BY CHERYL ANDERSON
Èze Village is a place I love to visit—it’s close by, has remarkable restaurants, and myriad small shops selling everything from leather gloves to tea towels. Truly it’s one of the prettiest perchés and stands out as an excellent example of the many beautiful villages all along the Côte d’Azur.
People don’t rush along its passageways, rather they stroll, window shopping, taking pictures. Yes, during the high season there are a lot of tourists, but there are also quiet restaurants and cozy corners you can tuck into, perhaps with a stone bench where you can sit and enjoy being right where you are. As you explore, maybe you’ll see a petit chat sleeping on a cane chair as I once did, not bothered one bit by the passers-by.
So taken with an old decorative pot sitting along the path, I took a picture and later put the image to canvas in 1997. I’m always glad to see that the same beautiful large pot is still standing there (with different plants, of course).
In the past I’ve written how fountains always catch my eye. Each one is unique in design, adding to the character of the village. Often the fountains are significant in the village’s history. The only fountain in Èze Village was built in 1930, and it’s particularly charming.
Taking the train to Èze-sur-Mer is easy. The sea front views from the train are sure to be remembered. However, where you want to be is Èze Village. For that, you must take the bus that stops by the train station to carry you up the hill. They run quite often, so there won’t be much of a wait. When you see how parking can be a real bother, you’ll be glad you took the train, although there is valet parking if you have reservations at Chèvre d’Or. All along the way from the valet station to the restaurant are elaborate gardens with views unmatched, accessible to those that want to walk around.
Eglise Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, is built on the foundations from the twelfth century in a neo-classic eighteenth-century style. It was classified as a historical monument on December 5, 1984. Duke Emmanuel III commissioned the architect Antoine Spinelli to rebuild the church. The new church was built between 1764 and 1778, replacing the ruins of the original church, and consecrated in 1772.
Sometimes you happen upon a village or town celebration as I did a few years ago. It was on August 15 in Èze Village. I was there with family for lunch at Chèvre d’Or. On the way we stopped at Les Collette, Renoir’s home. As it turns out, August 15 is a national holiday in France celebrating the Assumption of Mary. We could hear a band playing in the distance, so we walked towards the sound of the music, coming upon a crowd gathered in the square in front of the church. Some of the celebrants were dressed in the traditional costumes of the area, along with lots of tourists. A statue of Mary was being carried through the square before entering the church. What a surprise to just happen upon such joyful festivities! It’s easy to get caught up in celebrations, planned or otherwise, giving you the feeling you’re a part of life in a different culture.
Advertised events, no doubt as this one had been, are not quite what they are touted to be. I went to a “lavender” festival in St. Agnes with a friend that lived in Menton. There wasn’t a stalk of lavender in sight, but we had a good time despite its absence. It wasn’t the right season, so that should have been clue there may not be any fresh lavender displays.
Another time I was led to believe, having seen posters all around town, there was to be an exhibit of Monet paintings in Bordighera, Italy, right across the border from Menton. Monet stayed in Menton in 1884 for nearly three months. His painting Bordighera from this trip hangs in the Art Institute in Chicago. I dragged my friends along only to find there were merely posters of the paintings he did in that area of the Côte d’Azur. Again, not perfect but a beautiful day out under blue skies and sunshine.
The Impressionists had it right: there really is something about the light on the Côte d’Azur, exactly why so many were drawn there to paint. For a number of years, I took paints, brushes, bought canvases in Menton, and painted. It was during those times when I understood what they meant by the light—the sky really is as blue as in photographs and paintings.
Le Jardin Exotique, or Jardin D’Èze promenade botanique, is 429 mètres of cacti and other exotic plants perched on the side of the hill. The views from that vantage point are breathtaking, with the Méditerranée in the far distance and red tile roof tops just below (well worth a stroll along the brick pathways and there is a nominal charge to enter). Long ago the Èze castle was in this spot.
Just outside of and above the jardin area is the restaurant Au Nid d’Aigle (on the eagle’s nest), with moderately priced, excellent food. Do make reservations during the busy times of years. The stone stairs are bit tricky in the restaurant’s very small outdoor space, but its vantage point is interesting.
Èze Village was one of the first perchés I visited in 1994 and since then I’ve returned many times. Years ago I vowed on the “last day” of being in Cap Martin for that year I would make it count in some special way, instead of cleaning the house or packing or anything else that wasn’t fun—not thinking about leaving, all the while, I telling myself there’s always next year.
The village makes for a perfect “last day” or a pleasurable visit while you are on the Côte d’Azur. Chèvre d’Or or Chateau Eza for lunch makes it even more perfect!
Au Nid d’Aigle
1 rue du Chateau Eze
+33 4 93 41 19 08