Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eze & The Nietzsche Trail

In the mood to venture around one glorious sunny afternoon, I got on the train from Nice and headed to the commune of Eze along the seaside a short distance away from the Principality of Monaco.

Although I had been through the area many times by train and car over the years, I’ve never taken the time before to explore the villages of Eze-sur-Mer (where Bono from U2 has a home) and Eze-Village perched 1401 feet above sea level.

Another focus of this afternoon trip was to hike between the two villages on the famous Nietzsche Trail.
Stepping off the train at Eze-sur-Mer, my first impressions were of how quaint, clean and quiet everything seemed to be.  At the train station was also an Eze Tourism office and across the small parking lot was the bus stop where the bus that came along would take me up to Eze-Village.

This is also the same bus that can take you to the bus stop at St. Laurent - Eze gay nude beach if you would like and it only takes about 5 minutes to get there.
But in the meanwhile I wanted to have a quick look around Eze-sur-Mer itself and discovered it is even more beautiful than when one is just passing through.

You can tell this seaside village is where many of the residents chose to live for the peacefulness and away from the hustle of a real city.  There are very few small shops and some delightful local restaurants that patrons come to daily to catch up with one another.  It feels very much at home here.
Seeing the Nietzsche Trail signage pointing towards the east side of Eze-sur-Mer, it was tempting to do the approximate 1 hour 45 minute hike up to Eze-Village but I was feeling a bit lazy that day and decided to catch the bus outside the train station and head up that way.
The bus takes you on a winding but very scenic route up to Eze-Village and all in about 10 minutes, it gives you an indication of how people live on the mountainside and even seems to build your excitement to explore Eze-Village, because if these views were something, just wait until you get to the top!
Even though I had no idea once there which bus stop to get off at, it is self-explanatory when you arrive and you just seem to know where to go past the shops and restaurants to follow up to the entrance of the more historic part of Eze-Village itself.
At the steps of the village, I had no plan on where I wanted to go, I just knew there was the top garden area as indicated on more signage but it was also nice to just follow the narrow, cobbled paths and stairs to see what might be revealed around each corner.
All of the establishments and homes seemed to be almost carved into this fortress like area and it turns out there are a number of wonderful restaurants which looked very romantic, a five-star hotel, some unique shops and a surprising number of art work and galleries situated throughout.
It was nice to see some of the owners sitting outside enjoying the afternoon sun conversing with anyone who passed by and they have a wealth of information about Eze-Village.
The paths in the village all seemed to lead to the Jardin d'Eze otherwise known as the “exotic garden”.  Here you pay a small fee and are let into the garden that also has a smattering of graceful sculptures that appear to be guarding the ruins of the former castle and yet they also help showcase some of the most spectacular views you will ever see in your life.
This area took my breath away, here you will not be able to stop taking pictures and look around at the expansive views.

You can literally see all the way past Cannes, some days I’m told you can see out to Corsica and to the east the rock called “the Dog’s Head” on the edge of the Principality of Monaco.  Below you can see parts of Nice and the airport, Villefranche-sur-Mer and the whole of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat with the luxurious yachts on the sea and of course Eze-sur-Mer.
This is also a great vantage point to see the rest of the village and Eze Bridge below which also has its own fabled story to tell and of which can be seen in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, To Catch A Thief.
After a few hours of exploring Eze-Village, it was time for me to hike down the Nietzsche Trail, the sign for the start of the trail is posted at the foot of the village and can be easily found.  I love not knowing what to expect but I do know how some of the terrain in the region can be and that it is always a good idea to bring bottled water and to wear proper footwear.
The path winds down the side of the mountain giving you some amazing views along the way from a variety of points, the trail is clearly marked and there are even small stripes of paint that indicate it is the main trail.
The terrain changes from smooth, sandy and solid, to rocky with some sections having man-made steps.  In all a very pleasurable hike, a great way to clear your head and be inspired, the walk is supposed to take on average 45 minutes to go down, for me it took about an hour but that is likely because I was stopping to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.
You’ll know you are nearing the bottom when you start to see some of the homes in Eze-sur-Mer and the trail turns to street pavement.  I think it would be hard for anyone to get lost on this trail and especially near the bottom as that is when you start to see the trail signage more and it all basically leads you back to the train station where if you wanted, you can make your way through the train tunnel and go for a swim in the sea to cool down.
If you only have a short amount of time to spend in the French Riviera, make sure this one of the places on your list to visit.  The Eze commune is something to tell others at home about and pictures do not do justice to the experience.

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