Romancing the Romans in Southern France
When you think of the South of France you may think of sun soaked beaches, movie stars, yachts and great food - and you'd be right - but the area was developed for retirees two thousand years ago too. The French are not the first to figure out what a lovely area the region between Marseille and Montpellier is!
If you want to walk back through time and see where Roman soldiers would retire after their time in the infantry you need go no further than Nimes and Arles. Both are blessed with very well preserved ruins. Both have an amphitheater, easy to explore, climb around and to the top and ready for the modern day rock concert replacement of the gladiatorial games.
The amphitheaters are, as you would expect, surrounded by cafes where you can soak in the view and there are many Roman bath and theater remains to wander through, but Nimes has a gem in the center of the town. This is a temple from Augustinian times and it is the best preserved Roman temple from the period in the world; it has been beautifully restored recently.
Close to Arles you can also visit one of the wonders of Roman engineering - the Pont du Gard. It is the highest remaining Roman aqueduct in the world and yet was built without mortar! Huge stones, three levels high, still standing - purely through a feat of engineering. It is in a beautiful area, over a river and a lovely peaceful walk up takes you to the aqueduct (suitable for the under 5s and over 80s). When I first visited it in 1979 we would walk across and through it but now it is fenced off for safety.
Because the Romans were here for so long there are romantic reminders everywhere, and especially on fountains which are a welcome sight when it's 90 degrees out.
But if you are traveling with family members who are not interested in spending all their time exploring the Romans in this area you are only a short drive from the sea so at any point you can escape to a beach or a small fishing port for a glass of wine to toast the past. And if you are willing to drive 45 minutes disappear into the wilderness and wild white horses of the Camargue.