The French Riviera is famous for its luxury palaces, lavish swimming pools, huge yachts and heaving nightclubs. But there is another appealing and hidden side to it.
Just a few miles up from the beautiful blue water in the hills around Nice are sheltered several charming villages, each with its own history and luxury. Take Coaraze, situated 2,100 feet up in the hills and known for its artistic sundials, some created by Jean Cocteau or Georges Douking, or Castagniers, famous for its 700-year-old olive oil mill and its fields of olive trees.
But the absolute jewel of the Riviera is Eze, a ninth-century village with a rich history, perched on a rock with a vertiginous view of the Mediterranean. And nestled on top of the village is Château Eza, an elegant 10-room hotel with a one-Michelin-star restaurant and charming details such as vaulted passageways, ancient and small wooden doors and statues carved into the stone walls.
Too narrow for modern cars, the steep path that leads to the castle is punctuated with small art shops, art galleries and tiny plazas filled with bougainvilleas. Inside the château, guests can choose between the intimate medieval suite with two fireplaces and its Gothic doorways or the panoramic suite where a Jacuzzi is installed on the terrace.
While Château Eza’s location—it sits 1,600 feet above the sea level—creates a few delivery problems for Axel Wagner, the young chef who recently took over the restaurant’s kitchen, he is nonetheless inspired by his environment.
Besides the stunning sunsets, there is much to enjoy in the indoor glass dining room. For instance, Wagner’s recent creations, such as the ginger crabmeat charlotte, are a delight, and his lobster risotto is smooth and tasty. “I’m looking to instill perfection into this magical place,” he says.