TO SEE | TOWN
The remarkable park “Les Jardins de la Fontaine” is an oasis of green in the middle of ancient Nîmes. I realised that I had visited the gardens before when climbing the Tour Magne. However, I didn’t know that there was a whole lower part to discover. This haven of peace and tranquillity offers the perfect scenery to wander for a couple of hours.
First public park
Les Jardins de la Fontaine date from the 18th century. It is, in fact, one of the first public parks in Europe. I entered the gardens via the Quai de la Fontaine by passing a gorgeous gateway. I spent a fair amount of time admiring the fountains and the majestic staircase, surrounded by Mediterranean plants and trees.
In 1745, the military engineer of King Louis XV, Jacques Philippe Mareschal, created Les Jardins de la Fontaine right at the founding source of Nîmes. This Gallic source “Nemausus” was named after an ancient Gallic god. Mareschal’s inspiration came from gardens “à la Française”, using large symmetrical alleys and tree alignments. The whole was then richly decorated with balusters, statues and vases, making it very photogenic!
Les Jardins de la Fontaine covers no less than 15 hectares on a hill called Mont Cavalier. Even this public park in Nîmes has some Roman monuments. The first one can be found when you follow the gardens to the highest point of the city: La Tour Magne (you can read my previous post about Nîmes and La Tour Magne here).
Temple de Diana
La Tour Magne is not the only Roman monument in Les Jardins de la Fontaine though. Right before I stopped to take a break on the terrace of a lovely café, I discovered the remains of La Temple de Diana. This ancient Roman temple was created in the first century BC and was part of an “Augusteum”, or a sanctuary dedicated to Nemausus and the imperial cult. Over a cup of tea, I gazed dreamily over the green park. It’s a special place where you easily can spend time escaping the bustle of the city!