What's not to Love about France?
What is France and the French side of Switzerland famous for? Food, Fashion, Flair, Art, Culture, Fun, Champaigne, Wine, Love Songs and ... French. Many more words fit here too, somehow these jumped to the top of my mind.
One thousand incredible miles from Barcelona to Paris with stops in Montpellier, Lyon, and Geneva along the way. Read on my friends to feel the emotions I felt as this segment of the ride unfolded. And please don't skip the ending tribute!
The devilish Tramontane winds off the Pyrenees Mountains said "hello" in a serious fashion as I crossed the border into France. Never heard of and thus had not prepped for them = mistake. The partly cloudy/sunny beautiful day veiled the dangerous and sudden strong gusts that were blowing my bike and me across the highway. Cars and trucks going by at 80+ MPH (130KPH speed limit), were handling it fine. Upright on a Harley, my chest acting like a sail, catching the wind, lifting me off the seat, and pushing the bike from side to side. Here to talk about it, so yes, I survived. One of the more difficult riding conditions I've experienced.
GO, FIGHT, WIN!
Imagine for Margo! Margo left this world way too early in life, at age 14, on June 7, 2010, after a 16-month fight with an aggressive brain tumor called a glioblastoma (a malignant GlioNeuronal Tumor). To honor her legacy, "Imagine for Margo - Children without Cancer", was created in 2011 in Paris. The association continues Margo’s initiative by leading advocacy and fundraising to accelerate research in order to better understand and cure childhood cancer. Hard not to tear up when you read Margo's story - I did! "Go, Fight, Win" was Margo's final written message, discovered in her notebook after her death:
"GO, take the opportunities that come to you, and do not miss a chance to follow your dreams."
"FIGHT, against all the hard moments that will come to you."
"WIN, accomplish the things you want, follow your dreams and always try to be a better person."
During my final day in Paris, I had the privilege to meet with Marisa Tizzano, Event Manager, at Imagine for Margo. Thank you, Marisa, for taking time to meet with me, and sharing thoughts and ideas about our mutual cause. And an extra big special "THANK YOU" to Charlotte Bosc, Marketing and Communications Director, for organizing my visits to Montpellier, Lyon and Paris, and making the introduction to Imagine for Margo!
RSM France - Paris group pic, L to R: Stephani Veller, Mohamed Bennani, Sebastian Martineau, Benoit Coustaux, Charlotte Bosc, me, Mohamed Oucheikh, Marisa Tizzano (I4M), Patton Te, and Paul Vaillant (CEO of RSM France). Other pics: Marisa presenting Imagine for Margo, Charlotte introducing me to the group, and the world map in the lobby entrance. Very cool indeed!
RSM Switzerland - Geneva, led by Daniel Rochat, was not out done. A smaller RSM firm, in a smaller country, punching well above its weight! The timing of my ride into Geneva was not the best. The 17th of May was the final filing day of the year, and the 18th is a national holiday, so most everyone takes Friday the 19th off for a long 4-day weekend. With that said, Daniel had a skeleton crew gracious to hear my story.
RSM Geneva team L to R: Jeremy Howart, Vera, Melie Kocher, Meltem Kulak, Daniel Rochat, me and Muhamed.
Serendipity seems to be underscoring this trip. One of Daniel's best friends is a renowned neurosurgeon in Green Bray, Wisconsin, at Baycare Clinic. (Go Pack Go!) Daniel made the e-intro, and now just looking for a time to meet when I'm back stateside. Daniel also introduced me to a local friend in Geneva, Professor Christian Toso, MD, PhD at HUG (Geneva University Hospital). Christian shared my story with his wife, a pediatric radiologist, and also to the chief of pediatric oncology at HUG. Both are in great positions to relay the message.
My stops in Montpellier, Monday 15 May, and Lyon, 16/17 May are not to be overlooked. Keeping in mind that filing season deadline was 17 May, everyone had their noses to the grindstone. So "thank you", RSM France Montpelier and Lyon, for taking time from your busiest days of the year for the warm welcome.
Lyon. Food? Dinner at the Michelin star Paul Bocuse Institute restaurant in Lyon was extra an special treat with Francois de Bustamante, his wife Anick and Prof. Bruno Salle. Lunch earlier with Francois and Bertrand Dufour at 33 Cite, required a nap. And the following morning the RSM Lyon team turned out to hear my Ride 4 Dray story.
More food in Montpelier. The first to warn me that the French constantly talk about food. It seems to be the national passion. More than sports, more than theatre, food, food, food... Down a dusty road to a parking area GPS would never find, Thomas, Henry and Fernand, entertained me with lunch at the BIVOUAK CAFÉ - MARCHÉ DU LEZ.
Montpellier partners (with flag) L to R: Fernand Leal, Thomas Coutellier, me and Henry Delcamp.
A few sights from self-guided walking tours of Montpelier, Lyon, Geneva and Paris
As segment 2 of the Ride 4 Dray ends, a befitting tribute to the beautiful people I met, here is one of Jean-Jacques Goldman's greatest love song performances 'en concert', as posted on YouTube, Puisque tu pars (Since You Are Leaving).
Thank you, RSM France and RSM Switzerland, for the warm welcome to your beautiful countries and offices.
P.S. for my English-speaking friends, the translated opening lyrics of "Since You Are Leaving":
"Since the shadow is winning
Since it's not mountains
On the other side of the stronger winds than the marches of oblivion
Since it's necessary to learn
Failing to understand
To dream and live our desires, so be it"