Exploring and experiencing Eze

06.08.08 | 2 Comments

Eze is a little village between Monaco and Nice, resting high up on a cliff and referred to as the eagle’s nest of the Cote d’Azur. This village has been one of my favorites of the area and I’m always happy to go back. Characteristics I like most are the steep and tiny (emphasis on *tiny*) little car-less streets, the old stones (10-17th century) and the breath-taking birds eye view of the sea coast it offers.

Chateau Eza
A typical “ruelle” d’Eze.

This time we hiked the Nietzsche trail from Eze Bord de Mer to Eze-village which is a very steep ascension to the village on very old, and therefore very slippery-when-wet, stones and stairs. It was raining most of our way, so we had to be extra careful not to misplace a step.

Justin in a ruelle of Eze
Justin enjoying the exploration.

Once we reached Eze-village, we were starving and sat on one of the old steps, sheltered from the rain and ate our picnic lunch, watching tourists enter and exit the pedestrian part of the old town.

Once our bellies were full of fresh quiche and pistachios, we started wandering about the inclined and interweaving “ruelles” of Eze. Lots of little shops and art galleries punctuate the walk. We even paid the too-expensive-in-my-opinion 5 Euros to visit the exotic garden and have access to the very top of the village where lies the last bits of the Castle’s ruins (destroyed on Louis XIV’s demand during the war of the Spanish Succession).

Ruelle verte dans Eze
A rather green ruelle with doors to people’s homes.

On our way out of the village, I pointed out a little olive wood carver shop I wanted to check out because it’s so typical of this region’s artisan products. There were mostly sculptures and kitchen related artifacts. I spotted cornichon tongs just like we had when I was a kid. The owner then started having fun pointing at things in his shop asking (mainly) Justin what these things were for. Justin got them all right and in French! Go Justin!

There began an unexpectedly long but fascinating conversation with the owner of the shop. He was so eager to talk to us and share his knowledge about the village and the culture. He explained to us that he was one of the last 18 residents of Eze. 5 of which have lived there for generations and the rest are foreigners who bought the little village houses as the elders were disappearing. Most of the village is completely dead during the winter time and wakes up during the summer months for the tourists.

Steph in Eze
Me, LOVING the old stones.

He also told us about h is childhood. At home he used to speak the “Nicois” language, but it was forbidden at school. Nowadays, the Nicois is being re-introduced in the schools as a second language to keep it from dying in the next few years. He misses talking with the old folks in that language and listen to their stories and wisdom. He said that back in the day, on warm evenings, all the old men were just sitting on their door steps and talked for hours. As soon as television came in the picture, the casual evening conversations thinned away.

Home facade in Eze
The lovely entrance of a house.

He also talked about the weather. In early June, it’s not supposed to rain. It never used to rain. Now, the real summer is only 2 months, instead of 3 or 4. He is witnessing the climate change. In the old days, the peasants were able to predict 4 or 5 days worth of weather forecast just by smelling the air, looking at the clouds’ shape and color at dusk or by what happened the last few days. Now, it’s impossible to predict anything.

We then started to talk about pollution, gas prices, new found energy, internet, politics (both American and French), recycling techniques … All very interesting, but we realized that it was getting somewhat late and we had to hike back down to our car, which would take us close to an hour. After saying goodbye multiple times, we descended the very steep, wet and slippery path back to our car.

View from the top of Eze
The view from the very top looking towards Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

I felt completely enriched by that conversation. Oh and of course, I got that cornichon tong as a wonderful souvenir!