Provence is windy. During our trips to Provence, we saw a large number of wrought-iron bell towers. Produced in Provence since the 16th century, they are unique to the region. Once I saw my first one with The Luger on our trip to Avignon, I noticed them everywhere.
Near Les Baux
Their light and open framework allows the area’s strong winds, Le Mistral, to blow through them instead of blowing them over. Their sound carries for miles. They usually top the town hall or church, but can even top a rampart gate. Many of the towers have a strong Italian influence (which isn’t too surprising given Provence’s proximity to France and considering parts of the Côte d’Azur belonged to France at one time).
from the highway
Near Pont du Gard
The bellowers date from different eras, but most were built in the 17th and 19th centuries. They were typically produced by local craftsmen. Each designed and crafted the tower in their own particular style. As a result, they vary dramatically in style. Cool huh?
Eze is a dramatic village perched 427 Meters (1,400 feet) above the Mediterranean sea. Like many ancient hill towns, it is car-free. We love car-free towns because they are more pedestrian and very peaceful.
Eze’s star attraction is the Jardin Exotique, a cactus and succulent filled garden planted around the ruins of a 14th century castle and filled with sculptures. They had nice plaques explaining the sights and history of the area. Very educational. I loved the idea of filling castle ruins in with plants to make a unique garden. It was really cool, but the real start of the show were the views. Amazing.
Eze is so beautiful that it has become a tourist town…literally. There are almost no full-time residents. Virtually all the buildings are shops, art galleries, hotels or restaurants. It has become a popular honeymoon destination.
The private terrace of one of the hotels
The Romans inhabited Eze. Around 900, the Moors conquered the village, attacking from the door below. They held it William of Provence took it from them in 973. Like nearby Villefranche, its strategic position and proximity to nearby Nice meant that rulers built heavy fortifications. Eze functions as sort of “eagle’s nest” overlooking the sea and surrounding mountains. The Phoenicians, Turks and the Principality of Monaco also occupied the city at different points in time.
They weren’t the only ones who came to Eze. The philosopher Nietzsche spent time here. The trail you can hike down to the water (in the town of Eze-Sur-Mer) is called the Nietzsche Path in his honor. We had on hiking clothes, but it was raining so hard that a hike down a steep (and possibly muddy) path didn’t sound like a ton of fun. Walt Disney also spent time here. He doesn’t have a path.