Bonjour les amis. A recent visit to Eze convinced me that there is indeed, a Heaven, and that we, humans, do not need to wait to get there. Welcome to Eze-le-Village, sitting way up high on la Côte d’Azur, 430 meters (1410 feet) above the Mediterranean.
One of Nice‘s many qualities is how democratic the city is. All bus and tramway rides downtown and in 24 communities around Nice, (all the way to Monaco,) cost a mere 1.50 Euro. An all-day pass costs 5 Euros. City buses are clean and comfortable, the tramway state-of-the-art, and the local public transportation system is an incredible deal. Nice is proud to be a green city. This measure was introduced several years ago to encourage locals and tourists to use public transportation, and it has proved a successful endeavor. Bravo, Nice!
The trip to Eze-village took 30 minutes. 8 kilometers (5 miles.) I went to Heaven and back, for just 3 Euros. What a steal!
I had been warned about summer crowds, swarming the tiny streets, big tourist coaches parked at the foot of the village in giant parking lots. After a disappointing visit to Monaco (more about that later,) I was not ready to be stuck in another crowded place all day. I followed the same recipe I have been using since I got here: I went early in the day. This is common sense, and yet it is so much easier to do when traveling alone. By 10:00am, I was standing at the foot of Eze-le-Village. There were other people there, but nothing overwhelming.
|Eze, the cathedral and old castle, towering over me|
I took my first shot of the village from a secluded pathway 80 feet off the main entrance.
|Eze: Self-proclaimed “Crow’s Nest” of the French Riviera|
One has to deserve Eze. It is a steep climb to the top. I did not mind my workout in the morning heat. This is a Mediterranean summer, all right. The views along the way were both my encouragement and my reward. Here is a selection of street scenes. Notice there is hardly anyone around. Yes, folks, one can visit the French Riviera without hitting crowds everywhere.
|A few shops and restaurants|
Need I share more? Eze is a beautiful, quaint Mediterranean village, with narrow streets designed a long time ago to preserve shaded areas in the summer.
There is more to Eze than pretty cobbled streets. For one thing, there is an exquisite garden, le Jardin Exotique, developed in the 1950s by the village mayor. The terraced garden has been an ongoing work of love, and over 400 different exotic plants (including an impressive collection of rare cacti) have been introduced over the years. They thrive in this dry, hot, sunny climate.
Most people come to the garden to enjoy glorious Riviera views. That morning, unfortunately, a marine haze was surrounding Eze. Many visitors stayed in the village streets (there is an extra 5 Euro charge to get inside the garden.)
|Heaven must feel like this… life in the clouds!|
I loved le Jardin Exotique. It provided great views of the Eze superimposed orange tiled roofs and village houses. Most houses are made of Turbie stone. There used to be quarries nearby, and the stones had to be brought up to the village by mules. Notre-Dame de l’Assomption cathedral can also be admired from the garden. Built in the 18th century by an Italian architect, it boasts a beautiful blue clock.
|Jardin Exotique, Eze rooftops and… a whole lot of marine haze|
|The Orientation Table did not help much in the morning.
One can see all the way to Corsica on a clear day!
|Eze Cathedral and la Moyenne Corniche
(one of the three scenic roads along the coast)
Art is everywhere on the French Riviera, and I was so happy to discover fifteen “Déesses de Terre“ (the goddesses) by French artist Jean-Philippe Richard. Each goddess has a name, a personality, and is defined by a poem. They are strikingly beautiful and watch over Eze and le Jardin Exotique.
|Rose and Anaïs stand at the top of the garden, in the old Castle ruins|
|Melissandre, unfazed by the marine haze, looks down at the Mediterranean|
|Mademoiselle, vous êtes très jolie!|
I was hoping the marine haze would finally lift. The coast has its funny ways, and the weather changes often. I knew patience would be rewarded. It was hot, and I was getting hungry. It was time to pause for lunch. I had a choice, and could visit one of the village eateries, or I could make a reservation at the famed Château Eza (a 4-star hotel and restaurant.) This amazing piece of real estate was once the property of the Royal family of Sweden who loved to vacation on the French Riviera. Service started at 12:30pm and in typical Mediterranean fashion, no guests had arrived yet when I showed up to claim my table on the magnificent terrace. This was a total splurge and a special moment I will never forget. The food, the view, the weather, and service: Everything was perfection.
|Château Eza: la terrasse panoramique|
|I will look at this picture often next winter
|It’s all in the presentation: “Amuse-bouche” offered by Château Eza.
Cold lobster bisque, decorated with local wild flowers…
|The view I had waited for all day, and I admired it from my table,
while sipping a glass of chilled rosé.
I could have stayed at Château Eza all day, bien sûr, but la Belle Nice was waiting, and all my [day] trips lead back to her. So long, Eze-le-Village. The Riviera’s “Crow’s Nest” delivered, once again.
|Château Eza entrance, Eze|