Paris? Venice? Hawaii? Santorini? You’ve heard of them all, and perhaps you’ve even been to them all. They’re undeniably romantic, and it would be extremely hard to declare one as clearly superior to the others – after all, determining “the most romantic place” is highly subjective, and in our experience is wholly dependent on one’s companion (the aisles of a supermarket can be intoxicating if you’re with the right person).
Nevertheless, for your consideration, we recently found a secret spot that may very well be the most luxurious and romantic place on earth, especially if your idea of romance includes a 5-star hotel, a 2-star Michelin restaurant, the remains of an ancient castle, lush gardens, and stunning sunset views.
Where is this paradise? On the Cote d’Azur in the medieval village of Èze, France – a charming small town not far from Nice on a mountain-top overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Have you ever been there? If not, stop everything you’re doing and make plans to go there immediately. Don’t even wait for a big anniversary or a special occasion – just go! Bring someone whose company you enjoy, and we promise it will be one of the best experiences you’ve ever had.
Èze is a dreamy fairy-tale of a town, with old stone walls, low craggy arches and narrow pathways, turrets, cobblestone streets, art galleries, shops and cafes. There are flower boxes and tangled vines of ivy almost everywhere you look. Perched on a cliff 1,401 feet above sea level, the village is so high that its historic church, Eglise Notre Dame de l’Assomption, can be seen from miles away. With no imagination at all, you could envision a king and queen, knights and princesses, friars and perhaps a fire-breathing dragon all ensconced here. The balmy breeze off the sea and the scent of jasmine, bougainvillea and roses complete the sense of timeless magic in the air. Our slide show below will give you a glimmer of how lovely it is.
We discovered Èze in early spring, which turns out to be an ideal time to visit: balmy weather, manageable crowds, and gardens already in bloom. The remains of an ancient fortress/castle are there to explore – in 1388, Èze fell under the jurisdiction of the House of Savoy, who built up the town as a fortified stronghold. A winding narrow staircase leads you past small shops, flowers, art galleries and amazing vistas. You’re transported back to another era, of craftsmanship and simple luxuries. It’s a secret world where you could happily linger for hours.
The exotic garden in Èze (Le Jardin exotique d’Eze) is another of its primary attractions, and it’s breath-taking. Sitting at the highest point in the village, the garden has both flowers and a large variety of cacti. There’s a lovely waterfall, several sculptures and statutes, stone staircases and paths, and thoughtfully-placed benches from which to take in the panoramic view of the sea.
Slightly further down the mountain, the 5-star hotel Château de la Chèvre d’Or (whose symbol is a golden goat) and its 2 Michelin-starred restaurant La Chèvre d’Or (helmed by head chef Arnaud Faye) are among the most beautiful and serene places in all of France. The restaurant is sea-and-farm-to-table, and the menu makes the most of its glorious surroundings with creative cuisine that showcases the bounty of the Riviera. The hotel has its own stunning garden on the hillside – there are Mediterranean succulents and cacti as well as flowers, flowering trees and palm trees. There is statuary throughout the hotel jardin, mostly of animals. The golden goat has pride of place on the roof, but it’s joined in the garden by elephants, dolphins, horses and more – a zoological garden of stone. It’s a dream destination.
We stopped for cocktails at dusk on the hotel’s roof terrace, with its chic furniture and lanterns casting a golden light, and were treated to an astonishingly beautiful sunset over the sea and St. Jean-Cap Ferrat. Wrapped in grey wool blankets as the sun went down, sipping a frosty glass of Tattinger champagne, accompanied by smoked salmon and blinis and lovely attentive service, we felt the kind of bliss that makes all of the hassles of global travel worthwhile. For those few moments, we were in another world, and we felt lucky and blessed just to be there. Suffice it to say, a late-afternoon stop in Èze made for the perfect beginning of a glamorous evening on the French Riviera. It was extremely hard to tear ourselves away, but we had plans further down the coast. As we sped away into the night, we took a last lingering glimpse of Èze, a shining city on a hill, and a glittering memory for all time.