On the Trail of Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Matisse in the South of France

In the southern French region of Provence, there is, or seems to be, what we call a roundabout and the French call a rond-point every 30 feet. Thirty feet is doubtless a physical exaggeration, but it is not so perceptually: One traffic circle follows another with such relentlessness that you feel you are proceeding not in a straight line but circularly, like a spider racing around its web. You spin around each roundabout looking for the exit for, say, Arles or St.-­Tropez—the A55 or the D44, the latter of which may also be called the D95 or the Boulevard General Léclérc (every French road has at least three names, two cryptically numeric and one grandly historical)—and you often must go around again before finding it. That accomplished, you drive for a bit and come to another circle. Everyone in Provence will tell you that you will find it maddening until you see how functional it is. In almost two weeks of driving in Provence, we never saw how functional it was.


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