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Day 2: Nîmes and Avignon

We knew that today was going to be a rainy day in Montpellier, and sure enough when we opened the curtains this morning we could see a very wet street outside. From consulting the weather forecast last night, we knew that the weather was expected to be slightly better away from Montpellier, and so we had decided to visit the towns of Nîmes and Avignon, which we first visited in May 2015. Nîmes is about 30 minutes away from Montpellier by train and Avignon is a further 30 minutes away from Nîmes, so they were both mangeable for a daytrip :)

As we left the hotel to get breakfast on our way to the station, the main square in Montpellier looked quite damp and dismal.


Our train to Nîmes was at 10.13 which doesn't sound like a terribly early start, but getting up felt a bit of a struggle after the tiredness of yesterday! It was a pleasant journey though, and we were soon stepping off the train in Nîmes.

We remembered from 2015 that when you come out of the train station in Nîmes, there is a long tree-lined avenue which leads straight to the town's main square.


Unfortunately there was some drizzly rain, so everything looked a bit damp here too.


Around the corner from the square, we soon got our first glimpse of Nîmes's amphitheatre.


We could see that there was a crowd of people gathered outside it, so we went over to investigate.


It turned out that this was a special Roman weekend in Nîmes, with Roman re-enactments taking place all around the town.


Some of the costumes were truly amazing. We saw soldiers dressed in animal skins, like this rather scary-looking guy draped in a lion skin.


There was a solider draped in a bearskin too!


And, of course, there were plenty of more traditional uniforms as well.


The soliders all congregated in the square in front of the amphitheatre for a while, in numbered legions. Then at a signal, different legions started marching off in different directions around the town.



We ran into groups of them at various intervals as we began exploring Nîmes ourselves.


We soon found our way to the Maison Carrée, one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world.


From there we continued towards the cathedral, which turned out to have a rather unusual water feature in its backyard.


You could walk between steps of flowing water to get from the cathedral to the little square below.


We found another really pretty church not far away too.


This one was just across the road from a bit of Roman wall...


and just by chance we happened to arrive there at the same time as one of the Roman legions.


This legion was headed by a man with a bearskin.


It was really cool to see them in action...


... and we got some great photos as they started to march onwards.



By the time we got back to the amphitheatre it was looking a bit quieter, with the Romans dispersed all over the town.


We had a coffee and then headed back to the station for our train to Avignon. There was no rain forecast in Avignon today at all, and sure enough when we stepped off the train we found it was a cloudy, but dry day. It was about half past one by this point, so our first priority was to get lunch, and we found a nice restaurant on one of the main streets where we were able to sit outside eating steak and chips :)


We followed it up with pudding, though I think my choocolate mousse looked slightly more appetising than Tim's cheese.


After lunch we set off to see the main sights of Avignon. From our previous visit, we knew there were two things in particular that we wanted to see: the Palais des Papes and the Pont d'Avignon.


It didn't take us long to find the former.


Although we had been here before, we were impressed once again by just how big the palace is.


It was home to seven different popes during the fourteenth century.


We also had a good view of the cathedral, which is situated next to the palace.


Together they make a very imposing collection of buildings :)


Once we'd admired the palace for a while, we set off to find the bridge.


We soon had our first sight of it :)


We remembered from last time we had been here that we had managed to cross the river via a road bridge and then get some great views by walking along the opposite side of the river, so we decided to try and do the same today.


We got some really good views straight away from the road bridge; we could see the mountains in the distance...


...and the walled city of Avignon behind us.


The bridge in Avignon was first built in 1177.


Unfortunately it was never a very successful bridge, with the arches tending to collapse every time the river Rhone flooded.


Eventually the constant upkeep and repairs of the bridge became too expensive, and so it was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.


Today there are only a few arches of the bridge remaining.


We walked along the opposite bank of the river for a while, enjoying the views back towards Avignon.


Then we got level with the bridge, we took some final photos of it and turned around to head back into the town.


It was soon time to set off back on the train journey to Montpellier.


We've had a really fun day exploring Nîmes and Avignon today, despite the weather not being perfect, and it was particularly exciting to see the Roman re-enactments in Nîmes.


We're hoping that the weather will be better tomorrow, because we want to visit the nearby seaside town of Sète before catching our flight home tomorrow evening :)

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