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Ride Tales Post your ride reports for a weekend ride or around the world. Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is. Please do NOT just post a link to your site. For a link, see Get a Link.
Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Josephine Flohr,
Elephant at Camp, Namibia



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  #1  
Old 28 Oct 2020
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Location: Lyon, France
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World trip from heartbreak to happiness by Mark Holmes.

I left London on 1st April 2017 to ride a Triumph Rocket X around the world.

Here's why: My wife and I ran our own business for 28 years, but in November 2016 we went into administration (bankrupt). 11 days later, after 39 years of marriage, my wife died. She had been fighting cancer for quite a while. So, with no wife, no job, no income, no best friend, no soul mate, I decided to venture into the world, and ask the world to deliver me something in return.

The bike, the trip, and the people were all great, but I would love to tell you the real story.

Five weeks into my planned 18 month odyssey around the world, I decided to spend a few days in an apartment overlooking the tiny port of Cassis in the south of France. My late wife and I often used to hide there for short breaks so I hesitated to go as it held such great memories for me. After 24 hours I realised that I was quite comfortable, despite being alone. I ate in my favourite restaurant on the first night. They served the best Soupe de Poisson in the world. On the second night I ate in a restaurant that I had not been to before. It was quite new but enjoying a growing reputation. I sat down at a table for two with my back to the wall. As always, the setting in front of me was cleared away. I started to savour a good bottle of wine, and the ‘amuse bouche’ went down well. Then three people came in, laughing and chatting, and sat on the round table for four opposite me. The forth place setting was removed, leaving us with a clear view of each other. There was a gentleman to the right, a lady with light brown hair in the middle, and a blonde haired lady on the left. The girls started giggling, looking towards me every time I glanced up. I couldn’t work out how the gentleman fitted in. It turned out they were all just friends, on a short holiday together. The lady in the middle tried to encourage me to smile. I knew I looked miserable when eating alone. They gestured me to join them, but I declined. My French was pretty ropey, and despite numerous visits to France over the years, it really had not improved since school. I finished the first bottle of wine, ordered another, and found the courage to accept their invitation. "Bonsoir. Je m’appelle Mark, et je suis anglais”. They hadn’t guessed. We managed to speak Franglais well enough for a while. The lady in the middle was called Dalila. The lady on the left was also called Dalila. Two Dalila’s had just arrived in my life at the same time. “You’ve got to be kidding me” was written all over my face, and visible in any language. We chatted and drank even more, before realising we were the only ones left in the restaurant, and the waiter had his coat on. They invited me back to the apartment they had rented a few miles away. I accepted. More drinks followed and eventually I crashed out on the sofa. I hadn’t had a night like that for a very long time. Despite the hangovers, the light brown haired Dalila and I started chatting privately together in the morning. We were sat on the low window sill of a huge window overlooking a bay called La Madrague. She explained to me how in the late nineteenth century Paul Cezanne and his contemporaries used to stroll along between the pine trees just below us, and painted their views of the sandy bay. I stared silently into her eyes as she spoke. Something exploded inside me.
We exchanged contact details and I was driven back to Cassis. That’s when it all started. WhatsApp, coupled with sneaky translation checks on Google, enabled us to continue our conversations. Some delightful, amusing, and private conversations followed. I would never have believed it possible that any sort of meaningful relationship could develop with this kind of technology.
Dalila returned to her home in Lyon, and I was due to head for an AC Milan v. Roma football match at the San Siro a few days later. I realised I could create a spare day in between, and invited myself to visit her in Lyon. She accepted.
Dalila lived right in the centre of Lyon in a light and airy apartment. We enjoyed a stroll around town, a truly fabulous meal, and great conversations.
In the morning I left saying, thank you, but you know I have to continue my journey around the world now. She understood that. I still had 17 months to go.

I rode down Italy, through Sicily and on to Malta to stay with friends. However, the journey had now taken on a new twist. One that I had not seen coming. The conversations with Dalila just didn’t stop. They were lovely. Riding back up Italy I asked her if she would like to hop on a plane and join me somewhere. She chose Rome. We spent four fabulous days together in this most romantic of cities. Although we had led quite different lives, our views on almost everything were totally compatible. Neither of us were expecting what was happening. Saying goodbye at Rome airport was difficult. She was going to return to her daily life in Lyon, and I was going to continue to ride around the world, with every mile taking us further and further apart.

I rode around Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and into Turkey. In Istanbul I knew I had to wait for an unpredictable length of time for my Iran visa process to be completed, hopefully. So I invited Dalila to hop on a plane again and join me. She did, and the most magical week followed. We saw all the historical and cultural sites as well as the bazaars, and took a trip up the Bosphorus river to the Black Sea.

By now I was beginning to share news of meeting Dalila with close friends. They were all very happy for me, but I feared news of her would not be welcome by my close family. It later transpired that I was right. They were all bitterly disappointed in my behaviour. I didn’t disagree with them, and was certainly uncomfortable with the timing myself. At the moment I left the UK I felt I would be able to share and gain the most if I opened myself up to an extent that I had never previously done in my life. Gradually, I was able to peel back my misconceptions, fears and prejudices, as well as open up my heart and soul to the world. Dalila stepped forward.

Two months later I parked the Triumph Rocket X in Delhi and we both jumped on planes to meet up in Marbella, Spain. By now we had agreed that if we could keep things going to the end of my trip, then I would not return to London, but to Lyon. We would live together and commit to each other. Thinking about that commitment begged a question, but I was determined to remain in control of my emotions and not ask it, not at least until I had finished my journey. We managed to co-ordinate our arrival at Malaga airport to within an hour of each other. Even before we left the terminal, the ever-so-clever Dalila asked: “Mark, is there a question you are planning to ask me?“. I couldn’t help myself. “Yes, Dalila, there is”. The following evening, at our table in the quiet corner of a charming restaurant, I went down on one knee. “Dalila, at the end of my journey, will you marry me?” Do I have to tell you the answer? This was just our 12th. full day together. A great holiday followed.
As before, at the end of our time together, I parted by saying I was still going to continue my ride around the world.
If I had been told before leaving the UK that I would meet someone and fall in love, I would have suggested that unlikely. If I had been told that I could keep a relationship going and marry again, I would have dismissed that suggestion out of hand. It couldn’t work. It was ridiculous idea.

We met again on Bali, Indonesia, and celebrated our engagement. I flew back to Lyon for Christmas 2017 to meet her family and friends. Then we separated again for four months until she flew out to Mexico to meet me there. As in Spain, we managed to co-ordinate our arrivals at the airport in Cancun where she arrived with another spectacular question. "Mark, do you know it is really easy to get married in Mexico". I didn't ..... but that's what we did!
She returned to France with our marriage certificate, and I continued to ride around the world. After reaching Montreal, Canada, I flew back to London, and immediately on to Lyon, France, where we now live.
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  #2  
Old 29 Oct 2020
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Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Esperance, Western Australia
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Nice tale.
I'm presently waiting for your book to arrive from Amazon, and look forward to reading it as a poor alternative to my own big trip, postponed by the damned 'rona.
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Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.
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  #3  
Old 10 Nov 2020
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Oxford UK
Posts: 2,106
Nice heartwarming love at first sight story, and even better that it worked out. They don't always.

How's your French these days?
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  #4  
Old 11 Nov 2020
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Location: Lyon, France
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I have been very lucky. My wife, my new life in Lyon, everything in fact, is fantastic. My French continues to improve daily. I can manage a decent conversation now, but I'm still not fluent.
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  #5  
Old 13 Nov 2020
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Australia
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Great story. You only get one life and you have embraced it fully. Good for you and you have found a great lady
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  #6  
Old 14 Nov 2020
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Somehow I managed to remain positive at all times, but that's not so easy for everybody. Hopefully my story will help others to venture into the world with an open heart.
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