My first family member visited me in France – my sister returned to France with me from the US. We spent the first day in Paris, in case our flight was late (it wasn’t). My sister was interested in seeing the Eiffel Tower since it was her first time in Paris . . . she’s not a fan of heights though, so it was a short visit!
We focused on only one place per day, so we weren’t in a rush. We had a quick look at Notre Dame as well before boarding our train for the South of France. I wanted my sister to see more than just Paris, especially for her first trip out of the US!
I saw an article about Nîmes, which prompted my interest in visiting. I thought my sister would enjoy seeing a historical site and it was a new place for me as well! Since we were near the Mediterranean, we took a commuter train to Le Grau de Roi. The beach we walked to was shallow, so you had to kind of sit in the water, unless you wanted to wade WAY out. Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I had expected, probably because it’s a smaller town.
It was a truly beautiful place! It was a relaxing start to the trip, especially after we tried our first fish foot pedicure. It felt really strange, but my feet were really smooth afterwards. The place used a spray to clean everyone’s feet before they could use the spa.
The Roman ruins in Nîmes were just as incredible as the photos made them appear! It was definitely a place that lived up to every expectation that I had, plus some. The Pont du Gard is massive – it towers over the landscape around it and the knowledge that it was built in the first century makes it even more impressive. The only thing that could be improved is the signage – we bought the tour of the third level and it wasn’t very clear where we were supposed to go. Fortunately, we found it.
I have many places that I love in France, but Nîmes was truly awe-inspiring. While Pont du Gard was the icing on the cake, the Arena and Temple were also stunning. The ruins are some of the most complete still standing. The aqueduct is the highest in the world, the arena is one of the 20 largest and the most complete and the temple is one of the most complete.
Another impressive sight is the Jardin of Fountains. It was an early public garden, not built as part of a chateau for royalty. There’s a temple, the temple of Diana, which is on the site as well. Interestingly, they aren’t sure what the purpose was or who exactly built it.
While the history is fascinating, I really liked the city in general. My sister and I spent time walking around in the evening on our way back to the hotel. Despite being near the train station, there was a park area that was very clean and felt safe. Many families were taking advantage of the cooler evening to walk through the park, play in the water that runs along the walkways or to watch their children play at the playground. I’m not a fan of really hot, humid places, so the weather in the middle of France suits me better . . . otherwise, this would be another city where I could picture myself living in the future.
We ended the week by returning to Paris. We visited the Louvre on a day when it was open late, then had a wonderful dinner. L’Ange 20 was a favorite of both of ours, even though I made a point of searching for good quality restaurants for nearly all of the meals during my sister’s visit. The best places that I’ve eaten at in Paris looked like little hole-in-the-wall places from the outside – a place I could easily pass without realizing it was a restaurant! In addition to having good food, the server spoke excellent English, which was helpful for my sister! It was one of the few meals where I didn’t have to translate everything for her.
On our last full day, we headed out to Versailles. We’d had two long days on our feet already, so when we saw the crazy entry line, we headed for the gardens first. It turned out to be a great choice! We also rented a golf cart – at the start of the day, people looked at us like we were a bit silly. By the time we visited the Trianons, toured the gardens and headed back to return it, people were asking us where we got it and there was a massive line waiting for one to be available. It was money well-spent at that point!
Conveniently, there was also a very short line to enter the chateau after our garden visit. Inside, it was still crowded and far too hot, so I can only imagine what it was like earlier! Between this trip and Lisbon, I remember why I never traveled in the summer “peak tourist season” before! The heat and crowds aren’t my favorite, but both trips were enjoyable overall.
In short, I’d highly recommend visiting Nîmes! Le Grau de Roi makes a nice day trip from there also if you’re interested in a lovely day at the beach . . . plus, if you use the red ticket machines in the local stations, I was told the tickets are only 1€!