The French Riviera boasts a great number of fairy-tale villages, but there is no doubt that Èze is its crowning jewel. Perched high above the Mediterranean Sea, it is known for its incomparable views of the Cote d’Azur. The tiny medieval village, whose oldest building, the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix, goes back to 1306, had a turbulent history. It was under the Romans, the Moors, the French and the Turks before becoming part of France in 1860.
Today Èze is a vibrant tourist spot with art galleries, restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and a botanical garden. The latter occupies the highest point of the village, and it is worth paying an entrance fee just to enjoy the magnificent views. However, it is also known for its cacti and succulents, well-designed resting places and beautiful sculptures by Jean-Philippe Richard. It is the sculptures that are my favourite part of the garden. These earth goddesses, which are the result of the artist’s quest for exploring the mysteries of femininity, have their own identity (Margot, Anais, Rose, Mélissandre, Chloé, Charlotte, Marina, etc.) and personality, defined by a poem next to each sculpture. Speak of contemplative spaces…
A true gem of the village is the five-star hotel “Château de la Chèvre d’Or” with its two-star Michelin restaurant “La Chevre d’Or”. Part of the luxury Relais & Chateaux chain, the property literally hangs on the cliff edge offering breath-taking views from just about everywhere. It has a beautiful garden with statues, fountains and waterfalls, as well as a life-size chess board. It enjoys rave reviews from its visitors despite its high prices. But who said luxury is cheap?
If you feel like giving yourself a treat, visit Parfumerie Fragonard, a perfume factory at the foot of the village. It offers free guided tours which provide a glimpse into the process of making perfume. Each tour ends in a shop with an abundance of different perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. It is worth knowing that each year the House of Fragonard picks a flower of the year, e.g. a rose, an iris, a peony, etc., and a special section of the store’s merchandise is devoted to honoring this flower. Needless to say, shopping for a gift here is more than fun, and it is very easy to convince yourself that you deserve one as well.
Finally, if you feel adventurous, you might be tempted to take Nietzshe’s Path, leading from Èze to the sea. Apparently, Nietzshe took it every day when he stayed in the neighbourhood in 1880s while writing “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. We took it once, starting at Eze village and ending at a bus stop on the highway leading to Nice. It took us 45 minutes, with all the stops, picture taking and the oohing and aahing. The views were truly magnificent. A word of warning – comfortable shoes are a must, since the path could be challenging at times. There were Japanese girls wearing heels behind us at the beginning of the hike, and we quickly lost track of them. For all I know, they are still there.
It takes about 20 minutes by bus to get from Nice to Èze Village (don’t confuse it with Èze sur Mer which is located on the seashore). If time is an issue, have a picnic with a view in the botanical garden, stroll around the enchanted medieval alleys of the village and grab a quick tour of the Fragonard Perfume Factory. It will be a good start of your relationship with the place, since I guarantee you will be back.