Three Days in Nimes - From Munich to Spain to France - CycleBlaze

April 28, 2024 to April 30, 2024

Three Days in Nimes

Waiting for the weather to Improve

 

Day trippin' out of Nimes.
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Our trip has had a rough start, between the delayed plane flight, our hurry to get out of Munich and now the atrocious weather derailing our hopes to ride the Tarn Gorge. It really sucks. We are so ready to get riding.

On the other hand while I moped I could also run through all the positives, (1) Nimes is a cool city with great history; (2) French food is awesome; (3) our inn, Antichambre, is a great place to hunker down if you are riding out a storm; and (4) the laundromat is nearby.   So, in that order…

(1) The City of Nimes:

Having three days to explore Nimes gave us some time to explore this interesting city. It has done a lot to preserve its archeological remains and history (mostly Roman but also pre-Roman and Medieval) and there are a number of sites and museums to visit.  When we arrived we purchased the combination ticket that let us see all the major sites.  This is something we normally never do, not being inveterate sightseers, but given the weather forecast it made sense. 

 It’s a great time of year to be a tourist. Dave was here once years ago during the summer high season and remembered the place being jammed. Not now.  

In addition to the Arena, we visited the well-regarded Museum on Roman history — the Musee Romanite — which filled out our perspective on the city.  

Blooms were showing up all over the city.
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The arena dominates the central downtown.
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After starting its life as a Celtic settlement around 500 BCE, Nimes was colonized by the Romans in the first century BCE during the reign of  Caesar Augustus.  Nimes sought protection from Rome to avoid some pesky neighboring enemies and were granted an exalted status as a regional capital. This resulted in the building of grand architecture and the famous 30 mile-long aqueduct which included the Pont du Gard, which provided water to the City.   Nimes sat at a crossroads of the Via Domitia (the first Roman road in Gaul built to link Italy and what is now Spain). At its peak as a Roman town it had a wall and ramparts and 80 guard towers.  Only one still exists -  the Tour Magne-  and we walked up to it one afternoon and climbed to the top for the great views of Nimes. 

La Tour Magne
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The climb to the top . . .
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. . . and the panoramic view of the city from the top.
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We also visited the newly-restored Roman Temple, the Maison Carree, also built in the first century BCE, which sits in the center of town at what was once the Forum of Nimes. After the fall of Rome, the Temple was used for a variety of  other purposes (stable, art museum) and the small museum inside gives a good understanding of its life. 

The Maison Carree
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Our final sightseeing was a visit to the highest point in Nimes, Les Jardins de le Fontaine, a large park  constructed by the City in the 1700s  (and now the focus of runners in Nimes).  Adjacent to the Park is the Temple of Diana, an evocative Roman temple that has been allowed to decay aside a forest. At the Gardens we met Chris, and had a really fun talk. He is French but emigrated to Australia 30 years ago and was back visiting his mom and dad. We had a fine talk about Australia, which Dave and I had visited in 2019. 

Dans Les Jardins
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A group of school kids on a field trip.
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Local resident enjoying the statuary.
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The Temple of Diana
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Our new acquaintance, Chris, born in Nimes and now living in Australia.
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Oh -  one final bit of sightseeing:  we walked down to the Nimes Central Market (Les Halles of Nimes) where Dave gawked at the amazing seafood, meat, cheese, bread and produce.  It made him want to cook. Which leads me to….

Les Halles de Nimes
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(2) French Food:  

The food has been fantastic and a very good value. (I think we are still having a mental expense hangover from our trip to Norway last summer.) We had a signature meal one night at Restaurant Vincent Croizard, an upscale, precise place recommended and booked by our host Jean-Luc who said that this restaurant would have a Michelin star except that it doesn’t vary the menu enough. It was amazing. We had the 4-course tasting menu (we could select our choices) and they added a pre-dinner amuse bouche and then a pre-dessert sweet AND a post-dessert sweet  (Just in case we didn’t get enough in the way of sweets). It was a three hour tour — but Jean-Luc  had warned us of this so we came fresh, hungry and prepared (having skipped lunch and Jill having an afternoon nap!)

The next day we skipped lunch and split a pizza to make up for the previous day’s food intake.

Speaking of food, our innkeeper is a former chef and we have been having very interesting breakfasts (frog’s legs anyone?) which we will show you via Dave’s photo. We suspect this may be the peak of our experience in France when it comes to breakfast….

Yes, frog legs for breakfast.
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(3) Our Digs:

Antichambre is an A +. It is a 3 room b an b, owned and run by our host Jean-Luc, who was formerly a chef. He does everything, including the cleaning and preparing amazing, varied breakfasts.  He told Dave he shuts down November to March and takes his motorcycle travelling to recover —for “tranquillite”. It’s a lovely place with a great living area and courtyard for our bikes, and the living room has been handy given we have spent more time hanging out than we normally would. Jean-Luc has provided me a second pot of tea after breakfast so I can sit and work on the journal. He has been a lovely host and this is a fine place. (Oh, did I mention the lovely tub?)

The courtyard.
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Our shared living room/breakfast room.
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Our bedroom . . .
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. . . and bath. (Did Jill mention there was a tub?)
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(4) The Laundromat: 

Because it’s been cold and rainy we have been wearing all our clothes in layers and are already heartily sick of them after only a week of our trip. (I really don’t want to share how many days I have been wearing my one long -sleeved wool top without laundering, and this morning as we were getting ready to go down for breakfast, Dave shared a disturbing factoid about how many days he has been wearing a particular pair of underwear…)  Dave is going off to the local laundromat this afternoon, so at least we will be clean. 

We take off on the train to Millau at the crack of dawn tomorrow. (6:30 am).  Jean-Luc was mildly disturbed when we asked for a takeaway breakfast but seemed game enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the weather is going to clear at all until Thursday (tomorrow is Wednesday) so we will have a decision to make when we get off the train in Millau as to whether we will ride that afternoon. The weather people are now predicting a half inch of rain, high winds, and possible localized flooding.  Not too good.  (If we don’t make it to La Malene, our planned endpoint, we will have to blow off an already paid for booking.) We  shall see…..

(Dave here, pinch hitting for Jill)

There's usually a bit of drama and/or comedic relief wherever I do the laundry chores while traveling. I've learned to embrace the challenges of navigating laundromats in foreign countries, perfected my helpless American schtick and shamelessly sought the help from my fellow launderers who inevitably take pity on me. My experience in Nimes, however, couldn't have gone more differently. The laundromat was less than a block from our inn, the place was empty the whole time I was there, the machines were all in good working order and the whole process was completed in an hour -- No drama. No miscues. How pedestrian 🥱

While the clothes were washing, I took the opportunity to scope out a nice place for us to have an early dinner and did some clothes shopping. Inexplicably, I failed to pack shorts so I ventured to a sporting goods store nearby and found what I needed. 

Meanwhile, Jill was stuck back in the inn and getting a bit of cabin fever. The rain had eased considerably and she cooked up a 25K ride out of town to get us primed for the rides to come. The ride encompassed a couple of loops (see the route at the beginning of this post) with the first loop circumnavigating a park up in the hills that had formerly been part of some nobleman's estate. Jill said this should be more interesting than the loup we'd make in the 2nd part of the ride which would take us around a different part of the city. She didn't know how prophetic her words would prove to be. 

The ride started off well enough and we were both happy to finally be riding. We headed up to the hills surrounding the town and soon encountered a couple of short  but very steep pitches. The total elevation gain wasn't going to be all that big, but there were places that required us to go into our climbing gears. The paved roads soon turned into gravel as we circumnavigated the park. In places the road was really rough, but it was when we started heading back down that things got really interesting. We were directed onto some pretty gnarly single track paths which had these fearsome looking rocks with sharp points aligned on the path like the teeth of a shark. This was slow going. At one point, as we struggled through a though patch, we heard several motor cross bikes bearing down on us. I pulled over to let them pass, as did Jill, but she thought she was unclipped as she usually is when the going gets rough. Unfortunately, she was clipped in and when she stopped, she couldn't unclip in time and tumbled over. The motorcyclists stopped, asked if they could help and apologized even though it really wasn't their fault. After picking herself up, Jill took an inventory. She suffered a couple of bruises and restrained her knee which she had injured a few weeks ago cross country skiing. But she soldiered on, declaring that she'd be OK.

The route was indeed pretty.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLarger purplish pink flowers are a species of rock rose, possibly gray leaved Cistus.

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/82673-Cistus-albidus
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3 weeks ago
Yeah, the path wasn't the best.
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The second half of the ride was indeed much more calm than the first with the exception of encountering an absurdly steep hill which necessitated walking the bike up it followed by a short bush wacking adventure back to the main trail which eventually took us back to town. 

As Jill noted at dinner, we would have laughed at our little adventure had she not fallen, but even so, we were glad to have made the effort. We split a superb burger/fries/salad along with an excellent bottle of local wine. We were in bed early and set our alarm for 5:00. The weather forecast was for more rain . . .

Today's ride: 25 km (16 miles)
Total: 121 km (75 miles)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesOh my! So sorry your tour is off to a shaky start. Dodie seems to fall over a fair bit, especially when stationary, but she claims to have learned how to go limp so as to minimize damage. Hope the weather improves and Jill's bruises and knee feel better quickly.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonThat’s a shame about the fall. Hopefully it won’t have any lasting effect. Good luck on that, and on the weather!
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3 weeks ago
Laura ClarkSo sorry about Jill's knee! And David, I've been eagerly awaiting your first laundry experience...pretty boring compared to some of your other escapades, so continued good luck with future endeavors.
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3 weeks ago