Marseille is certainly a beautiful place. It's no wonder why so many people all around the world aim to retire in the south of France. The weather is tolerable, streets are filled with diverse vendors, architecture mixes modern with classic. A quick walk west from the train station Gare de St. Charles can put you at Vieux Port, with rows of boat docks and scenic patio cafes. Movies and romance novels have been made here, and it's no surprise why.
The only problem: Marseille smells like a zoo.
The city's waste management workers have been on strike, protesting against pension reform in France. Trash piled head high sits on every corner, pigeons pick at rotting fruit. The average French citizen is sick of the protests, as I can gather from speaking with people in the street. They are frustrated standing in train stations and subways, trying to figure out how to get to work on time.
Tourists sit at outdoor patios in Marseille, sipping espresso, and trying not to breathe too heavily because the smell is obnoxious.
And yet, why, do so many French jump on the band wagon and protest alongside the union workers all over France? In Paris, while covering some of the protests, I observed something strange: very few union workers. Half of the crowd seemed to be students, teenagers. Puffing on cigarettes, listening to music, chanting with the rest of the crowd. I don't mean to take away the sincerity of younger protesters, I assume some of them understand their country's economic situation, and still choose to fight for retirement at 60.