Biévres Photo Fair: Raring to go but will I get there?
Thursday evening and I am sitting here in London with my little case packed. A visit to Biévres, 20km south west of Paris, seemed like an easy affair when I made the bookings last month. Train from London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, a quick metro transit to Gare d'Austerlitz and a train to Saclay, near Biévres, where I am living for the weekend and meeting lots of friends from the UK camera business—including the team from Red Dot Cameras, MW Classics and Peter Loy.
It's a simple journey. But all these strikes in France are taking their toll. Ivor Cooper of Red Dot and David Woodford of MW Classics are travelling by road and wondering where they will find an open filling station. I'm wondering how I will cover the 20km from Gare du Nord to Saclay. First I need to get to Gare d'Austerlitz—the Paris version of London Waterloo, one a Napoleon victory, the other a final defeat. C'est la vie. The Paris Metro is running as I type this, but just to add to the trials is news of severe flooding. Who knows what will be happening tomorrow? And the regional trains are running well below par, so queues and overcrowding are a possibility even if I find one.
A friend suggested trying the BlahBlah iPhone app, a ride-sharing co-operative that certainly shows promise. A quick check and I find that Pierre, aged 31 (the age providing a much needed dollop of verisimilitude), is offering to allow me occupy a seat in his Peugeot 308 at 13.40 tomorrow afternoon. I suppose this is his regular commute from Paris to Saclay. But can I trust Pierre, even though he wants only seven euros for the experience? Is he for real? I'm a trusting soul so, if all else fails, I might be found après midi in the passenger seat of Pierre's no-doubt comfortable voiture.
More likely is a call to Uber, even though it will cost me seven times as much as Pierre's handsome offer. Having gone this far I can hardly turn back.
And so a routine visit to a suburb of Paris is turning into a medieval pilgrim's progress, thanks to the French unions and a bit of rain. I will report on progress. It's only 280 miles away but tonight it feels like a journey to the end of the world.