Sightsee some of the city's ancient sites without leaving home, inspired by The Rocheforts.
“Nestled in the hilltops, Nîmes jealously guarded its secrets, which were sealed in the thick walls of its ancient ruins. Centuries after the end of Roman rule, the city’s upper class had made Nîmes a center of prosperous industry and trade. Several dynasties had taken root, achieving renown in finance, textiles, and the wine trade.” —The Rocheforts, by Christian Laborie
Ever been to Nîmes? Located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France, approximately 25 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, Nîmes was established by the Romans and retains historical ruins and significance. Dubbed the French Rome, the city is rich in history, literature, and America’s favorite sturdy fabric.
Denim (derived from the French de Nîmes) was exported from the town and represents a key source of prosperity in the novel, The Rocheforts, Laborie’s magnificent family saga spanning the late 1890s through the 1930s. “Mark my words. One day couturiers will be working with denim. What Levi Strauss started 50 years ago with his canvas overall will revolutionize the clothing business,” the head of the Rocheforts family says early on.
The region has made its mark outside of the textile industry, too. Famous figures include Jean Nicot, a French diplomat who first brought tobacco to the French court (hence, nicotine); Louis Perrier, who established the eponymous fancy water brand; and writer Alphonse Daudet.
Unable to make the trip outside of the novel? Below, we have a look at some of its greatest sights dating back thousands of years.
The Arena of Nimes
A Roman amphitheater dating to the first century AD, the facility is now famous for holding two annual bullfights.
(Fun fact: This was the amphitheater used in Gladiator.)
The Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard was part of the Roman aqueduct located in Roman Gaul.
The Maison Carree
The Maison Carrée is one of the best preserved Roman temples in the empire.