Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Èze - the French Connection

From the previous post: "It was now evening, time to bid adieu to this lovely little country-state and get back to the charms of France."

It was yet another bright, crisp and beautiful morning in the little town of Antibes in southern France.

Today, I was headed towards a place called Èze-sur-Mer. Only by the end of the day, would I have realised how much this particular day had mattered and the profound effect the place would have made on me.

Eze

This lovely place had seen Romans and Moors in its past and has also had Egyptian influence at some point. It has been held by Turkish and finally French troops. It's also known as 'eagle's nest' due to its location at 1401 feet above sea level, overlooking a high cliff and a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean sea. The most famous person, we could possibly relate to is Walt Disney, who spent a significant amount of time in Èze.

Took the train from Antibes to Eze.

Èze-sur-Mer railway station
It was a quaint little station, with a towering backdrop. The first part of the visit to Eze was to go to the beach. Unlike beaches that I have been on, there was no sand here at all. Only rounded pebbles. In fact, till date as a memory of this trip, I have a rounded marble like stone that I picked up from the beach at Èze.

Èze pebbled beach
The water was crystal clear, calm, cool and felt great swimming in. Interestingly, a section of the beach was a nude beach, the first one that I had ever been on. I could only imagine the 'puritanical hullaboo' that such a place would have caused in a more conservative society, but here it was all normal and the people around were nonchalantly engaged in letting the wind caress and the sun tan their bodies. Whatalife!


Mid-way up the mountain at Èze
Once wind dried the water on the body, it was time to get back together with the rest of our little group and start the climb up the mountain. We were headed towards a medieval village, situated right on top. The climb was steep. Just 1400 feet high, not much of a distance isn't it? Trying climbing up a steep mountain. You curse yourself for not having been fitter! The muscles groan at each step, as the lungs do the best to take in as much oxygen as possible and deliver it to the blood being pumped inside at full speed by your racing heart. Yet, finally I also realised that it is really the case of mind over matter. It is sheer will power that makes a difference in the way in which you overcome any challenge - physical or not. The body is, but a tool.

Picnic lunch at Èze
It was a beautiful day, a gentle sea breeze blowing and the temperature was in the early 20s despite the sun being out in full strength. Mid-way, we stopped to have our picnic lunch, having packed it earlier in Antibes. The tossed vegetable salad accompanied with French baguette and cheese was simple yet delicious, nutritious and mildly filling. Rested for a bit, enjoying the scenery and the view of the Mediterranean, while taking some pictures. Then set off on the climb again.

If I had felt the pressure of climbing till now, it was nothing! Not when compared to what I had to exert my body to do, for the next hour or so of the climb. Mentally, I admit that I ranted and raved at every little vice of mine which may have had a role in the pressure I felt. And I thought I was doing a neat job for a regular guy, until wham! A sight that hit me, rather deeply, leaving me quite red faced, not wholly from physical exertion. A man wearing cycling tracks and a t-shirt, passed by me, quite agilely jogging up the path. I was to see him return as well a bit later. It left deep question marks in my head. About me. Sadly, I was not in a position to laugh at that moment, given my mouth was engaged in trying to remain as widely open as possible, to get more air inside.

It was exhilarating too. The views were indeed, truly gorgeous. Finally, the moment of pleasure. I had made it to the top, with the panting and chanting and all that. Paused a bit to take in the view.

Èze village layout
The medieval village on top, was no longer really inhabited by locals any more. Rather, it had been converted into an artists' village. The beauty and charm of this village attracts a rather large number of tourists. The motto of the village was the phrase: "Isis Moriendo Renascor" meaning In death I am reborn. With the emblem being a Phoenix there was no surprise as to why the motto. Of course, historical reasons do exist.

I walked around the place, observing some really unique and interesting work of art. Wood, metal and many other materials had been used in creating figurines, sculptures, paintings and more. Finally made it to a cute restaurant set up, quite near the top.

View from the top of Èze 
Sitting by a window, gazing out at the distant sea, seeing red clay tiled roof tops and a brass bell with an etching of Mary on it, I distinctly felt as if I had been transported back a few centuries and then some.

Notre Dame de l’Assomption built in 1764
Further exploring, led to this light ochre coloured church. Quite ancient. A visible landmark from quite afar. Cobbled pathways. Iron, mortar and stone walls. I could only imagine how much effort would have been made a few centuries back to create this place on top of such a location.

I stopped to get some caffeine into my system, which by now was showing signs of normalcy. With the endorphins sloshing around in the head and adrenalin still pumping around, I was quite calmly vociferous that we would walk down the same path we came, rather than take the bus back to the railway station. It actually takes more effort to walk down rather than climb up.

Made it. Got on the nice double decked train. Back to home base. In time to freshen up, prepare dinner. After getting off at the Antibes railway station, we went to the local Carrefour supermarket. Having lived in Muscat and visited Dubai, I was no stranger to this French chain of hypermarkets. What I had not realised was the sheer size and scale. Even in a small place like Antibes, it was humongous to say the least. The ones in the Middle East were relatively piddling, compared to the ones in the home country. We were going in for seafood dinner today. Also picked up different types of cheese for dessert.

A large selection of cheese
While, I had known about cheese, given the rather high fat content and my lack of knowledge about types of cheese, I had not engaged in consuming much, earlier. I learnt here in France, thanks to Bernard how many different types of cheese existed, how to consume and relish it, always accompanied with a glass of red wine or rosé. Also realised that it had something to do with the climate as well as amount of normal physical activity, for I did not even once see a French person who had a few extra pounds on. 

Yet another beautiful day had ended. And some profound realisations had dawn on me. Life is full of simple pleasures. We lose sight of it, in our daily grind. Not worth it. It is truly in us, what we make of ourselves.

Still more interesting places to discover. Continued in the next post.


6 comments:

  1. Eze looks beautiful. We were at the French riviera a few months ago and didn't make it here but now we wish we had. Will put it on my things to do next time I'm at the French riviera :)

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  2. Indeed Christine, it will be certainly worth it. It's rustic and charming while very welcoming. A day should be enough :)

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