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Nimes

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It's a history that stretches back to pre-Roman times, with various evidence of Bronze Age settlements. But with the Romans came more permanent colonization; soldiers were often given tracts of land in the area as payment for battles. The original Roman gates are still there, as is the Colosseum-style arena. Check the city's entertainment schedule before visiting, and catch a concert inside – something you can't do in Rome!

Throughout the city are various ruins that have been preserved as best as possible, but the jewel of Nimes is without a doubt the temple Maison Carrée. Built just before the turn of the millennium, its near-perfect condition makes it one of the finest examples of Roman architecture found anywhere in the world. Thomas Jefferson was so taken with it, in fact, that he has the statehouse in Virginia built in its likeness!

Today Nimes is a fairly large and bustling city, with great restaurants and gorgeous parks and other public green spaces.

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