I’m indebted to a loyal reader for this sequel to the N7 story published on 15 April:

Spotted in the Washington Post, no less.

In the otherwise ancient town of Piolenc, situated in the Vaucluse just north of Orange, I stopped in an old garage that serves as a collection point of nostalgia from another era of French motoring. The Musee Memoire de la Nationale 7 (literally: Memory Museum of the National 7) is a collection of cars, campers, motorized bicycles, photos, posters and paraphernalia run by a group of retirees.

“There are two kinds of people,” Raymond Rolland, the president of the museum association, told me. “There are the people who are in a hurry, and there are the people who take their time to see things.”

Of course, Rolland, who sees the world as being in a big hurry, longs for the days when families took picnics and camped along the side of the road as they departed for languorous summer breaks.

As afternoon faded, I drove past the Roman arc de triomphe in Orange, skirted Avignon and followed the road through bustling Aix-en-Provence. This stretch was one of the most nourishing, with its miles of platane alleys and fruit orchards backed by the dramatic silhouette of the nearby Luberon Mountains.

Continuing past Aix through stands of Mediterranean pines rooted in red soil, I watched Mont Sainte-Victoire, Cézanne’s favorite landscape subject, loom with a violet glow.

I stopped for the night in Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume to continue the next morning through the vineyards and hilly landscapes of Provence’s Var. At Frejus, with its massive Roman arena now used for bullfights and concerts, I saw the first strip of blue Mediterranean Sea through a line of modern condos. I drove toward it, leaving the N7 to make my way along the coast. Here at land’s end, I felt I had arrived — just like all the people in those buildings, who I imagined had taken that same road and never turned back.

Camuto is a writer based in France. His next book, “Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey,” is to be published in September.

Thanks Bill!

In the days before autoroutes and (expensive) toll gates, the main thoroughfare in France was the Route National 7, bisecting the country from Paris in the north towards the sunny south.

The recent Salon d’Auto in Avignon had a memorial to this iconic route and inaugurated an annual pilgrimage with vintage cars to traverse the old routes. All of 1,000km in length it finished in Menton on the Italian border. Other names were the Blue Route, or the route of Holidays, signifying that it was packed during the summer vacation period as the Parisians headed for the coast, and the Rhone Valley via the central city of Lyon.

On this route, and founded in 1930 was the famous restaurant Les Frères Troisgros. Other starred restaurants by the likes of Paul Bocuse were also placed strategically on this Route – and, of course, the Michelin Guide originated from the French love of driving and holidaying.

 

We’ve been watching this statue of Pan for 6 years at a stone vendor in Cavaillon, at the mouth of the Luberon Valley. Will they sell now at a ‘reasonable’ price, or won’t they? Negotiating with a Frenchman is an interesting experience, you would think he would want to move his stock! But, then maybe no!

In Greek religion and mythology, Pan  is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs.His name originates within the ancient Greek language, from the word paein meaning “to pasture”; the modern word “panic” is derived from the name. He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun or satyr. With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is also recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism and impromptus.

In Roman religion and myth, Pan’s counterpart was Faunus, a nature god who was the father of Bona Dea, sometimes identified as Fauna; he was also closely associated with Sylvanus, due to their similar relationships with woodlands. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Pan became a significant figure in the Romantic movement of western Europe and also in the 20th-century Neopagan movement.

Mont Ventoux presides..

A slow grower, taking seven years to flower, but when it does, it’s spectacular…

In Robion, in the Luberon.

Menerbes.

Les Primeurs – the first of the season : much in demand and highly prized (and priced!).

Then you can get them in miniature as well!

Les Petite Carottes.

Tomatoes of all shapes and sizes and colours

Cherry blossoms in the Luberon

Visitors to Ménerbes and indeed, the Luberon are familiar with the Restaurant La Veranda – packed he year round and well known for its consistent food and great service.

Sister restaurant – two years young – Le 5 on a panoramic terrace, opens during the season and after an extensive 5 month refurbishment, it re-opens (bravely) on 1st April.

We’ve followed the building progress…. here is pre-opening and pre setting out the tables.

The new Bar and lounge area behind

The View!

The small building on the left is the kitchen; the big building apartments and a ‘wet weather’ restaurant.

Just for Madame – a fountain!

The Bar – modelled on a Provençal house

 

To reserve a table: 04 90 72 31 84.

 

 

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