Blog: Dave LeggettFrench strike

Dave Leggett | 20 March 2009

Yesterday was a curious day - I was in Pau, France, with BMW/Mini (Mini Convertible UK press launch). We got the chance to take the John Cooper Works performance version of the car around the Pau race circuit, which was - as you'd expect - a lot of fun. And the weather played ball, too.

But something was building in the cloud-free blue sky. We were supposed to be travelling back in the afternoon but news broke that there was a 'general strike' on in France and air traffic controllers were apparently involved.

The BMW PR people did a sterling job in getting the travel options together. The Irish on the trip could take a bus to San Sebastion, across the border in Spain, fly to Madrid and get a plane to Dublin. Anyone else going to London could attempt to go with them and get a flight from Madrid also. Or you could stay over for an extra night and fly later directly to where we'd originally come from and where your personal transport is parked up (ie your car or, ahem, bicycle).

I opted to stay over, figuring that there are worse places than Pau to do an extra night. I could do some work, take a stroll around the town and go out for dinner later, travel back to Farnborough the following morning without the connections and uncertainties associated with the other option. It didn't sound too awful, even if it was an inconvenience you could do without.

But the wily BMW people obviously had visions of the bar bill I and a few others might leave behind and were negotiating behind the scenes to see if they could yet get us out yesterday, in spite of the strike. And they were helped because we were in BMW corporate jets rather than the usual chartered plane (they are making their corporate planes 'work harder' these days, I was told). There was therefore more room for getting control of the situation.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we flew yesterday out of a near deserted airport and we took a flight path following the Atlantic coast - presumably lightly used air space on the edge of the area patrolled by French air traffic controllers. When we disembarked from the luxury corporate jet (I was in a 10-seater Falcon; very comfortable to say the least) my mode of transport changed radically - to a bicycle. There was something about that modal split on one journey that tickled me.

I have been riding a bicycle much more often lately in a bid to reduce the old girth. Is it working? I fear not. It gives me the excuse to have that extra cake 'guilt free'.

By the way, the Dublin-based journos on the trip were just the most superb fun. They explained in some depth what's been going on with the Irish economy and car market and it's a very grim tale indeed (a property bubble bursting has left massive indebtedness - the new car market this year is down by 70-80% - and some political disarray). Did that stop them enjoying themselves? It most certainly did not. You have to love the Irish.  

What were the French protesting about? I don't know, but they picked a nice day for it.

And in case you're wondering, yes, I have got something to write up. 


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