American Cemetery: Bamboozled by Google in Nimes, France

Yesterday I was in Nimes.

The primary reason for the visit was that my friend and I had read about an American World War I cemetery in Nimes. We have been living in Avignon for a little while now, and we were curious about any major battles fought nearby, any monuments or cemeteries…and so we found this:

Looks impressive, right? I found that Nimes is only a half hour from Avignon by train, and away we went.

Nimes is called “The Most Roman City Outside of Rome.” It has its own Roman arena, ancient temples, and a Roman Watchtower. We arrived in the city, checked out the arena, found a map, and headed towards the American cemetery.

We arrived at 1 Rue du Francois Er, and found nothing.

We walked around, and around, and still nothing.

The French had some major construction near the address, and we were horrified, imagining the worst… “Did they pave over it?” “Could they truly be so insensitive?

In the photos, the cemetery seemed like a luscious green space, contained within a wrought iron gate. We looked for gates, any gates at all within our vantage point. We saw one, and walked several blocks towards it. It wasn’t a cemetery. We saw another gate. We walked towards that. Still not a cemetery.

At this point, we were hot, exhausted, and genuinely irritated, not only because of the absence of cemetery, but also because this quest has dragged us outside of the medieval city limits and into a rather ugly modern space, rife with auto repair shops, insurance companies, and a Planet Fitness. We headed back. We found a SPAR, purchased water to ease our dangerously dehydrated selves, and asked the cashier whether she knew a St. Mihiel Cemetery. Not even a hint of recognition.

We headed back into the charming area, and eventually found a place with WiFi, coffee, and food. We looked up the elusive St. Mihiel cemetery, only to find google’s reassertion of its location, 1 Rue du Francois Er.

Finally, we went to the cemetery website.

We were relieved to see that the cemetery still looked very much alive: there were no notices or alerts about the French paving over it, or making way for construction.

Whew. More clicking. Finally, the real address of the cemetery revealed itself:

With – would you believe? – the option to view in Google maps! Click.

So, St. Mihiel is only a 6 day walk from Nimes. Which, in my opinion, is not the same as being in Nimes, but what do I know?

In hindsight, I suppose there was one red flag: the lack of green space in the original Google maps location, in contrast to the vast, green, Google-provided photo of the cemetery. However, I don’t think it is in any human’s nature to be skeptical of Google maps, especially when Google seems confident. This wasn’t one of those searches where the only Google-provided photo was a street view of a vacant, depressed lot…no, in this case, Google had photo evidence: all of the reasons in the world for me to overlook the improbability of this dense, beige-and-thus-occupied-by-buildings location.

Look at all that beige. Google, you master manipulator.

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