This week has been nuts in France. While the French like to strike, they seem to keep it limited to weekdays; however, it has been every Wednesday and Thursday for about a month now. What has made things worse is the President pushed an unpopular law through, so now the French are blocking fuel depots and we're having gas shortages. Gas shortages! Like gas stations literally running out of gas! I have serious concerns at this point about whether I can get to Paris by car OR train on June 9 and have basically told the GM here that I'm holding him personally responsible for ensuring I make it to Paris for my flight . . . to which he replied that he's certain they can provide me with a bike! PB (the GM) likes to think he's funny.
As we drove around on Friday, there were big straw bales with signs on them about death to/for farmers - apparently, a few weeks before I came, the farmers protested the poor pay they receive for their produce by piling tires (sometimes burning) and animal poo in the parking lots and entrances to the local grocery stores. I suppose these signs should have given me some warning that I might have issues on my way to Lyon, but my biggest concern at the time was whether I'd be able to find gas to get back!
I made it some distance East of Civray when suddenly traffic came to a complete stop. It was unclear what was going on, but I suspected a car accident at first. I didn't see any reasonable way around it on my GPS, so I thought I'd wait a bit. Cars started to move, then stopped again . . . then moved. Since traffic was clearly getting through, I thought the accident had been cleared and things would gradually pick up. An hour later I knew better - the primary roundabout providing access to a major East-West connection was being blocked by PROTESTERS. Worse, the police were just watching - apparently in France there is no law against impeding traffic!
The thing is, French people seem to support this behavior. The protesters were walking along the line of cars and handing out flyers to explain whatever it is they were protesting. Not being French, I told them to keep their paper as I wasn't interested. Frankly, I might have been less grouchy about this delay if I didn't need to use a restroom and hadn't been waiting for the main highway where rest stops would be available! You can drive through the French countryside for quite some time without seeing anything that appears to be a public toilet!
Once I finally made it through the human blockade, I was able to locate a rest stop. I was still a little worked up about the French protesters and how ridiculous all of it is with the gas and blocking the road - I mean, they do understand that they're punishing other regular French people and not the government, right? However, after seeing the toilets in the rest stop, I couldn't help but laugh. Outside of two less popular tourist sites in Japan, I'd never actually been forced to use a toilet that is essentially a glorified hole in the ground - I mean, even Guatemala has proper toilets! In France, you may find this in a public rest stop though:
After having a good laugh about the toilet, the lack of toilet paper and just the whole "long and proud" French tradition of protesting, I realized that I simply can't expect things to be like they are in the US. So, "vive la révolution!" I suppose ;-)