According to the Ville de Eze Tourism website), Eze is 3.66 square miles. I’m pretty sure most of that is vertical.
It’s located between Nice and Monaco–about a 15 minute train ride from both (from opposite directions) on the Cote d’Azur TER line. The train stops at seaside Eze, which is pretty much a residential area for rich people (Bono has a villa about 500 meters from the train station). There’s a pebbly public beach, a couple of cafes and a small tourism office. As lovely as it is, the main attraction, the charming medieval village with shops, is about 2000 feet above sea level. It’s up there somewhere behind the cliffs looming overheadSome insane people like my sister or my father might want to make the 3 kilometer hike to the village, I’m perfectly happy to take a bus. In fact, when I consider the alternatives (walking or driving myself) I’m thrilled to take a bus. This road is so windy, the lanes so narrow, there’s no way I could have managed this, even if I was driving a car with an automatic. The mere thought makes me want to abandon all hope, park on a hairpin turn, weep and wait to die.
Being “chauffeured”, makes the journey both less and more hair-raising. Less because I don’t have the responsibility of driving but more because some stranger who may have had a bottle of Rose for breakfast holds my life in their hands. And shit, this bus is big. It’s probably a matter of centimeters between here and oblivion. Which isn’t to say oblivion isn’t breath-taking.
At one point I notice the man sitting next to me is laughing at me. I’m outraged until I realize that all the screams, groans, gasps, prayers and “oh my gods” raging through my head during this ride, are also leaking from my mouth. I’d be laughing at me too if I wasn’t looking down at a gazillion meter chasm of death two inches to my left. The ride takes an eternity (15 minutes).
When we finally get up high enough in the cliffs, I see Eze. I wouldn’t even call that a hilltop it’s perched on, this is more like a jagged shard of rock. Jutting up from a cliff. The bus drops me off at “base camp,” the bottom of the jagged shard, where there’s a few real estate companies, restaurants, tourist shops, banks and the requisite pharmacy and tabac shops. I climb the road leading to the entrance of the old town.
Tiny little streets that barely accommodate one average person, cute ancient stone buildings, balconies and rooftops dripping with flowers, tiny shops (tres cher), beautiful, charming hotels where one night costs more than my monthly rent and finally, a killer view. No, make that a million killer views.
Part of me is thinking this is the most beautiful place on the face of this earth and I must live here. The other part is thinking what a pain in the ass it would be to lug groceries up all these tiny steps on a regular basis. And how the hell would I get my armoire up here?
Whenever I reach a plateau, I stop and admire the view which I don’t think could get any more beautiful until I reach the next plateau.
The streets get narrower and more maze-like, until I reach a clearing, which is the entrance to Le Jardins d’Eze, which is essentially a hanging garden with a path leading to the castle ruins at the top through exotic cactus plants, statues, sitting areas and views to die for. I almost do die for the view when a stumble on a cobble feels like I’m about to fall off the face of the earth. At this point I’m practically crawling, but I make my final push to the summit.
Holy crap. I can see past Cap Ferrat, Nice, Cap d’Antibes to San Tropez and all the way to Italy on the other side! I’ve got the Cote d’Azur at my feet. I take a moment to savor my accomplishment and the views before tackling the descent back to base camp. More tourists have arrived, I believe they are the “boat people” (people from huge cruise ships), because they are constantly looking at their watches. The narrow streets are getting backed up. If I don’t start my descent now, I could be stuck here all afternoon. I’m hungry and thirsty. I could perish up here!
Down at base camp I find a reasonably priced restaurant and have the recommended lunch (three courses for a set price). The meal is unmemorable, but fine (fine meaning it’s edible and it doesn’t poison me). Over dessert, I ponder my next move. I can actually ascend even further upwards to the Haute Corniche d’Eze. Imagine the views! Imagine the horror of getting there! Or I can go back down to the beach part of Eze. Imagine the views! Imagine the horror of getting there!
I order a second cappuccino. Maybe I’ll just sit here and enjoy this particular view a little while longer.
Click here for more pictures of Eze.
Filed under: Alps, Cote d'azur, trains, transportation, travel, travel humor Tagged: | beach, bus, bus from eze sncf station to the village, cliffs, Cote d'azur, Eze, eze gare, French Riviera, hill top village, medieval village, mediterranean, South of France, TER rail line, train from eze scnf station to village, views