#592. 6 hours in Nîmes

By philberphoto | Travel Photography

May 11


What makes DearSusan unique for me are the deeply conceptual insights, the unfathomable comparisons, the soulful interrogations about the whither of our passions…

Well, I thought, it is time for lighter fare. In this case, a quick in-and-out in Nîmes, in the Southern region of Languedoc. Nîmes is a city with a rich past and an interesting present. And, unlike Paris, for example, where tall buildings have been with only 3 exceptions relegated far from the city skyline, mostly in La Défense, in Nîmes there is a deliberate effort to integrate the old and the new, to imagine some sort of architectural dialogue building bridges over centuries and millenia. Lighter fare, I tell you.



ambitious. And, in my humble opinion, qui successful indeed.



Interesting case in point: the Musée de la Romanité (museum of Roman civilisation), see above, designed by starchitect Elisabeth de Potzamparc. Instead of picking a historic building, it will be housed in a spanking new one, just opposite the Arènes, Nîmes’ most spectacular and famous construction and attraction. Not only is it new, but it is strikingly, unashamedly so. Old grouches, among whom I am often counted, would be quick to object that this “pollutes the site”. Except that here, it seems to work well. Bien joué! (Well done!)



Other example: the Maison Carrée, see above, arguably the world’s best preserved Roman temple, and Nîmes second iconic location. Opposite it the city decided to build a spanking new public library, and designed by (Lord) Norman Foster, no less. Again, instead of “leaving perfection alone” and keeping the site as un-distracting as possible, the way conservationists would have it, the opposite approach. Brilliant, if you ask me.



There is more to Nîmes, much more. Leisurely canals, the wonderful Jardins de la Fontaine (Fountain gardens). And also, for those who like kitsch, just as daring examples of Soviet-style architecture and decoration, testifying to Nîmes’ communist times in the 50s and 60s.



Actually, I only spent one evening and one early morning in Nîmes. Sort of a cross between destination photography, when you travel just for that, and raw opportunism, when you shoot places where you’re going for other reasons. This shows the value of having one’s gear at hand at all times, tripod included (hint, hint!).



PS. Nîmes is also known all over the world for another reason, its canvas (in French, toile). Because the latter part of the “toile de Nîmes”, or “canvas from Nîmes” became “denim”. No Nîmes, no denim…



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  • Joakim Danielson says:

    Thank you for an interesting introduction to Nîmes, the photo of the toreador is excellent.

  • Mel says:

    Lovely, evocative photos Phillippe. The architectural mix of history and modernity is daring and wonderful to see. Now, as you staggered around the city under the weight of your tripod, how did the locals treat you? An obvious “touriste,” but one who speaks French. Were you made to feel welcome? Would we all be welcome (even with limited French and zoom lenses)? Thanks for helping us discover a gem.

    • philberphoto says:

      Thanks, Mel! I am pretty sure that Nimes welcmes all visitors, except of course if they use smartphones! Nah, that’s just a cheap dig at you-know-who. Actually, tourism is a major industry in that part of the country, and locals are friendly and demonstrative. So there is cause for more expectations than fears.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        ??? Hmm how to make this seem impartial! Well – in all the years I’ve been going back to the land of (some of) my ancestors, only one person was ever impolite to me – a taxi driver in 1974 – and he wasn’t FRench, to start with. All the French have been very polite and helpful – far more than one might expect or hope for. And I would expect the same wherever I am in France – Nimes included.
        All those stories about how rude the French are, are simply “fake news”.

  • David says:

    Enjoyed your 6 hours in Nimes. Hope to visit there one day.

    • philberphoto says:

      Thanks, David! Not only is Nimes nice, but there is sooo much to see not that far away. Obviously Aigues-Mortes, as Pascal and I showed, but also Montpellier and Avignon, and more… I can’t recommend going there too highly…

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Fascinating – your photos are a real boost for the French tourism industry -I must get there some time – no doubt you also know that the Maison Carree is 3 or 4 BC, which makes it even older than I am. 🙂

  • Steve says:

    Enjoyed that Philippe, knew nothing about Nimes and will have to swing by on my next French road trip. I love the juxtaposition of old and new, when done well it’s inspiring. Living in a National Park I get to see way too much pastiche of some mythical past idyll. Preserving the past is OK but the preservationists of the future will wonder what on earth happened to our creativity.

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