French figures: The creature that sparked a protest method

There's a popular stereotype that the French eat snails, although actually it's not as common as you might imagine, but the snail is also key to another aspect of French life - protests.

French figures: The creature that sparked a protest method
Photo: AFP

If you hear about an Opération escargot, don't be looking out for any slimy creatures with shells.

You will see things going slowly though, which is how the humble snail inspired a popular form of French protest.

An Opération escargot is what we might call a rolling roadblock in English – it's when several cars, lorries or tractors drive very slowly together along a major route, creating a massive traffic jam behind them.

Farmers stage an Opération escargot on the motorway near Calais. Photo: AFP

And it's a commonly-used method of protest in France – angry farmers do it in their tractors, if hauliers get involved in any sort of protest they usually stage as Opération escargot and the Paris ringroad is always a popular location. Generally a traffic-choked nightmare at the best of times, the périphérique sometimes comes to a complete standstill if angry lorry drivers, taxi drivers or driving instructors are staging a protest there.

Its name comes, of course, from the fact that snails are famously slow movers.

As well as on the roads and on bistrot menus, you will also finds snails in a bakery – an alternative name for a pain aux raisins is an escargot, particularly in eastern France.


This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France.  

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French figures: The true spirit of France

This is the incredible story about the teenage girl who became a symbol of France for the ages.

French figures: The true spirit of France
Illustration photo: AFP

The story of Joan of Arc – Jeanne d'Arc in French – begun like many fairytales do: an unlikely hero is chosen to accomplish a dangerous task.

Born around 1412, Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl convinced that divine powers had decided she would fight the English army in France. 

She then did exactly that. 

This was during the so-called Hundred Years’ War, when English troops battled for territory across the country that is now France.

Joan of Arc liberated Orléans city from English forces in a legendary and decisive battle that paved the way for the later French victory in 1453.

Joan of Arc paid for her heroism with her life. She was captured and sold her to the English army, who burned her at the stake in Rouen, northeast France, around 1431. She was approximately 19 years old at the time.

But her short life left a lasting mark on France and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Almost 600 years after her death she is still commemorated and celebrated in France and her spirit is invoked during difficult times for the country.

Known today as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc's silhouette is all over the city, ingrained on medallions on the street, cast into sculptures and painted on the boxes of Cotignac, an Orléans culinary speciality.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why you should visit the French city Orléans

This article is the final instalment of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – featuring every day a person or thing that has a special place in French culture. To see the whole calendar, click here.