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.