After four days in Cannes, France, it was time for a change of pace. We caught our new stride in the hilltop medieval village of Eze.
What is packed with tourists during the day becomes a romantic respite by late afternoon.
As the crowds dissipate, the jasmine concentrates into a heady aroma, making it a treat to follow your nose around the village with a population just shy of 3,000. Each step along its narrow, curvy stone paths takes you farther away from your everyday reality and deeper back in time.
When it feels like you’re the only one in the village, it’s easy to let your mind wander to distant days when wine cellars and stables replaced souvenir shops. Trading hands with several rulers since its beginnings that date back to Roman times, Eze finally became a part of France for good in the 1800s.
A wedding or other celebratory event had just wrapped up when we visited the village’s only church, Our Lady of the Assumption. The Baroque church was built between 1764 and 1778 to replace an old one that had fallen into disrepair.
According to one source I found, the building materials including the limestone cut in the quarry of Saint Laurent of Eze were carried to the village by men. Walking the steep, winding streets, I can’t even imagine.
There are two hotels in which to stay in Eze Village. We chose Chateau Eza – the uppermost hotel with postcard-perfect views of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, Antibes, Cannes and Saint Tropez. On a clear day, we’re told you can see the island of Corsica.
Be sure to book one of the hotel’s 12 rooms early along with dinner reservations at its Michelin-star restaurant, especially if you plan to stay during high season.
From the valet pickup of your car and luggage at the base of the hill to its welcome champagne cocktail and appetizers on the private veranda for arriving guests, the hotel staff doesn’t miss a detail in making sure your stay is as memorable as its views.
We had made reservations for dinner when we booked the room about nine months prior, but we had no idea we would get its best seat for two – our own private balcony overlooking the Mediterranean.
The chef had created one of the best tasting menus of our French Riviera trip, which started with a slightly sweet, caramelized foie gras and came full circle with an intricately designed chocolate wafer and other edible structures atop scoops of salty caramel ice cream for dessert.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, a fireworks show in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat topped off the experience. We toasted our good fortune and our thanks to whomever arranged the show.
As tourists arrived, we took off for Monte Carlo to see its famous casino. There’s only so much you can do in Eze, so plan day trips accordingly.
For 10 Euros each, it’s well worth touring the casino before it opens. Designed by architect Charles Garnier, the same person responsible for the old opera house in Paris, it’s a vision to behold. We had the place to ourselves, which made walking through its gilded interiors, private salons and glittering bars even more special.
I’m not a gambler, but it would be fun to stay one night in Monte Carlo and get dressed up to experience the casino spectacle firsthand. There’s always next time.
Upon return to Eze and about an hour before the 7 p.m. closing time, we visited the Le Jardin d’Eze.
It has a great collection of desert cacti, shrub and flowers – and, of course, the best view from its panoramic vantage point on top. Some of the original walls of the fortress remain and several placards educate on Eze’s early days.
Two nights in Eze is ideal. Chateau de la Chevre d’Or, the village’s other hotel, offers another Michelin-star dining experience. Or if you’re looking for something more casual as we were by our last night, La Taverne turns out some good Italian dishes including pizza.
It’s a convenient one-minute stroll from our hotel and nice location for an outdoor dinner surrounded by the village’s formidable walls.
It’s the kind of place where it’s easy to pick up a conversation with fellow diners, as we did with a couple from San Francisco.
If you’re looking for a storybook ending to a week in the French Riviera, Eze is just what the author ordered.