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Published on Aug 2, 2009
The star attraction of Nimes is the worlds best-preserved ancient Roman amphitheater, Les Arenes. The arena is very similar in age and appearance to the Colosseum in Rome, but only half the size, seating 24,000 people. A lovely pedestrian zone of shops and cafés extends just beyond the right side of the arena, with the main lane of Rue de lAspic running ten blocks through its center. Check out the shops and other sights including the other great historic monument of Nimes, Maison Carrée or the square house, Frances best-preserved Roman temple. Maison Carrée looks like a smaller version of the Parthenon, with tall Corinthian columns running around it and a classic façade topped by a triangular pediment. Legend holds that the 2000-year-old temple was built by General Agrippa in honor of two grandsons of Emperor Augustus, Caius and Lucius.
The Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard is one of the greatest sights in all of ancient history. Its an incredibly impressive structure, in fact, the tallest ancient bridge and the second highest structure the Romans ever built, after the Colosseum in Rome which is just six feet higher. Pont du Gard is part of an ancient, 26 mile water channel about in length, built mostly on or beneath the ground to carry water to Nimes. The Romans constructed this bridge across the valley about 2,000 years ago to maintain an even flow of water with just a very slight change in level, dropping only about one inch every 300 feet. This engineering feat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Three levels of arches hold up the water channel that runs across the top. The tallest arches that Roman engineers ever built are on the bottom. Their buildings relied heavily on the arch, for many interior spaces were differing variations of this critical feature: large rooms were often made with barrel-vaulted ceilings, really a series of arches connected together, and an arch could also be spun around on its axis to form a dome, another important Roman innovation.