I have omitted to notice the route to this place, having formerly described the greater portion of it. I remarked a considerable improvement in the different towns we passed through: the people look cleaner, and an air of business has replaced the stagnation that used to prevail, except in Marseilles and Toulon, which were always busy cities.
Nismes surpasses my expectations, although they had been greatly excited, and amply repays the long detour we have made to visit it.
When I look round on the objects of antiquity that meet my eye on every side, and above all on the Amphitheatre and Maison Carree, I am forced to admit that Italy has nothing to equal the two last: for if the Coliseum may be said to surpass the amphitheatre in dimensions, the wonderful state of preservation of the latter renders it more interesting; and the Maison Carree, it must be allowed, stands without a competitor. Well might the Abbe Barthelemy, in his Voyage d’Anacharsis, call it the masterpiece of ancient architecture and the despair of modern!
The antiquities of Nismes have another advantage over those of Italy: they are kept wholly free from the disgusting entourage that impairs the effect of the latter; and in examining them in the interior or exterior, no risk is incurred of encountering aught offensive to the olfactory nerves, or injurious to the chaussure.
We devoted last evening to walking round the town, and so cloudless was the sky, so genial the air, and so striking the monuments of Roman splendour, that I could have fancied myself again transported to Italy.
Our inn, the Hotel du Midi, is an excellent one; the apartments good, and the cuisine soignee. In this latter point the French hotels are far superior to the Italian; but in civility and attention, the hosts of Italy have the advantage.
We had no sooner dined than half-a-dozen persons, laden with silk handkerchiefs and ribands, brocaded with gold and silver, and silk stockings, and crapes, all the manufacture of Nismes, came to display their merchandise. The specimens were good, and the prices moderate; so we bought some of each, much to the satisfaction of the parties selling, and also of the host, who seemed to take a more than common interest in the sale, whether wholly from patriotic feelings or not, I will not pretend to say.
The Maison Carree, of all the buildings of antiquity I have yet seen, is the one which has most successfully resisted the numerous assaults of time, weather, Vandalism, and the not less barbarous attacks of those into whose merciless hands it has afterwards fallen. In the early part of the Christian ages it was converted into a church, and dedicated to St.-Etienne the Martyr; and in the eleventh century it was used as the Hotel-de-Ville. It was then given to a certain Pierre Boys, in exchange for a piece of ground