Monday, January 24, 2011

Nimes, Pont Du Gard and Aigues-Mortes - A Great Weekend!

Outside the Arena in Nimes

The Arena in Nimes-Still used today!

Hallway inside the Arena in Nimes

Pont Du Gard

Pont Du Gard from the other side

French Grape Vines !!
We made the most of this weekend by renting our first rental car which was a feat all in itself!  Although our new found friend and relocation specialist, Marie, reserved the car for us, we still had to find the rental office, pick up the car and figure out how to get home with it - not an easy task in Montpellier - have any of you checked out a map of our wonderful little city?  Everyone tells us to just go "straight, straight, straight" - that must be the big town joke since all of the roads curve, most of them are one way AND there are no street signs that make any sense!  However,  by the grace of God, somehow, we did find home.

We were invited to a movie night at the International Chapel by Marie and the couple who run the Chapel who are from the Chicago area - of course, we got lost trying to find the place so Marie (our new 9-1-1 service!) hopped into her car and came to lead the way - everyone else waited for us to arrive before starting the movie: How To Tame Your Dragon, which they showed in English with French sub-titles.  I really tried to follow the sub titles but I'm getting more discouraged with my hope of trying to learn this language while we are here - Ms Schilling - HELP!!!  The people at the Chapel were very welcoming, friendly and willing to help us in any way so we now have more than two phone numbers to reference in case of emergency! Whew!

Saturday was sunny and frigid but we braved the temperatures (1 degree celcius-no, it was NOT warmer in the sun! - and the wind was whipping!) and made the most of the day.  In the morning, I joined Mrs. Boisson on her trip to the Open Market (Farmers Market), where we found fresh veggies, fruits, LOTS of cheese, herbs, hot food (Asian!), bread, some clothing, and some very cool bags/purses from Madagascar!  Thankfully Mrs. Boison translated things for me so I was able to purchase some lettuce (Mash) of two varieties that we have never had, an onion, some funky looking green cauliflower-like stuff with pointy shapes (hard to explain!) and some FANTASTIC homemade jelly - Strawberry mint, Rhubarb, and Clementine - I am in love with the Strawberry Mint ( Fraise-Menthe).  We then came home and the whole family jumped in our rental and ventured to Nimes (Mr. Boisson, led us to the motorway -A9).  Finding Nimes was easy, finding the Arena in Nimes, was not so easy, but less difficult than finding our way around Montpellier in a car!  After asking for directions once - we made it, found a parking spot, bundled up, and started to walk, not knowing how far we'd have to go.  Suddenly, Nathan turned around to look at the rest of us and laughed - then said "Hey Mom -- Turn around!" And there it was - right behind us!  Sort of like not being able to find the Empire State Building in NYC!

The Arena was truly facinating!  According to our audio tour, it was built around the year 50 AD for entertainment for the townspeople - Gladiators came to fight there, large animals fought in it, sand covered the floor of the Arena to soak up the blood....and other stuff :( , Criminals were fed to the big beasts while people watched them get torn apart. The cream of society got to sit in the front rows to get a good look at the "games" while the slaves and poorer folks sat in the top part of the arena.  I am always amazed at the time, energy, and skill it took to create structures such as the arena so long ago with such limited resources - of course, they didn't know that they were so limited, it's only in looking back and realizing how far we have come, that we understand that I suppose.

This Arena is one of the best preserved of the Roman world.  It measures 133 by 101 meters and is in the shape of an elipse as you can see.  We saw the doors where the animals entered and were kept until their time in the performance, where the gladiators went to prepare for their part, and all of the internal parts of the arena - there were no limitation with the exception of safety guidlines.  Ther Arena is still used today for Spanish bullfighting and some other performance type things.  I will try to post more pix on facebook as they are easier to upload there, if you are interested!

Our next stop of the day was Pont Du Guard - A phenominally huge Aquaduct that was built by the Romanss 2000 years ago to provide water to Nimes.  The wind was frigid as we walked around the huge open structure - the boys were tough and stayed out longer than Emma and me (we took our pix for as long as we could and then headed back to the museum area to get warm in the coffee shop!). I'd love to go back when it is warmer. 

We had dinner with Andrew's boss (Veronique)on Saturday night - in a town about 15 min. away from us, outside of Montpellier - with good direction (and since it was not in Montpellier!) we found her home!  She and her husband, Phillipe, were very welcoming!  We enjoyed a beverage in the front room of their upstairs home in the center of Cournonterral.  Andrew had white wine that was made from INRA grapes (the lab where he is working), and I had a traditional drink from Marseilles - Pastisse-which is a black licorice tasting drink that is mixed (dilouted) with water.  The kids had O.J. - Tropicanna from Florida! We also enjoyed snacking on Pistaccio nuts and olives.

The dinner was traditional - the first course was Duck (everyone loved it!), turnips and little potatos, the next course was salad - very simple, just  lettuce, then the cheese course, 5 or 6 different kinds of cheese, with bread, were passed around for us to take what we would like to try, the last course was a traditional Galette (sp?) which is eaten here for he Epiphany on Jan. 6 - it is a big tart type of dessert that is filled with an almond filling and a toy is hidden within - usually a figureen of one of the three wisemen, Mary, Joseph or Jesus.  The younges child (Adam) is told to go under the table when the Galette is being cut, and when the server is ready, the child (Adam) tells who will get the next slice until it is all distributed!  It was delicious and there was one slice left after serving the 7 of us - of course, that is the slice that contained the toy - one of the wisemen!  We arrived at Veronique's home at 8:05pm and left at 11:20 pm (stood up from dinner at about 11:00!)

That was it for Saturday -we found our way home (after getting lost of course) and hit the sack!  I'll add Sunday's adventures soon - I HAVE to clean this house now!

1 comment:

  1. I'll help you as much as I can for being 3000 miles away! :) Glad to see you're enjoying the French dinners just the way I described them. Your photos are beautiful! I've never been to Nimes... maybe I'll get there some day.