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Èze, a medieval village on the French Riviera

Èze is a medieval village built on a rocky cliff, towering above the azure water of the Mediterranean sea below. It lies just below the Moyenne Corniche, between Beaulieu and Monaco, and about a 15 minute drive from Nice. Without a doubt the view from Èze has to be the best along the length of the entire coast. Its sheer height above sea level accounts for the spectacular views from its highest point, and from the coast below Èze beckons to be visited. View from Exotic gardens. The village is renowned for its beauty and charm. Today it is essentially a tourist village, with its abundant boutique style shops, galleries, and eateries, and the 14th century Chapel of the White Penitents which has survived in tact. However, wandering through the labyrinth of lanes and vaulted passageways, you are reminded of the presence of locals who still live permanently in the village by the sight of lines of laundry blowing in the breeze high above the Mediterranean sea — and what a place to hang out your laundry! Winding streets The village is approached along a steep road, lined with a couple very tasteful tourist shops. At the top of the road is the famous Chateau de la Chevre D’or, a luxury five-star hotel, whose former famous guests include Robert de Niro, Clint Eastwood and Elizabeth Taylor. Walking up through the village, you can browse the delightful shops, and the quaint and pretty buildings, whilst marveling  at the complications of building a village in such a challenging place centuries ago. Around each turn is another photo opportunity, but when you finally reach the top, the real beauty and joy of Èze reveals itself. For €6 (about $8.00) you can enter the magnificent exotic gardens, constructed in 1949, which are filled with cacti and succulents — and be mesmerized by the extraordinary vista that awaits you. DSCF0602 The sense of peace and serenity in this unique place is seductive, and entices you to linger as long as possible. The heat shimmers in the magnificent light, the clear blue sky, mirrors the sea below, and  the ancient houses with their red roof tiles, seem to cling perilously close to the edge. On a clear day, you can see as far as  Saint Tropez , with the Baie des Anges in Nice, the Baie of Villefranche Sur Mer, and the Baie des Fourmis in between. Some even say you can see as far as Corsica. DSCF0592 When you can tear yourself away, begin your descent, but be sure not to miss a turn a little more than half way down the village which leads to another church standing in a courtyard with views to the mountains beyond. The L’eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption d’Èze, is a neo-classical 18th century building, with a baroque interior. The plaques in the courtyard commemorating lives lost during World War 2 momentarily transport you to another less peaceful time for this part of the world. DSCF0644 Leaving the village, you can choose to take an alternative route down to the coast. I did this on my most recent visit. I had taken the bus from Nice to the village, but decided to walk the Chemin De Nietzsche trail down to the coast. The trail leads down through winding paths on a step descent through woodland, with some lovely views out over the sea. This trail is where the philosopher Nietzsche found inspiration for much of his work.  It takes  between sixty and ninety minutes to descend, and unless you are quite fit, it should not be done in the other direction! Be sure to take plenty of water, and to wear sturdy walking shoes. There is a great sense of achievement on reaching the bottom, and a feeling of communing with nature in this beautiful place. I have visited Èze in the height of the summer season, and out of season in mid October. My preference is out of season for the entire area, when the intense heat has passed for another year, and the crowds have gone. Whenever you choose to visit you will not be disappointed, and will undoubtedly be planning a second visit before you have even left.

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