30 October 2010

A breath of fresh air

They've done it. The law has passed, French workers have to work two more years in their life, most of the unions shrugged and Marseille is slowly getting back to normal. The start of the fall holiday season might also have something to do with it. They are actually cleaning away the garbage that was choking this city during the strike, and some places look like new, if you ignore the scorched walls where garbage has burned. The stink is also going away, but it will take a while to get back to normal garbage levels. Pictures like this one (if you'll excuse one last garbage picture) are a thing of the past - until the next strike, which might be months away.

And apparently gasoline is flowing freely again, and not just because of ruptured gas tanks. The streets are packed with cars, I ride past kilometers of stop-and-go traffic every day. The French endure it stoically, even though the buses and trains run again. The temperatures have started to fall, but while northern Europe is approaching freezing temperatures, here it's just below 20 degrees and usually sunny. The leaves start to fall, and expose the plastic bags that the wind has extracted from the garbage and blown high into the trees. Wind can be a problem - they enjoy the Mistral here around this time of the year, which can approach 100 km/h and make bicycle riding, or in fact any outdoor activity, a little touchy. But not yet.

It is windy enough to make French smokers, which huddle around restaurant doors because indoor smoking in public places in Europe isn't allowed, visibly uncomfortable. There seem to be a lot more smokers in the south of France than in northern regions.

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