VIEWSDAY TUESDAY IS HERE! I share the lockdown views and stories of my friends around France and the world.
Welcome to Nîmes in the south of France, where friend Patty is confined in her lovely apartment housed in a former convent dating from 1740—an elegant fortress made of thick stone walls, with high beamed ceilings and a large courtyard garden. It’s a haven against the big, bad world.
Like the cloistered nuns who lived here before, Patty’s world (save for a few brief outings for supplies) consists of the courtyard garden and whatever she can see from her windows.
Nîmes (pronounced: Neem) was the last place I visited before lockdown (early March) so many of the happy memories of our former lives (cafés, markets) are tied to this city. It’s a lovely place, full of friendly people, and was a former Roman colony, favored for its healing waters and pleasant weather. The population today—around 150,000—is three times what it was durning the time of Augustus Caesar, who reigned from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D..
Nîmes boasts more ancient Roman ruins than Rome itself. The arena, built around 70 A.D., is wonderfully preserved, as is the Maison Carrée, an old temple dedicated to Augustus in the first century A.D..
The View from Up Here
But perhaps a greater treasure than the temple or the arena is the Magne Tower, high on Mont Cavalier. Originally built by the Celts, it predates the Romans. Augustus then doubled its height to show the locals who was boss. It was used as an important strategic military lookout. Today, it provides spectacular views over Nîmes.
Patty has a perfect view of Tour Magne from her windows. This structure, which has stood for millennia, is a symbol of stability and immortality. It glows on the hilltop day and night, and has become a constant for Patty in this uneasy time.
The tower, shot on one of my visits.
What’s lockdown like in Nîmes? “At the beginning of confinement, the streets were deserted,” Patty says. “Most shops had put up signs, either restricting the number of people allowed inside, or instructing them to keep their distance from others.” But when she headed out on the morning of Good Friday, the streets were “almost bustling. It was difficult to keep away from people.” Like in Paris, not everyone pays attention to the social distancing guidelines. Still, she’s hardly seen the police in her quiet neighborhood. “But friends who live in the very center of town have been stopped more than once.”
Patty never feels alone in Nîmes, even in confinement. Her neighbors are very friendly and helpful, and have bought groceries for her in a pinch. It’s that kind of town. There’s even a web page connecting the confined Nîmois with local businesses that deliver. It’s about community in Nîmes. And with Patty’s regular “Skypéro” (apéro via Skype) with her circle of friends, she’s staying connected to the outside world. “I think my social life is busier now than before lockdown.”
Highlights of Patty’s View