Lapalisse (Allier) nostalgic for many hours on the National 7, a road like no other

From Paris to Menton, especially crossing the northern Auvergne, the national 7 is a road like no other. Nicknamed “holiday road” or “blue road”, it is in the hearts of thousands of people. Long remaining the longest of the French national roads with 996 kilometers, the RN 7 crosses the small town of Lapalisse, in the Allier.

“Nine service stations over a kilometer”

Best known for its majestic castle built in the 12th century, the town of over 3,000 inhabitants is also famous for seeing the famous “holiday route” that passes through its streets. However, today, it no longer passes through the city center. A double-lane diversion was inaugurated in 2006. Despite everything, in Lapalisse, these years of non-stop traffic are still in everyone’s mind. Road workers, enthusiasts of old cars… Many of them, locally, try to keep this RN 7 spirit formed by decades of passing trucks and cars on their way to the holidays.Nicole Cantat, Lapalissoise by birth, has been running the same service station as the old RN 7 since 1970.

When walking through Lapalisse, strolling through the floral park or at the foot of the castle, it is hard to imagine that a few years ago, thousands of vehicles, from cars to trucks, crossed, day and night and without stop, this peaceful community. in Bourbonnais. However, it is actually a crossing point for the RN 7 and not the least because it is the gateway to Vichy, a famous spa town.

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Although the “blue route” no longer passes through the heart of the city, there are still many traces of these prosperous years. And especially the old roadside restaurants that have run down or closed gas stations. “In the morning, there are nine stations in one kilometer and all have work,” explains Nicole Cantat, owner of a pump, rue du President-Roosevelt, the main artery of Lapalisse and former national 7, reputation of department 707 since the opening of the bypass, heading south.A restaurant located on the edge of the old national 7, in Saint-Prix, next to Lapalisse, in Allier, surfs the wave of nostalgia.

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Born in Lapalisse, raised in Lapalisse and manager of the same service station in Lapalisse since March 15, 1970, Nicole Cantat is a privileged witness of the strong bond that unites the national 7 and its municipality. At the age of 75, and although he has been retired for several years, he continues to be behind the counter of his business. Sitting on a chair at the entrance of his small shop where he sells sweets, car batteries, headlight bulbs and other cold drinks, he recounts his years of activity in the “blue road”.

RN7 is like my little baby!

“I worked in the same place, on the same wall and with the same husband for fifty-two years. This station is my whole life, the salesman began. Working along such a path means making thousands of encounters, from the most banal to the most eccentric. National 7, Nicole Cantat makes it her living, but also a faithful partner. As customers enter the store to pay for the few liters of diesel they have just poured into their car’s tank, the septuagenarian can’t help but greet them, as he has done with all his customers for fifty years. .-two years. A family and respectful atmosphere inherited from the prosperous years of RN 7. “My client is my universe”, smiles the retiree.While walking in Lapalisse, it is common to find the remains of the prosperous time of the national 7.

A little higher, on the rue Roosevelt where the “blue road” passed sixteen years ago, Quentin Desormière runs a garage passed on by his father Jean-Claude. The latter, retired since 2007, spent sixty years at RN 7 repairing cars and trucks. “Lapalisse and National 7 are linked, there is a common story. I feel, I have worked on this road every day of my life since I was 14 years old,” said the 74-year-old former mechanic. Like Nicole Cantat, Jean-Claude Desormière continues to work. “I can’t pick up, it’s part of me. »Quentin Desormière, mechanic at Lapalisse, drives an old Saviem Renault truck.

Lapalissois “pure strain”, the two artisans are always bathed in the spirit of RN 7. A time of “less hassle” or “we take time to live”. “The atmosphere is family, kind, continues the salesman. Cars weren’t as reliable and comfortable as they are today, so we had a bit of an adventure. Taking the car on such long journeys is already a bit of a vacation?! And we don’t drool over the soup, RN 7 always puts us to work. Like my little baby. »

We have been working and living in these conditions forever and when the road turns we miss the noise.

The town lives in the rhythm of the road. “He drives the local economy, we forgive him for the negativity,” added Nicole Cantat. Because, the non-stop passage of thousands of vehicles, heavy and light, creates noise pollution and timeless background noise that has enlivened Lapalisse for decades. “It has become a habit, we live it. By force, as if we never heard anything. Jean-Claude Desormière testifies: “It was a funny atmosphere at that time. Trucks parked as they wanted on the sidewalks and we can’t walk anymore?! When you’re in a store, everything vibrates from floor to ceiling. » Noise, traffic, the smell of exhaust, slowing down… A set of problems that lost in the southern bypass. “We always work and live in these conditions and when the road turns, we miss the noise,” said the manager of the service station. It’s like we changed countries overnight?! »A vintage service station in the heart of Lapalisse in the Allier.

For decades, the Lapalissois lived in harmony with the national 7 and took advantage of the wealth it brought to a plain. Jean-Claude Desormière added: “I have a small space at the entrance of the town where all the trucks now converge through a roundabout. I miss the traffic so much that sometimes I go and sit there and watch the trucks go by. An unconditional love from these two locals for a path that has given them everything in their careers and their lives. A passion that other Bourbonnais continue by organizing events for the glory of the national.A vintage panel placed in front of a Sain-Prix restaurant along the RN7.

For the ninth time, enthusiasts of nostalgic old cars from the national 7 of the fifties and sixties organize, in Lapalisse, the second week of October, L’Embouteillage, a historical reconstruction of the famous traffic in the city center. during the big departures of the summer holidays. Fabrice Degard, president of the Club automobile de Lapalisse, is one of the organizers of this event. “With L’Embouteillage, we are creating memories on the RN 7. Hundreds of vintage cars are expected and we hope for 25,000 spectators. In its history, Lapalisse has succeeded in sublimating this disturbance from the road and this event pays tribute to it. »

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Nathan Marliac
Photos Dominica Parat

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