I’m not sure what it is about France, perhaps I have some old bones lying here from a past life or something, but the thing is, this country really speaks to me on a soul level. The romantic language, stylish cities, gorgeous country towns, landscape and the history intrigue me, and I feel a complete sense of well-being here.
We took an early flight from London to Nice, where the gorgeous coastline, palm trees swaying in the breezy sunshine and the beautiful people looks and feels a lot like you are arriving into the John Wayne airport in Orange County, California. Soon we were in our rental car and on the autostrada where we encountered our first and only glitch.
Pulling into the tollbooth with a car behind us, the toll machine wouldn’t take our credit card (our cards lack a microchip that the European’s have in their cards). Thankfully, there was only one car behind us who, irritatedly backed out of our tourista’s lane and then my husband backed out with a very large truck honking at him the entire time. I had to walk up to the tolls to find a booth that would take euros, I took over the driving while my husband settled down, and off we went in the direction of Italy.
I have been to Italy and France before, but my husband had not so we decided to drive to one of the coastal towns just over the Italian border to have lunch (so he could say he’d been to Italy!). It took us forty-five minutes or so to get to Ventimiglia, a picturesque and slightly worn beach town.
We were greeted by a huge farmers’ market with varieties of oranges, tomatoes, artichokes and other produce that you just don’t see in the States. The vendors were friendly and one teased me about being a tourist, it was all in good fun.
After eating our slices of pizza alfresco at small café, we walked through the park where men were playing bocce ball and couples cuddled on the benches. I asked Ric, “Do you still feel like you are in California?” He didn’t, nor did I.
We drove back into France to the small medieval hilltop village of Eze. Perched high over the Mediterranean Sea and the Cote d’Azur, if you climb to the top of the village, you will see one of the best views of the French Riviera.
Eze was first populated around 2000 BC as a commune situated near Mount Bastide. Not only by the Romans but also the Moors who held the area for approximately 80 years until William of Provence drove them out in 973.
By 1388 Èze fell under the jurisdiction of the House of Savoy, who built up the town as a fortified stronghold because of its proximity to Nice. Louis XIV destroyed the walls surrounding the city in 1706 in the War of the Spanish Succession. Finally in April 1860, Eze was designated as part of France by unanimous decision by the people of Eze.
This is a place to wear comfortable shoes as the town is made up of narrow and steep cobblestone walkways with many stairs, leading to the garden at the top of the hill.
The Jardin Botanique d’Èze is filled with an exotic mix of cactus, succulents, bougainvillea, other beautiful foliage and blooms and a few graceful sculptures.
The color palette of France, is made up of lovely hues of yellows, cornflower blues, pastel pinks, worn grays and whitewashed walls, topped terra-cotta tiles. Even the inside of the cathedral was intricately painted these shades. The Chapelle de la Sainte Croix is the oldest building in Eze and dates back to 1306.
These colors against the blue sea, sky and rich green hillsides are worthy of the many artists who throughout history have called this region home. It is easy to see where Matisse, Van Gogh and Chagall found their inspiration in Provence.
Next stop romantic Vence.