things you see in the photo, and got my friend in Montpellier to come to dinner in Nîmes. I can’t pretend it was a cheap dinner: good fresh food does cost; but I was delighted with what I could get.

Summing up

The city’s second shortcoming, in my view, was lack of a river through town. Those canals don’t really make up for that – they’re shalllow and dirty, though the neighborhood is rather elegant. Most of the buildings in this section are offices, not residences, in any case.

Still, it’s a lovely city, with an appealing and varied restaurant scene, excellent food markets and gourmet shops, and an attractive city center even beyond the pedestrian zone.

My last reservation about it: the closest beach is Le Grau de Roi. It’s not so terrible that we regretted going to see it, but there’s just no need for a return. The beaches from Montpellier are a longer trip on a bus or two, but beautiful once you get there. The beaches from Narbonne are outstanding, and only a 20-minute single bus ride from the heart of town.

Still. If a not-too-small apartment turned up, I’d really think about it. Nîmes might be the most attractive and pleasant city I have visited; it’s certainly in the top tier.

Do you know this area of France, the Hérault and Gard?

If you have favorite towns or villages, or places to recommend for any reason, I’d love to read about your experiences, get your advice and your reasons for liking a place. Let me hear from you by leaving your message in the “Leave a reply” section below. I look forward to what you may tell me!

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