August 19, 2013

Eze: Perched Village of the Côte d'Azur

High above the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea, wedged between the scenic coastline and the rugged Alpes-Maritimes, Eze Village is one of the perched villages of the Côte d'Azur. The medieval town is referred to as Eze Village to differentiate it from the beach resort, Eze Bord de Mer, 400 metres below it on the coast.

Eze Village

The town's ochre yellow church clinging to the rocky hillside marks Eze's location on the Moyenne Corniche (Middle Corniche) midway between Nice and Monaco.

Eze Church

There's no train service to Eze, but Lignes d'Azur buses run frequently from Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Monaco. We travelled on the #82 bus from Villefranche-sur-Mer. A one-way fare is 1,50 euro and tickets can be purchased from the driver.

The Moyenne Corniche to Eze Village

The local Tourist Office is located near the base of Avenue du Jardin Exotique which leads up to the town's 14th century double gateway.

La Poterne, the Double Gateway

Tunnel Near the Gateway

Entrance to Eze Village

Once inside the old town walls, signs point visitors to major landmarks through a warren of narrow alleyways and tiny squares.

Alleyways of Eze Village

Alleyways of Eze Village

The TI can provide you with a map but this charming medieval village is ideal for wandering, with delightful scenes waiting to be discovered around each corner. 

Eze in Bloom

Shady Nooks

The village is known today for its art and gastronomy. The small town of 2,800 inhabitants boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants: Château Eza and La Chèvre d'OrChâteau Eza once belonged to Prince Guillaume of Sweden and is now a luxury boutique hotel. We stopped in for a drink on the shady terrace. A beer cost 7 euros but was well worth the price for the spectacular view.

Château Eza Hotel

Mathusalem Amour de Deutz 1999 Champagne

Château Eza Terrace

Far below Château Eza is Cap Ferrat surrounded by luxury yachts anchored in the Mediterranean Sea.

The View from Château Eza

Michelin-starred Dining at Château Eza

Cap Ferrat Peninsula

The modern fountain on tiny Place du Planet dates from 1930 but fits in well with its medieval surroundings.

Place du Planet

Fountain in Place du Planet

Art on Place du Planet

Continuing to climb further uphill, we reached the town's 18th century church with its ornate baroque interior.

Eze Church

Church Interior

Two perfume factories are located in Eze: Galimard and Fragonard. Both offer free tours to visitors. There's also a small Fragonard retail outlet on Avenue du Jardin Exotique. I toured the Fragonard factory a few years ago and bought some of their Etoile perfume. It was the most popular scent among the ladies on our tour.

Fragonard Perfume Factory

At the highest point of the village are the ruins of the medieval castle, which was destroyed by King Louis XIV in 1706. This is where you'll find the Jardin Exotique, the Exotic Garden, with its collection of 400 succulents. The cactus garden comes with panoramic views (as far as Corsica on a clear day) and a number of statues, the Soil Goddesses, by Jean-Philippe Richard. We didn't visit the Jardin Exotique, probably because we'd already seen many cacti in Monaco, but in hindsight I wish that we had.

Castle Ruins Above Eze

Entrance to the Jardin Exotique

The weekend of our visit to Eze there was a festival taking place, Les MediEZEvales. The interesting displays, colourful costumes and unique merchandise provided an extra taste of medieval life.

After a morning spent exploring the village, we had a quick salad for lunch at Creperie Le Cactus on La Placette near the town gate.

Le Cactus on La Placette

Salad at Le Cactus

Before returning to our hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer, we recharged with another cold drink at Le Pinocchio's beach-like private garden on Avenue du Jardin Exotique. I had the popular French soda, Pschitt, which is named for the sound made by a bottle being opened. 

Le Pinocchio's Private Garden

Perrier and Pschitt

Yes, Eze Village is touristy, but in a most pleasant way – authentic, picturesque and totally charming. It was one of the highlights of my visit to the Côte d'Azur.

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