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Friday, 29 August 2014

Last Tango in Nimes

Nimes is said to be named after Nemausus, a local Celtic deity and guardian of water and local springs, alternatively, Nemosius the son of Heracles. We shall never know so its probably best to stick with Nimes and history with a little more accuracy.  

 In 55 BC Julius Caesar asked the local Volcae to fight with him against the northern Gauls. After thirty years of fighting with Caesar and his successor Augustus the Volcae leader, Adgennix was given Roman citizenship and Nemausus was made an autonomous city within the Roman empire - but given a Roman name: Colonia Augusta Nemausus. But we’ll call it Nimes. I have enough trouble with French – and grief from my daughter for invariably pronouncing the silent ‘s’ in Nimes

And now that the history lesson is over (well not quite, there’s a bit more to come) I can show some holiday snaps with a tad less guilt

 The view from our bedroom window, the amphitheatre.  
It was built towards the end of the second century Ad. When the Roman empire fell and Nimes became part of a Visigoth kingdom local people sheltered there, using it as a kind of fortress. By 725 A D Nimes was briefly absorbed by the Umayyad Moslems until, in 737 AD Charles Martel and the Franks briefly siezed the city, destroying much of the amphitheatre and other great buildings. . What's interesting is that the local Gallo-Roman and Visigoth nobility sided with the Moslems and not the Franks. Muslim rule in the city didn't end until 754 when Pepin the Short drove them out.* The new Carolingian aristocracy installed themselves in the amphitheatre - and at night after sufficient wine you sense their presence still.
 And at night

 In fact at night it becomes  quite ghostly
 As does much of Nimes

Those Volcae soldiers who fought in Caeser's Nile campaigns were clearly impressed with the crocodile. Wherever you go in Nimes you see the emblem of a crocodile under a palm tree. This looks quite a friendly crocodile.
As well as building the Amphitheatre and littering the place with crocodiles and palm trees the Romans built a Forum, now one of the best preserved buildings in the former empire:
 Le Maison CarrĂ©e

The local Volcae had a small defensive tower on this hill. The Romans, on the basis of mine is bigger than yours built a defensive wall around the city culminating in the Tour Magne. You can access the top via an internal staircase and see half of Provence.

And lastly, to echo 'what did the Romans ever do for us?' from Life of Brian, they built the incredible Pont du Garde. The aquaduct carried water to Nimes from springs 31 miles away. Much of the structure is underground but, faced with hills and valleys, Roman engineers didn't flinch. The Pont du Garde is the highest of all Roman aquaducts and takes the breath away even today. It carried an estimated 44,000, 000 gallons of water a day to the fountains, baths and homes of the people of Nimes.

Now it just carries people.

We had everything on this holiday, good food, wine, and water. Wherever ever you went you saw or heard water.

Below was a water and fire spectacular orchestrated to stirring music. This park, le Jardin du Fontaine, leads up to the hill where the Tour Magne looks over the city

And lastly, what would life be without night time dancing outside your window? I believe a national tango competition was taking place, though this does not appear to be a tango.

If you can bear it there will be two more posts - on Avignon and Arles. It is a family record after all :)

*This stuff about the Moors threw me and reveals yet again how you keep on learning - even History teachers. I was brought up on the story of Roland and how the Moors had been stopped at the Pyrenees. I had no idea - until now - that they had ever established themselves in France

Friday, 22 August 2014

My toes turn away and pretend I'm not there.

How can you not fall in love with these beauties? You can almost sense their gratitude for being unleashed, puzzled, too. Dazzled by sun. It takes something for an Englishman to relinquish his socks. But then we are not noted for our summers, except in a negative sense.
I wonder if there are dating agencies for toes. Mine look so innocent, elegant even. I walked to town in my sandals and I could feel them, wriggling with joy – all except the two special ones on each foot. These are weirdly bound together like Siamese twins. They can move as one but not individually. Don’t believe I’ve never tried – even to the extent of holding one down with a finger and willing the other one to move. It just glared at me. Immobile. Will power. Their will is stronger than mine. It’s something I used to resent but now I accept them as special. So no, dating might not work for them unless there are similarly inclined twins.
 It’s one and a half miles to Waitrose where I get my free latte - and a newspaper if I spend £5 on groceries. The toes are excited, exuberant even, like small hairless puppies. I buy what I need to. My toes scan the talent. Toes that is. Their ambitions rise no higher.

That afternoon I realise I’ve forgotten some household essentials. The toes are out the door before I am. Forty minutes later I approach the checkout with another £10’s worth of groceries. Without thinking I pick up another newspaper. The checkout guy scans my Waitrose card and looks up unsmiling. “You’ve already had a paper today.” He says it loudly enough for the entire queue to hear:  This man is a thief. The meaning is clear.. I am mortified. My toes turn away and pretend I'm not there.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Liverpool was once the second city of the empire. Imagine that. Imagine, too, how many people would have seen this skyline approaching and departing from the city.

 You need the Ride of the Valkyries for this one - and sharp eyes. But as we descend and the mist disappears, its beauty becomes clear

Back in time sea farers would have seen this

Or this in 1959.

                                                                    But way before this

And in 1911 this. Note no Liver Birds on the Liverbuilding. They came a year later.

                                              But the Lusitania came often before it was sunk.

                                                 Meanwhile the Liver birds are being built

                                                                         And erected.

                                                                         In 1915

  The 1920's


                                                                  World War II

Back to the present, a blend of old and new.

And now a small collection from those who love their city.

So much beauty. But don't forget all this was built upon this:

And this:

And the docks where by grandad worked and supported eight children

All these pictures have been taken from the talented and generous members of:

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Sea in the blood

A few years back I was in Liverpool with my beautiful and long suffering wife. The weather was wild but I was adamant and she understood. We had to go on the ferry. It's only when you leave Liverpool you realise how much you miss it - especially the ferry. And I'd been away for ever so long.

The weather bided its time but I wasn't fooled, not for a moment. Within minutes the heavens opened. Wind punched me this way and that, and rain stung my face. I was in heaven. My wife was in the covered area watching from out of the window.

When I was young (so much younger than today) the magic was in getting the No. 2 or 30 bus to the Pierhead, stare across the Mersey and imagine. I was surrounded by ghosts.

An overhead view of the tunnels to the landing stage, a tugboat and a ferry.

The nearest thing to a time-tunnel

The landing stage in the 1920s

And further back in time the waterfront in 1911. Before the famous Liver bird

Drifting back nearer in time...

And nearer still...You can stare for hours, dreaming of lands you will never go to.

There are places you can go to, exciting places like Birkenhead and New Brighton, Wallesey and Ellesmere port. It used to cost little to go on the ferry and imagine yourself on the South China seas.

I don't imagine the three people in the foreground are talking about the South China seas...The two men in the background are definitely dreaming of pirates.

Clement weather on the Mersey.

The Isle of Man was the holiday destination. It's boarding houses were famous. And this was the boat that would take you there - a more substantial sea voyage.

And you'd always stare back at what you were leaving.

But even dreams come to an end. This is the Royal Iris. The Beatles once played on it along with a host of other Liverpool bands. Boys made out and vomited depending on the roll of the waves and how much they'd drunk. A perfect Saturday night.


And below this - the Royal Iris as it is now - a rotting hulk berthed on the Thames. It will happen to us all one day.

All these pictures have been taken from the talented and generous members of: