After discovering that one of my favourite French singers, Émilie Simon, was performing in Nîmes on Saturday 11th October, Kam and I decided we would make a weekend of it – Nîmes, being one of the (many) cities on our To-Visit list. It turned out to be a fantastic weekend, Nimes is a beautiful and historic city and the concert was fab, just to top it all off.
However, we didn’t exactly choose that best weekend to visit, as Nîmes was under vigilance rouge (Red alert) for flooding! Leaving sunny Perpignan, we arrived in Nîmes train station, donned with our anoraks, ready to brave the rain, but it was actually…dry…
La vigilance rouge:
The torential rain for the day had already ended which was a relief! We walked from the station to our Airbnb apartment which was a 15 minute walk away. We passed the Arènes, the Roman colossium which brings flocks of tourists each year to visit the city, and many inticing boutiques and eateries. However, everywhere was closed and despite being early evening on a Friday, Nîmes was dead, we hardly saw anyone. Slightly concerning, we didn’t know what we had got ourselves in for. There was no flooding on the streets, it didn’t even look like it had even rained that day! We later found out that the city itself has excellent drainage, however the outskirts… not so much. It is difficult to get transport in and out of the city on the roads as the water does not go away as easily. We also passed the river which was where everyone seemed to have assembled. It was completely inundated with water and was quite worrying!
The red alert was lifted on the Saturday so we were able to see the majority of all the tourist sites, however on Sunday the red alert was back on and everywhere was closed – we were not able to visit the Maison Carrée which was a shame. The lady at the tourist office advised us that it would be better to leave as soon as possible, because the flooding which was expected later in the afternoon could cause problems for us to get back to Perpignan. We were getting a covoiturage back, so this meant that it could be serious… The majority of trains that day were also either delayed or cancelled. However, after a call to our driver, asking if it would be possible to leave earlier, or if we should just get the train, he very kindly collected us three hours earlier than planned, what a godsend! Our escape was successful! During the car journey however, I began to feel very ill as I had the beginnings of a cold which I have been suffering from all this week.
The best of Nîmes:
Entrance to tourist sites in Nîmes is not free for EU citizens under the age of 25 like many places in France. However we bought a 3-day pass for 9€, which included entry to the Arènes (normally 7€ for students on its own), La Tour Magne (great iew at the top) and La Maison Carrée (watch a 20-min film of the history of Nîmes). By just going to two of the three sites, you are already saving money, and it is great as you have 3 days to see it all.
My favourite place in Nîmes was Les Arènes. I have a strong interest in Roman culture, especially as I did Latin GCSE and Classical Civilisation A Level. Nîmes was a place I had wanted to visit for years to see these sites and I feel it was worth the visit. Les Arènes, in my opinion is a much better example of a colossium than the one which stands in Rome. The one in Rome is indeed bigger, more famous and, well, it’s the Roman Colossium, however the one in Nîmes is in much better condition and on a Saturday afternoon in October, hardly any tourists about!
The only thing which concerned me there, was just how dangerous it could be if someone was stupid. There were no barriers at the very top of the Arènes, so you can sometimes see people peering down from the roof down on to the street below. You can even dangle your feet over the edge too! I was far too terrified of heights to stand at the very top, but if someone slipped, it could end badly. If this was in the UK, health and safety would not allow this, it really showed just how different it is in France for this to be allowed to happen.
One of my friends from Sheffield Uni, Anna, is spending her Year Abroad as a Language Assistant in Nîmes, so it was great to be able to see her and she even showed us around the city like a local, even though she had only been there a few weeks. It looks like a great city to live in. It is so different to Perpignan, where all there is for historical interest is Castillet and Le Palais des rois de Majorque, and the shops in Nîmes are much better, yet I am not so sure about the weather… we do have amazing weather in Perpignan still, considering it is late-October, we are still reaching 28 degrees in the afternoon.
On the Saturday evening, we made our way to see Émilie Simon in concert, the main reason for coming all the way to Nîmes that weekend. This year (2014), she brought out a new album, Mue, but I first discovered her from the French film La Délicatesse, which features her album Franky Knight (on a side note, I highly recommend watching this film and also the book of the same name).
The majority of the audience at the concert was middle-aged, families and older couples which was strange, there were not many people our age there. Although we were in la fosse (the pit), there was not much dancing going on which was disappointing. However, seeing her in a gold sequin ball gown, rocking away to an electric guitar with this weird electronic gadget on her arm, was pretty cool. I don’t think it is a look that is easily pulled off! I was pleasantly surprised by just how good her voice was live, and she can play the keyboard, sing in French and English exceptionally well, play the guitar and use electronic equipment on stage too – she definitely showed off her talents. Her voice was in fact far better than her recordings, so hopefully she will bring out a new Live Album. I have included the Youtube video of the song, ‘Quand vient le jour,’ from her latest album, give it a listen!
This weekend has been calmer, due to trying to relax a bit after having a bad cold for the last 7 days and also because Reading Week starts next week, and I am going to Barcelona, Aix and Avignon! However yesterday, we went to La Vallée des tortues (a tortoise santuary not far from Perpignan) which I will talk about next time!