Today I managed to drive into Perpignan and back again. Not normally something to take such pride in, but today is Day 8 of what was meant to be a 1 Day public demonstration by the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ and driving anywhere has become quite an adventure this week.
The idea of the Gilets Jaunes campaign was to protest against the high cost of diesel –and the protest involved blocking major roundabouts, motorway access points, and ‘Escargots’ (traffic deliberately moving at ‘snail-pace’). At first we followed the general advice of ‘don’t drive anywhere unless your journey is absolutely necessary’, but then I noticed that the local supermarket shelves were looking a bit sparse, and the garage had run out of diesel - and so had I. We are lucky enough to live just 20 minutes from the Spanish border where fuel prices are 30 cents per litre cheaper than here, so we decided it was worth a try.
|Photo credit: orangeactu.fr|
The roundabout just before the entry to the motorway was teeming with protestors wearing their Hi-Vis yellow jackets (Gilets Jaunes) and waving placards, and they were just ‘filtering’ traffic ie stopping lorries but letting cars through – particularly those who had placed their own yellow jackets on the dashboard of the car, which we had. We are not stupid. All in all there was just a minor delay getting onto the motorway, and best of all, the toll barriers were up and we were informed ‘today it’s Macron who is paying’!
A few days later, buoyed up by this success we then decided to go to Toulouse to collect something that the driver was unable to deliver. There were even more protestors by this time, and food trucks, tents, flags and klaxons. We were ‘invited’ to do an extra circuit of the roundabout to show ‘solidarity’ but then managed to get onto the motorway. The toll barriers were up again but the protestors were handing out the tickets ‘just in case’ – which was unfortunately the case as there were no protestors and the barriers were in place at the Toulouse exit. (But the journey home was ‘free’ – I must write to M. Macron to say thank you for saving us 18€!)
Today is officially a National Day of Protest – which only seems to differ from the past few days by the fact that no ‘normal’ buses are running and there is a huge demonstration going on in Paris. Free transport has been laid on to get people to Paris – and my suggestion of taking advantage of that but just going shopping was not received with great enthusiasm! There were also big demonstrations planned in Perpignan centre and the advice again today was not to travel anywhere – but I had to go to town to prepare an apartment for a guest who has no idea he is going to have problems getting there. Having planned my journey with military precision (checking Twitter and the local radio) I approached the main roundabout – smoke could be seen billowing into the air as they burnt tyres and pallets – but I was waved through (little did they know it was the dog’s walking jacket that I had on the dashboard!). Although I passed several ‘escargots’ (with police escorts) and heard shouts and klaxons from the centre of town, I managed to make the trip unscathed, but there was a real feeling of ‘civil unrest’ if not ‘civil war’ about the whole situation.
I was going to finish this blog with a light-hearted complaint that my walking boots are falling apart but I can’t get to Decathlon as it is on a well barricaded roundabout, and my discount voucher expires at the end of the month, but having just had a run in with an aggressive protestor on the motorway (on foot!) who tried to stop us by placing traffic cones in front of the car, I am feeling less amused. This is rapidly getting out of hand. In fact within 1 hour of the start of this ‘peaceful’ protest, somebody was run over and killed, and since then there have been several hundred injuries. ‘Professional’ protestors have now joined the original group, nerves are frayed, businesses and commerces are losing money and there is a dangerous feeling about the whole situation.
Apparently President Macron is going to make a statement on Tuesday …..