If you read my post about Dalmatia (or Syria) then you’ve probably guessed that I’m fascinated with Roman architecture and Roman-era ruins. You’d be right. Although I traveled to Marseille in 2018 to attend a rugby match, I figured a visit to the Provence region’s numerous Roman landmarks was another good reason to hop on a plane and make the long journey.
Marseilles itself is a bustling city and is France’s third largest, as well as its biggest seaport. There are numerous things to see and do there. One of the most important things to do is try authentic bouillabaisse, a dense, flavorful seafood soup that is the region’s trademark. If you’ve tried it elsewhere, it probably wouldn’t measure up to the local standard in Marseilles.
Everywhere you go in the city, you are reminded of its connection to the Mediterranean, which sits ever-present to the city’s south.
After watching France dispatch Italy in a Six Nations rugby match, we spent the next two days traveling to Arles, Nîmes, and Orange, the site of spectacular Roman monuments, including a soaring amphitheater, a large colosseum (rivaling the one in Pula, Croatia), numerous temples and fora. We were even able to see a Gallic bullfight in the Roman colosseum in Arles.
The highlight, however, was the massive aqueduct at Pont du Gard in the countryside between Nîmes and Orange. This architectural marvel served to deliver water to the city of Nîmes for nine centuries. After it fell into disuse, locals continued to use it as a bridge over the wide Gardon River, which flows into the Rhône River seven miles to the southeast. Visiting this aqueduct alone is worth the price of a plane ticket. Like the Roman road in Syria we drove down, and like the walls of Diocletian’s palace in Split, it is amazing how much Roman infrastructure has remained in use for two thousand years.