Friday, 13 May 2011

In the South of France: Eze Village, Eze

Eze is one of the most picturesque places to visit in the French Riviera. Its main tourist attraction is the Eze Village, a medieval walled city. This village was once occupied by the Romans , then, subsequently by the Moors, who were driven out by William of Provence in 973. It continued to have a turbulent history. In 1388, it was under the House of Savoy, then, the French and the Turks seized the village under orders from Barbarossa in 1543. In 1703, in came Louis XIV's order to destroy the village, for reasons unbeknownst to others, in the War of Spanish Succession.  Finally, the people of Eze decided to have their territory become a part of France in 1860.

Bound by the coast line on the Mediterranean Sea and all the way to the top by a natural forest, and from Cap Roux to Cabuel point, it's a peaceful place to be when you want to get away from the city life. Eze is right next to Nice, about 30 minutes away from the Côte D'Azur airport.
It's a magnificent view from the natural forest which is accessible via the Grand Corniche (translated as "grand ledge" which is the high coastal road).  Here, our senses are awakened with the panoramic views of the sea, the beautiful natural landscape, and the high winds that make you sway.
There is a view deck - the perfect place to see Eze and the other surrounding villages.  
 It's a botanical garden of sorts, of wild plants and flowers. This looks like a flaming shrub from afar.
A fruiting cactus - prickly Barbary pears - full of seeds but sweet tasting.
A blooming cactus - Agave, which dots the hills here and there. The mistral wind is in the background - it is accompanied by clear and fresh water, and in part, is the designer of  the climate in Provence. It blows during the winter and spring seasons, but is present all year round.

The hillside is lush and the houses and condominiums that are situated on the hilly slopes are, almost always, afforded a view of the sea.
On a clear day, boat watching on the Mediterranean Sea - where the ships and yachts, commercial and privately owned - sailing through, can be rather entertaining, especially when you know who the personalities are in the yachts - like Paul Allen of Microsoft.
What a terrific view of the medieval Eze Village, perched on a rocky hill

Here's a virtual tour. If you like what you saw, let's get down to the Moyen Corniche (middle ledge or mid-level road), and explore this place.
The parking lot at the foot of the village - it easily gets full, but, it's free on Sundays.
Medieval walled villages were built, contained within the high walls, to protect the population from invaders. A hill is an ideal location for this to serve as a fortress.
All the basic needs of the villagers, as wellas the tourists, are provided for on the street level. There is a post office, a bank, a tourist information center, a super market, restaurants, ample parking space, a gas station, souvenir shops, a church, a pharmacie, with only a hospital that's missing. Tourism is the main industry here, all year-round.
Let's go! One of the best souvenir shops is to the right, in that small hotel, L'Arc en Ciel. Be sure to get a few fruit-flavored bottles of aperitif. They are among the locally-made products that are sought for by tourists. 

It's a bit of an uphill climb. Wearing comfortable shoes would make this walkabout pleasant and pain free.
The first right turn leads to an herb stand. Hmmm, the fresh aroma, almost always, makes me buy.
Next to it is the candy man's store. The nougats are a popular delicacy in the south of France. They come in different sizes. The variety of  caramelized nuts are cooked on the spot and you cannot help but grab one of those bags once you get a whiff of caramelized sugar. The other candies are sold by weight - sour balls, sweet or sour gummies, licorice, and lollipops. 
We are at the main entrance of the medieval city. The beauty and charm of this setting have been preserved through the years. Throughout the centuries, large fortifications were built to protect the village from the invaders. This is what remains after King Louis XIV ordered for the ramparts and castle to be demolished - just  one double-gate which serves as the entrance to the village.
These lucky fortress dwellers have all the wonderful views around them.
The narrow alleys and steps lead up or down. We have taken a shorter route to get to the middle level...
to visit the church, Notre Dame de l'Assomption.
There was a special celebratory mass for the people who had served during the war, being attended by the surviving veterans and their families.
A quintet provided uplifting, heavenly music during the mass.
It seems like the beautiful faux finish in this small, beautiful village church is in need of repairs as they are being eaten up by the salt crystallization on the limestone.  

On the same level of the church is a small cemetery. From there is a pathway to go up to the exotic botanical garden on the highest point of the village.

This is the view of the village, below, from the side of the church.

We'll just keep on walking to check out the little, quaint shops.
It's like an outdoor gallery, with little sections to visit and shop. 
Local artists and craftsmen showcase their creations here - all part of the village life.
Many of the ground level sections of the multi-level houses - which would have been the dairy barn section in the olden days, have been converted to store spaces - art galleries, fashion wear, jewelry, French provençal linens, arts and crafts, etc.
It was here, when it was peaceful and quiet in the village that one of its famous inhabitants, Friedrick Nietzsche - the German philosopher, wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None - a treatise on philosophy and morality.
Restorations are ongoing - you can tell from the finishing or the color and size of the stones and the mortar 
Here is a part of the perimeter wall - on our way to look for a place to eat.
The famous Chateau de la Cheve d'Or, a five-star, luxury hotel with a two-Michelin-star rated restaurant. 
At Les Ramparts - one of four restaurants, we had a table with a view of the Mediterranean sea and St. Jean Cap Ferrat.
In season - Asparagus with bechamel sauce and mashed potatoes topped with caviar (a recommendation by the maitre 'd)
Fettucini with artichokes, capers, and black olives
Half of Steak for two
Mille Feuille (which means a thousand leaves) with fresh wild strawberries

That was a sumptuous meal. Full and satisfied, it's time to burn those calories! More walking...
and, finally, we are on our way down. 
This is another place to get your souvenirs, before walking out of the village.
This ends our tour of the medieval Eze Village.

The merry month of May is festival time in the south of France. Last year, We had the chance to attend one, here. It is best to come early as parking is organized somewhere else, then a shuttle to the fair is provided. You will want to avoid the long wait, the crowds, and the hot sunny hours.
It's a weekend affair where the visitors are treated to the ways of the medieval days. 
The merchants come in their medieval-designed costumes. There are reenactments of old sports and dancing and singing a during the day.
Cooking in the ways of the olden days - very labor intensive
An artisan is working on finishing a leather knife-holder.
The local confiseurs (confectioners - candy and jam makers), pâtissiers (pastry and cake chefs), boulangers (breadmakers) come to sell their goods.
The cheese man is still setting up his booth.
A table of hand-hewn knives, horseshoes, plus other knick knacks
Medieval arms: épées (swords)...
arc et la flèche (bow and arrow)
A medieval game for the kids
Red wine - the medieval recipe of Hypocras des Pays d'Oc calls for flavoring the red wine with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, honey, rose water, orange and mace.
Freshly baked fruit tarts, cookie squares, and filled sweetbreads and sandwiches
Pancetta (Italian bacon), sausages, and dry-ham products
With his portable oven, this man prepared a sampling of Medieval flatbreads.
To end our visit here, we ordered the gluten-free version made with chick-pea flour.

I hope you have enjoyed this visit. But do come to this place, someday. There is so much more to see.  

Parfumerie Galimard offers their fragrance products for sale at their shop and a free guided tour of their museum:
Place General de Gaulle - 06360 Eze
Tel: 04 93 41 10 70
International Tel: +33 4 93 41 10 70
Fax: +33 4 93 41 27 61

Fragonard Perfume Factory & Boutique invites you to visit their facilities, for a free guided tour, to learn some of the secrets in perfume making.
L'Usine Laboratoire
Eze-Village 06360 France
Tel: +33 4 93 41 05 05
Fax: +33 4 93 41 02 95
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. 
(except November to January - close from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m.)

For some good French cuisine, I suggest the following restaurants:
Gascogne Café (+33 4 93 41 18 50). Located across the street from the village, it's a small restaurant that is simply decorated, but the food is quite good at very reasonable prices. They offer formule menus, which even give you more value for your money. I have tried their Salad Niçoise, Steak aux Poivres, and Saumon Grillée with delicious accompaniments - all very good.
Hotel Hermitage Eze (+33 4 93 41 00 68) This small, three-star hotel has a restaurant open for lunch and dinner. It is located on 1951 Avenue des Diable Bleus 06360 Eze la Grand Corniche, about a mile away from Eze Village.

The hotels in this area are more like a bed-and-breakfasts, about one-star, with no air-conditioning. There are hotels on the outskirts - in Col d'Eze (which is on the Grand Corniche), on the Moyen Corniche, and of course on the Bas Corniche (low ledge or low road) near the coast - but still close enough. It is ideal to have a car to go from place to place, but there are public transportations - bus and train services. You need to check the schedules as they are rather infrequent. 

For more information about Eze, contact Office de Tourisme (+33 4 93 41 26 00)


  1. Very Nice to see Eze again..Fragonard perfume is nearby as well....great photos...Nides & Lu

  2. Thanks for your visit, Nides & Lu. For me, Eze is always a refreshing place to visit.



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