SOUTH OF FRANCE (Day 5: Lunch in 5 Star Chateau Eza in medieval Eze )

Breakfast on the balcony on a bright morning, early mist clearing and I was so excited about our Sunday lunch.

View from our balcony over the Napoleonic stone harbour in Villefranche sur Mer

A worry ( I always have them – first world problems of course) had been whether the October weather would be warm enough for sitting out on the hotel’s stunning terrace which really makes the whole experience so special.But so far, it looked good though there was a coolish wind off the sea.’ I do sometimes wonder how our tastes can be so varied as we spend a fair bit of time roughing but loving it, in tents back home – wild camping and back-backing in the mountains or by the sea.Yet I feel at home too in this glitzy – some might say artificial – area of wealth, traffic, high prices, crowds…not that these latter were much in evidence in October and we do usually come here off season (May or September.) It just always slightly surprises me, given that we love the wilds and solitude.

Retrived the car and drove up onto the Moyenne Corniche, the middle level of the 3 famous Corniches in the South of France.It took about 10 minutes of very narrow, winding driving, up past the pastel pink and cream villas above the bay, mostly hidden behind big walls and gates, before we reached the Moyenne itself and glorious views over the sea opened up. We were now 1,400 feet up in the mountains and soon pulled over for a first look at tiny medieval Eze, one of the area’s famous ‘perched villages’ built on top of an impossible looking crag.

Looking over to Eze village from the Moyenne Corniche
Eze just visible top left

Parking outside Eze can be difficult and this time, the main (small) car park was under reconstruction.A detour signposted us 3 miles further up hill where temporary parking had been built at the Col D’Eze and a shuttle bus operating that would whizz us back down to the village’s entrance.Ideal and not too bad for 6 euros.

It was only around 11am by the time we were dropped off and began the climb up Eze’s cobbled streets to the very top.We were both desperate for a coffee but I’ve never been keen on the main pizzeria type place that seems to catch everyone with awful music blaring out, so we pushed on to the 5 star luxury of Chateau Eza itself.

Oh this was more like it! A dark interior, stylishly decorated with very welcoming staff who led us out to a tiny private balcony with two small tables , only for guests, where we ordered coffee. It was gorgeous! (We only got in there because they knew we were booked in for lunch, otherwise..no way.) I was in 7th heaven already – what a spot and what a view.

On the terrace for pre-lunch coffees
Pre lunch coffee and cakes

Coffee was excellent and despite the eye watering price tag of 8 euros each, both came with exquisite little home made, Pistachio Madeleine cakes which were unctuous.It was just the loveliest experience before our lunch.Totally quiet and calm, the sun in the sky, no ‘musak’ and one of my favourite views in the world.

View from lunch terrace over to Cap Ferrat.Eze sur Mer is below.
Looking down on Eze sur Mer from the medieval village

Right next door is another famous Cote D’Azur hotel – the Chevre D’Or, a favourite of Paul McCartney but with prices which – for lunch – were in the ‘hundreds of euros’ each bracket. A bit outside our price range! In Chateau Eza, a gourmet lunch of 5 or 6 courses of fine dining quality, was only 60 euros each – an absolute steal in this part of the world particularly given the quality. This would be our third visit for lunch; fingers crossed it would live up to expectations!

At 12noon we were shown to our beautiful table on the terrace.We were not quite at the front of the balcony area but it was still an excellent spot.

Lunch all finished - one of my favourite places anywhere in the world.

Little Amuse Bouches were brought – exquisite mushroom tartlets and also a tiny prawn filled, delectable little thing.Stuffed Courgette Flowers for me to start with, while Chris had Mackerel Salad.Both gorgeous.

Starters of Mackerel Salad and Courgette Flowers - both superb

Three different types of bread served generously. We both chose the Lamb for mains. Perfectly cooked, nice and pink.A lovely little sorbet was served after this , then came desserts which were a work of art. An intense Chocolate Praline and Banana for me and a Raspberry Rice Pudding with Meringue for Chris.

Desserts - raspberry rice pudding and a chocolate praline concoction - superb!
Excellent desserts

Just beautifully prepared and presented food, great flavours in every course.

I didn’t realise that tea/coffee was complimentary so we had that too – plus it came with incredibly generous and top quality Petit Fours, something I alway look forward to! Ah..those mouth watering little almond sponges again; a wonderful white chocolate bombe and an excellent intense chocolate brownie with whipped cream.I was so full, I had to get them packed away in a box for taking home. (Chris is not really a ‘sweets’ person so the whole lot were for me.)

Petit Fours - I was so stuffed I had to get them put in a box for taking back to the hotel.
Petit Fours

The service throughout had been outstanding, friendly but ultra professional – you really do sense that everyone there cares about a guest’s experience.I can’t recommend the place highly enough.It’s a dream.

The shuttle bus deal also included a ticket into the Jardin Exotique so while Chris relaxed on a bench, I nipped up a little further and spent 15 mins wandering through the gardens’s little paths and terraces of cactus and stone sculptures and flowers.It’s very lovely with a huge panoramic terrace at the top.

Lunch venue in Eze village.The Villefranche sur Mer peninsula is furthest away beyond Cap Ferrat
Looking down on our lunch spot from the garden

Back down to the pastel yellow church near the entrance to Eze, the streets busier now in the afternoon.Market stalls filled with dried herbs and spices create a lovely aroma just outside the walls then it was goodbye to Eze as the shuttle bus whisked us back to the Col.

We stopped to admire the view from here too – the Col is one of the famous mountain climbs of the Tour de France, though today we had it all to ourselves.

Twenty minutes later and it was a quick stop in Beaulieu’s brilliant Supermarche to pick up some supplies for the next few days – the usual suspects, lots of fruit plus some fresh Foie Gras (not the tinned stuff, the real deal though much objected to by some I know) sold at an amazing Deli counter. Great bread selection and a huge aisle of chocolate that I could hardly pull myself away from; what choices!

Stocked up, we headed back to Villefranche, a 5 min drive away and got unpacked. Plenty time for a stroll out by the harbour then back to the balcony for a nice long relaxing evening, reading and messaging the family. My daughter in law was very jealous of our sunshine and warmth, given the wind and rain they were ‘enjoying’ back home! We hopefully had another two days of this autumnal pleasantness before our flight early Wednesday morning.But then this area is renowned for 300 days of sunshine per year and it had not let us down in October.

Tomorrow – a walk into beautiful Beaulieu and time for a swim

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