One quiet summer morning, we found ourselves standing in a parking lot outside a perfumery in Eze, France. Inside, a tour awaited. But up on the hill overlooking the perfumery, a small church had captured our attention. Our bus driver must have seen us eyeing the golden building nestled among stone walls and structures, because he faintly tipped his head in the direction of a set of rough, uneven stone stairs that disappeared into the hillside.
We pointed at the church and then at the steps behind him and then back at the church. Slowly, he nodded in affirmation. Without hesitation, we moved toward the stairs. Although we knew the church and what surrounded it was our ultimate destination, we couldn’t help but appreciate the unexpected gifts offered by the journey along the way.
The steps were steep but eventually leveled off into a winding dirt path. As we ascended, the footpath alternated between more steps and a well-worn path of dirt. To our amazement, as we drew close to the top, the path hugged a portion of the hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. On our right, houses with ornate gardens below them clutched the hillside. A light fog hung in the air, creating a smoky blur on the horizon where the sky met the sea.
Once we began to reach the structures, we first stumbled upon a makeshift stand offering fresh lavender for sale. From there, stones outlined narrow, red-brick sidewalks just wide enough to fit between the buildings. The trails connected and laced between private homes, cafes, galleries and shops. Strong green vines, colorful flowers and a few trees complemented the medieval forms and sometimes provided natural archways.
Eglise Notre Dame de l’Assomption, the church that had originally enticed us to make the climb, was situated at the end of one of those paths. It featured a modest-sized courtyard outside its front door, as well as a gated cemetery, which we explored before entering the church. Inside, two narrow rows of wooden benches stretched to the altar. Although the tile floors were worn, and the paint was peeling from the walls, the church maintained an inviting atmosphere, perhaps due to the glow of scented candles and the soothing music.
Back outside the church, this cliff that held the church to which we had climbed offered an unforgettable view. Thankful we’d spontaneously chosen to explore the tranquil medieval summit over taking the perfumery tour, we remained in awe of our surroundings. As much as we wanted to stay and admire this sight, though, we knew we should start our descent.
“Thank you,” I said to the bus driver once we arrived back at the bottom of the hill.
Slowly, he smiled and nodded in affirmation.
(Note: Marjorie Appelman is an English, communications and journalism teacher at Mason County High School and co-founder of the travel blog, Tales from the Trip, which is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She can be reached at [email protected])