Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Operation Escargot

Aix en Provence is under siege! We've been taken over. Okay maybe not taken over, but we've been blocked. Blocked by Operation Escargot.

Apparently the venders who sell soft goods at one of our markets are ticked off. They've got a list of the city's transgressions to be sure, but their main gripe is that they've lost one day of market this year. They want it back and thus they have been blocking the entrances to the city for the last 3 days starting at 7 am.

Aix en Provence has a reputation as having a great market. We have our regular market, held 7 day per week market at Place Richelm where one can buy fruits, veggies, sausages, cheese, fish and a few other things. Our other market on Place des Prêcheurs, is held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It includes all the aforementioned items and then some. It's bigger, busier and includes a brocante as well as the soft-goods dealers who sell clothing, fabric, and shoes. The soft-goods market spreads out into the streets behind the Palais du Justice...normally. But changes this year have them remaining in their normal spot on Saturdays, moved to Cours Mirabeau on Thursdays, and their market was eliminated on Tuesdays. I've never been able to find out exactly why.

Anyway they're ticked. So they're on strike and each morning they choose a couple of main city entrances to block and then they eventually rally their white trucks and vans around the Rotunde, our central circle. My friend Lynn tried to get into town Monday, not knowing about the grève. She called me to find out what was going on because she was stuck in infernal traffic, so bad she said, that people were actually getting out of their cars and leaving them. Oops, I forgot to tell her about the local newspaper tweet that I had seen regarding this little inconvenience! I just didn't think it would be so all-encompasing. Yesterday her plan was to try again and I followed the newspaper tweets so I could tell her which entrances were actually open and where to park. Our collective effort managed to get her into town.

The forains say they're going to hold out and Operation Escargot will continue until they get their market back. I, for one, would love to have them back on Tuesdays but this is feeling a little like terrorism to me. Nobody stops them, this is France after all, and striking is a national pastime. But at what point can the city just say," Knock it off? We can't have a market on Tuesday for such and such a reason and our people need to be able to get in and out of the city."

So for now, it's pretty quiet here in the old town. If you're trying to get into Aix anytime soon, I suggest that you arrive in a white van and join the parade. That should deposit you in centre ville without a worry.



  1. Sounds like a bit of economic warfare between the fixed-base merchants and the street vendors. Street vendors see their Aix-based income chopped by up to a third and stores see their entrances blocked by "cheap" vendors and milling masses who don't come in, and who deter regular clients. I sure don't know the answer to the dilemma.

  2. A very funny report, as always. It is such a pleasure to read your posts!

  3. In San Jose it's either taxi drivers protesting about pirate taxi drivers, or pirate taxi drivers protesting that they're not pirate taxi drivers...and when they're finished its rice producers...I think they have a rota...

  4. They certainly don't do things by halves,


  5. Lee, I'm sure you're right. But they must have figured something out. They were gone today!

    Fly-You just go from one protesting country to another, don"t you. Of course, they're occupying Wall Street in mine.

    SP-no they don't. It's al or nothing...or so it seems. Especially when I'm trying to get out of town...or out of the country!

  6. Well, they've got spunk. That's probably than just shrugging your shoulders, especially since it's their livelihood. So, where can I get a white truck?


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