Continuing our late summer road trip to France, we headed to the city of Nîmes, known for its well-preserved Roman monuments such as the double tiered Arena of Nîmes, dating from approximately 70 AD and still in use for concerts and bullfights, and the Pont du Gard tri-level aqueduct and the Maison Carrée white limestone Roman temple, both around 2,000 years old. This trip showed that our knowledge of France is quite limited, largely to Paris, because a lot of the places we stayed, we knew very little, if anything, about. Nîmes being one of them.
Our timing for this stay, however, was spectacularly bad. We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon and were delighted that our hotel was located on a beautiful square – Place d’Assas – filled with fabulous looking bars and restaurants. It was looking as if we’d be spoiled for choice come Tuesday evening. Sadly. we’d arrived just as the whole city was literally taking a couple days rest after an extended weekend of celebrations, marking the Maison Carrée’s inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A weekend of parties, celebrations, music, street-food, fireworks etc etc etc. Meaning that come the day we arrived everyone was so shattered, the whole city had literally shut down. We did eventually find a great Italian restaurant which was open, saw the Forum and the Arena and stayed in a fab hotel, so all was fine in the end.
Located on the edge of the square, and a couple of minutes walk from the Maison Carrée, the Royal Hôtel is an old 19th century cloister, full of charm and authenticity. It has recently been renovated and from what we saw – communal areas, breakfast room and our room – it has been carried out sympathetically, but with quirky and modern twists, making it a bit of a stand out hotel. Our room was a superior double room, and it was huge, with a very spacious bathroom, with a very powerful walk-in shower. The room’s enormous shuttered windows, overlooked the square, which is incredibly impressive. Lots of trees – I love cities where they value trees and nurture them, rather than chopping them down – and statues and fountains. Elegant and very beautiful.
Communal artwork in the corridors and staircases is very playful and gives a strong nod the kind of hotel this is – fun, not stuffy, a bit different and definitely a bit boutique. The shot of The Rolling Stones was apparently taken when they played at the arena – which still hosts bullfights, unfortunately.
Breakfast was included in our room rate, and for the hotel, was done in quite an inventive – and probably cost effective – way. A tray for each of was brought to the table, with fresh croissants and bread and individual jars of museli, along with little pots of jam, packs of butter, sealed yogurt, sealed nutella and fruit. I certainly didn’t eat everything and I’m assuming that what isn’t opened is reused. It would seem a real waste of money if unopened juice or jams were thrown away. We thoroughly enjoyed breakfast, and with unlimited coffee, it set us up for the day. It was also served in a lovely dining room, which may also be open to non-guests as a couple of guys had set up with laptops etc at other tables and were working.
We found this hotel to be really good value for money, well positioned and perfect in style and decor. Although it’s a shame that the city was on a general holiday post-celebrations and so we didn’t get the full on Nîmes experience, it didn’t detract in any way from our stay. A beautiful city and a fab hotel.