Friday was the first day that I regretted living downtown. Most of the time, it's awesome living right in the heart of Orleans, just a step away from the busy shopping streets, great restaurants, and access to public transport. However, on Friday afternoon when I tried to take an afternoon bus from Checy, a suburb about 20 km from Orleans, it took nearly two hours to get home because the whole downtown area was completely blocked off due to an agricultural protest.
The farmers (and every other Frenchman, it seems) want President Sarkozy to help the plummeting farming industry by giving government loans. Apparently food is too cheap for farmers to make a living, so they're demanding that prices be inflated for food, especially dairy products.
What amazed me is that the farmers were even allowed to do this. I believe that people have a right to protest, but do they have a right to block the streets with smelly manure, causing major traffic jams and huge clean-up costs? It took hours for firefighters to put the fires out and bring in tractors to move out the waste and then use high-powered hoses to clean the streets. They still smell. What's obvious is that the French love their protests, and feel that their high taxes justify the mess they make, since they're technically paying for it through taxes. This theory also explains why the French refuse to clean up after their dogs in public places; why should they have to when they pay heavy taxes which essentially pay for it?