Èze is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes département in southeastern France, not far from the city of Nice. The area surrounding Èze was first populated around 2000 BC as a commune situated near Mount Bastide. The earliest occurrence of the name Èze can be found in the maritime books of Antonin as a bay called the St. Laurent of Èze. The area was subsequently occupied by not only the Romans but also the Moors who held the area for about 80 years until they were driven out by William of Provence 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. The history of Èze became turbulent several times in the next few centuries as French and Turkish troops seized the village under orders from Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1543, and Louis XIV destroyed the walls surrounding the city in 1706 in the war of the Spanish succession. Finally in April 1860, Èze was designated as part of France by unanimous decision by the people of Èze.
Èze has been described as an eagle's nest because of its location overlooking a high cliff 427 metres or 1,401 feet above sea level on the French Mediterranean. It's so high that the light ochre church within (Notre Dame de l’Assomption - built in 1764) can be seen from afar. An Egyptian cross inside the church suggests the village's ancient roots, when the Phoenicians erected a temple there to honour the goddess Isis.
Traditionally, the territory of the Principality of Monaco was considered to begin in the Èze village on the outskirts of Nice, running along the Mediterranean coast to Menton, on the present Italian border. The commune is located on the French Rivera, extending from the Mediterranean Sea (Eze-sur-Mer) to the hilltop with a medieval village (Eze-Village). Saint-Laurent-d'Eze connects these villages. Èze, renowned as a tourist site on the French Riviera, is famous worldwide for the view of the sea from its hill top. Its Jardin Botanique d'Èze is known for its collection of cacti and succulents, as well as its panoramic views. It is not well known that Walt Disney spent a significant amount of time in Èze. The oldest building in the village is the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix and dates back to 1306. Members of the lay order of the White Penitents of Èze, in charge of giving assistance to plague victims, would hold their meetings there. The shape of the bell-turret is an indication that the village once belonged to the Republic of Genoa.
The small medieval village is famous for its beauty and charm. Its many shops, art galleries, hotels and restaurants attract a large number of tourists each year. As a result Èze has become what might be called a museum village, as few local residents live in the village any longer. From Èze there are breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea from its winding streets. The motto of the village is the phrase: "Isis Moriendo Renascor" (English: In Death I am Reborn) and its emblem is a Phoenix perched on a bone.
The local dialect, which is nearly extinct, is similar to the Monégasque language of the nearby Principality of Monaco, and is related to Ligurian but with some influences from the Occitan language. Èze is one of thirteen villages grouped together by the Communauté d'agglomération de Nice-Côte d'Azur tourist department as the Route des Villages Perchés (Route of Perched Villages). The others are: Aspremont, Castagniers, Coaraze, Colomars, Duranus, Falicon, La Gaude, La Roquette, Levens, Saint-Blaise, Saint-Jeannet and Tourrette-Levens. Historically, people understood very early the strategic interest of the Grande Corniche. As early as the Iron Age, the first inhabitants got together in the castellara in Mont Bastide, at 567 meters in elevation where they stayed until the 6th century. In the 18th century, during the succession war of Austria in 1744, Austro-sardes (currently Piedmontese) erected an entrenched camp in the Simboula to repel the Franco-Spanish armies. Then in the 19th century, the whole area was fortified between Var and Italy. In the park of the Grande Corniche, two fortresses were built - La Drète (1878 - 1883) and La Revère (1879 - 1885). Both belonging to a defensive line - the ancestor of Maginot Line called the Séré de Rivières system named after general Raymond Séré de Rivières, a graduate of the Ecole polytechnique born in Albi in 1818 known for his competence in fortification subjects.
After World War Two, a group of men took some bags filled with ground on their back and carried stones towards the ruins of the castle where some sections of wall still remained. It is there that René Gianton, the mayor at the time, with the assistance of Jean Gastaud, founder of the Monaco Exotic Garden, decided to create an exotic garden. The site is well sheltered from winds from the north by the Revere Mount and its declivity ensures effective drainage. The object was to establish plants adapted to dryness such as cactus, agaves and aloes. In pictures of the past, you have some mother-in-law cushion (echinocatus grusonii), some of which are still in their pot, with euphorbiums - true challenge betting on the future. In light of the success of such an initiative this first phase of installation was followed soon by a second one. In the winter of 2003-04, the exotic garden becomes the place of a new concept of garden. A garden where, nearby exotic plants several cicuits are superimposed artisticly, with places to relax and immerse oneself into the atmosphere of the garden. Impressed by the panorama from the ruins of the castle, philosopher Frederic Nieztsche, wrote the most famous pages of Thus spoke Zarathoustra, dreaming up the qualifier to define the quality of blue he saw during the winter of 1883 extending from Italy to Saint-Tropez. During the winter in clear weather, Corsica can be discerned. A panoramic table in enamelled lava helps the visitor to locate the principal places.
Immediately to the east, with the rock called the Dog's head in the background, a beautiful property draws the attention with its gardens in terraces and its paths bordered with cypresses that grew again after the fire of 1986. It is the Balsan Castle. The film director Alfred Hitchcock shot a scenes of his film To Catch A Thief with Grace Kelly and Gary Grant at this property.
The Balsan Castle was built by the famous landscape designer Achille Duchêne in 1921 for Jacques Balsan. According to the newspaper the Illustration, Balsan enjoyed evoking construction of buildings of the Franciscan period. Lou Seuil, as it was called in the beginning, is indeed conceived like a monastery, with its cloister used as the winter garden as well as its bell-tower and its chapel. Among the roofs of the village, we see the small bell tower of the white penitent chapel and especially the old residence of Prince William of Sweden with its terrace overhanging the Mediterranean. It is a luxury hotel these days. On the sea side, the small resort of Èze became the holiday place of several celebrities, Princess Antoinette, sister of Prince Rainier of Monaco and the singer Bono of the group U2. Below the ruins of the castle, a contemplative space allows the visitor to appreciate the panorama but also to daydream and escape for a few moments. It consists of a terrace overhanging the sea with some ergonomic seats in teak in a place slightly outside the narrow alley-like streets. It allows to visitors to retire in quiet in order to soak in the atmosphere of the place.
To immerse oneself in this place, to get to know the area - to know the way of life of its inhabitants, their history, a visible subject course allows to each visitor to discover the memories of Èze and its neighborhoods. This visual course includes 20 bilingual slabs illustrated with old documents, pictures and unpublished works of artists. From the Iron Age to the shooting of modern day TV series, the greats moments of the history of Èze are recalled as the years go by. History of the events, history of the famous hosts, history of the place. This visual course detailss also the architectural heritage of the village, the church, the white penitents chapel but also traditions and cultures as well as the arrival of running water and other legends. Several of these slabs allow visitors to learn how to differentiate between the different plant life that comprises the gardens. On the other side of the cape there is the roadstead of Villefranche-sur-mer, a stopover for the privileged on the ships cruising the Mediterranean during their passage on the Riviera. Clearly can be seen the runways of Nice airport in front the cape of Antibes, farther the mounts of Esterel and Cape Camarat close to Saint-Tropez at approximately 120 kilometers.
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