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Nîmes is great! Put it on your list. It’s easy to navigate, tons of Roman architecture, happy cheerful people, great food. We arrived during the Feria, which was really fun and typically occurs during September and May. 24 hour party!

The Colosseum dates to the end of the first century A.D., when Emperor Augustus named this Celtic settlement on the road linking Italy to Spain a Roman colony. Today, Nîmes is more commonly described as sitting between Avignon and Montpellier, and while the Roman soldiers have been replaced with French Foreign Legionnaires, this city of 155,000 is more a charming travel destination than a seat of power.

Visitors come to Nîmes for its unusually well-preserved monuments — and for newer feats of architecture. Thanks to a push begun in 1984 by then mayor Jean Bousquet, it now has Sir Norman Foster’s 1993 Carré d’Art, a modern art museum with slender pillars that mimic those of the Maison Carrée, the Roman temple across the street, but whose facade is all glass and aluminum; the just-opened Musée de la Romanité, a new home for the city’s collection of ancient and medieval art and artifacts, with a facade of nearly 7,000 silk-screened glass tiles that appears to ripple in the light — as if the museum is wearing a toga, its architect, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, has said.

Increasingly, this marriage of old and new extends to other scenes as well. Young chefs can take advantage of one of the finest covered markets in France — filled with locally made olive oil (the best comes from Oliveraie Jeanjean in nearby Saint Gilles) and wines — and entrepreneurs like the denim designer Guillaume Sagot are reinvigorating local artisanal traditions. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Nîmes was a major textile producer — in fact, the word “denim” derives from “de Nîmes.” “People are receptive to innovation here,” says Sagot. “In Nîmes, you can afford to take a chance.”

Sites/Lodging:

  • We stayed at ***Bien Loin d’Ici, 386 Traverse d’Engance, Nimes (bienloindici.com). It was wonderful! Very modern/chic, in the country but within 4 miles of the city. Our room had a sauna and a spa. There’s an infinity pool, lots of privacy, great breakfast. Kids not allowed. 
  • **Musée de la Romanité was small but interesting. Not the best Roman museum I’ve seen, but it’s thoughtful and has some nice pieces. 
  • We ate at ***SKAB in Nimes, 7 rue de la république , 30000 Nîmes, which was wonderful. Creative and delicious food, nice hidden outdoor patio behind the building.

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