Friday, October 27, 2023

France 2023 - A Roman Amphitheater, a Kind Pitbull, and our Final Night in France

Nimes central station is where we find ourselves shortly after our 9am car rental return. Our train to Paris departs shortly before 2pm so we have five carefree, unplanned hours to enjoy.

Our first stop is to visit the Roman amphitheater in the centre of town, built in the year 100 and somehow still standing. The audio guide we are given after buying tickets provides a surprisingly interesting and entertaining story of the arena and what life was like for the gladiators and the crowds who came to watch them fight. It's not hard to imagine as we sit on the rock seats at the top of the arena looking down – the blood soaked sand of the arena floor that had be turned frequently during event days to reduce the smell, the lions and bears chained to posts and fighting each other, the human prisoners chained to the same posts and executed by letting the animals eat them alive, then finally the highly trained gladiators themselves clashing, rarely to the death, typically until one was injured and could not continue. It is awesome.

The arena now is under a long process of rehabilitation to ensure it will stand for another millennium. Surprisingly, this ancient structure is used frequently for events such as concerts, bullfights, and the annual Great Roman Days in May where the glory days of Rome are reenacted. Sometime in the future, we will attend an event here.

We spend the rest of our time walking the town. Nimes is a beautiful place, with so many of the things we’ve loved in other towns we’ve visited during this trip, but with a few ancient Roman structures added in for good measure. We sit for a long while in one of the squares enjoying a coffee, the sunshine, and our last few moments in this incredible part of the world.

The high speed TGV train rockets us northward across France and we arrive at the Charles de Gaulle station in Paris then have a hell of a time trying to find our way out of the station to the taxi area, walking in loops and circles until we finally find somebody to point us in the right direction. It then takes about five tries to get an Uber driver to actually find us, but finally a fine gent from Mali collects us and drives us the short distance to our Air B&B, and we have an interesting conversation with him using our limited French, his limited English, and the help of Google Translate.

We are dropped off in front of our home for the night. It is raining heavily outside, very dark, and there is nobody around. We push through a large steel exterior door to gain access to a small courtyard and apartment access. It’s completely dark inside but I can feel a small creature pawing at my legs, so I reach down and put my hand on the unmistakable muscled head of a pit bull. Fortunately he is the happiest pit bull we’ve ever met and he sticks to us like glue and nearly sneaks into the apartment behind us but I manage to push him out and shut the door. Sorry fella.

After dumping our gear we head back out to the neighbourhood in search of food. We don’t have to go far – there are three restaurants on our block, and each of them looks to be completely devoid of customers. We decide on the Lebanese restaurant and are served a delicious meal of garlicy wonders. The waiter spends a lot of time visiting with us and explains the schools are on a two week “Halloween break” which he claims is the reason why the restaurants are so slow. I just can’t help myself and I look up school breaks in France and discover that they get five holiday breaks per year, each approximately two weeks long (All Saints, Christmas, Winter, Spring, Summer), except for the summer break which is eight weeks. These Europeans drive me crazy! With a lax schedule like that they still manage to come out speaking multiple languages, with art and music training, a deep appreciation for history, and are superior at math and science. I wonder if this has something to do with it?

We return to the apartment and do some final packing adjustments to our bags. Tomorrow, we leave for home.

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