FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF NIETSZCHE UP TO EZE
Èze is a tiny Medieval village perched high on a rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The town is accessible by car from the busy Moyenne Corniche (the main road between Nice and Monaco), or by foot from 429m below along a steep hiking route known as the Nietszche trail. Apparently we like to do things the hard way, so we went up by foot. The views along the way were spectacular, and the village at the top beautiful – as you can see…
We were up early this morning, keen to get started on our hike before the day got too hot. A quick breakfast at the train station (consisting, of course, of the obligatory café au lait and pain au chocolat), and we were off to Èze-sur-Mer*. A short 15 minute trip and we were there, ready to scale a mountain! Well more like a hill really…
*Èze is made up of 2 parts: Èze-sur-Mer, which sits along the coast and is easily accessible by train, and the hilltop town of Èze-Village.
The Nietszche Trail connects Èze-sur-Mer with Èze-Village, climbing almost 500m over 2km. The trail is named after the German philosopher who lived up there in the late 19th century. It is said that he climbed up the trail every day in the summer and that the heat gave him the hallucinations and inspiration for some of his works. Not sure about the veracity of that, but we can certainly attest to the fact that the trail is strenuous and HOT. Even early in the morning we felt like a couple of ants under a great big magnifying glass as we trudged up the seemingly endless roughly hewn steps cut into the hillside.
The pay-off is the view, which is, in a word, stupendous. The Bay of Èze was spectacularly blue, and the craggy hills around us covered in olives and pines. All the way up too there were houses, some seemingly carved out of the hillside, others perched precariously on cement supports. The terracotta roofs of the houses contrasted beautifully with the blue of the ocean and the green of the trees.
We started out at the bottom all chipper and keen, but within half an hour we were hot and far less excited about the whole thing. Still, we kept following the path as it zig-zagged its way up the mountain, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky and the temperature climbed up to a baking 29C.
The sign at the bottom says the hike takes an hour; we made it in 90 minutes (including many photo stops and breaks in the shade) and never has the sight of civilisation been so welcomed by 2 sweaty, hot, thirsty cream puffs! Our first glimpses of Èze confirmed our expectations: this was one cute village and well worth the hike!
Èze is an ancient fortified village perched on a narrow, rocky peak. It is beautifully preserved however, and draws tourists in their thousands (another reason to try and get up there as early as possible). The village centres on the ruins of a 12th century castle, which was torn down in 1706 and stands as a testament to the centuries of occupation, from Romans and Moors, to the House of Savoy.
We headed straight up to the castle, keen to get all our climbing done at once and to get the best views possible! Our efforts were well rewarded: the view from up there were magnificent.
We could see the Mediterranean in all its glory framed by the terracotta rooftops of Èze. There we understood why this tiny village has inspired so many landscape pictures throughout the ages, and why it continues to attract artists, writers, and philosophers.
The castle grounds host the village’s star attraction: Le Jardin Exotique. This small garden was created in 1950 by the town’s mayor and is home to more than a dozen contemplative statues representing goddesses. Agaves, aloes and cacti from Africa and America thrive in the garden in the year-round mild climate along with 400 species of exotic plants.
Just below the garden and the castle ruins we found the town’s church, Our Lady of the Assumption, a landmark as it can be seen from afar.
The rest of our time in Èze was spent simply wandering through its labyrinthine streets, admiring the views that lead down the hillside to the Mediterranean.
The village forms a circular pattern around the base of the castle, and we were able to lose ourselves in its narrow, sloping streets, hidden squares, and quiet courtyards.
The village itself is home to about 2,000 people, and its main industry is tourism. This means that, as lovely as the village is, it’s also REALLY touristy. There were no “real” shops to speak of in the village itself, just boutique craft stores and art galleries aimed at the well-to-do. Even the restaurants and cafés within the old town were rather ridiculously over-priced. Enough that we decided to go down out of the old Medieval town, to the nearest supermarket, and grab a few supplies for a simple picnic lunch with a view.
As we enjoyed our simple picnic we could see coach after coach of grey-haired visitors being dropped off (there must be another cruise ship in town). It made us so glad we got there early – to be able to enjoy the village while it was relatively quiet! Just as the crowds hit their peak we decided we’d had enough and caught the next bus back to Nice.
The drive back to Nice took us along the narrow, winding roads of the Côte d’Azur and allowed us to enjoy the views for just a little bit longer. Eventually though we were back down a sea level and soon within the folds of Nice’s greater urban area.
A short walk back to our hotel and a nice cool shower later, and we were ready for our afternoon nap. Now we’re all refreshed and recovered from our epic hike and fun outing to Èze, and wondering what to seek out for dinner. Where ever we end up, one thing’s for sure, the day will end will a stroll along Le Promenade Des Anglais as we watch the sun set over the Côte d’Azur one more time…