Frederic Geffroy from Paris is a young Frenchman who has a strong connection with New Zealand. After reading about the Blog4NZ campaign to promote NZ tourism he wanted to write his own article in order to help. This is a intimate article written with love. We thank Fred for his lovely article supporting the beauty of our country in every form!

My experience of “what is the beauty of the New Zealand” is quite small. Actually, I have some difficulties to find a special emotional event. A moment when I just realize how wonderful are the landscapes of the Kiwi’s land. It is obviously. This is not the essential part.

Smell of Paradise - AkaroaI have to confess that I miss some part of the New Zealand history necessary to understand pieces of the  culture. But anyway, I’ll never be a New Zealander. That for sur. Even if I try my best, eat fish and chips everyday and play perfectly the Crowded House songs, I won’t be a truly kiwi.

New Zealand is more than tiny places hidden from the rest of the world, it is before everything people. They are the soul of the country. To be more precise, for me, it’s all about one person. One single special person. I must say the one.

You may guess hearing my accent that I am French. You’re right.

I’m Living in paris, studing art degree and running after the metro everyday. Nothing exceptional.

The special girl decides one day to have a long term holiday out her country. She uses to call that a gap year in New Zealand. France and Paris seems to be an appropriate place for a self improvement period. She was right.

Here she comes for the first day in our classes of 16 students. She’s nice. She’s cute and quite funny. It’s amazing how fast she can integrates herself into the group. Her simpleness and devotion just convinced everyone she deserves a place on the crew. She’s the kind of girl knowing exactly where she’s going, what’s her goal. And She was my aim.

I don’t remember how it happens, but we finally get together. Lovely thing. The more time I spent with her, the more I felt attached to her. Paris was the appropriate play ground for lovers like us. I don’t have enough fingers in my hand to list all the specials moments we had there.

Then, one day, she had to flight back to Christchurch to be graduated. My little kiwi leaves France after one year. I’ll avoid the departure at the airport. Sad as you can imagine but hopeful in the same time. We promise to see us again on the christmas time, five months later. We had to be patient.

I think New Zealand is at the extreme opposite of France on the earth. 20 000 kilometers separate France and New Zealand. That’s what we can call a distance relation.

Thousands of pictures and hundreds of skype conversations later, I started my long travel to New Zealand. Thirty hours of flight. I spent all I had on the plane ticket to Christchurch. That was the travel I was waiting for.

The plane landed smoothly on the ground. I tried to see through the small plane window of What is New Zealand. Nothing except mountains.

People in the airport seems to be nice. They were. Actually, they don’t succeed in saying my name. Instead of Geffroy, they tells  Geffry.

Arrivals are frustrating. You just travels hours and hours to arrive and overcome the new ordeal of border controls before being allowed to access to the pure fresh air.

Moreover, I couldn’t find my luggage on the moving carpet. Honestly, I was so exhausted that I didn’t give a dam about my bags and passeport anymore. My head was already out of the building.

Papers and signatures later, I was now a free man ready to front New Zealand Beauty. In fact, beauty was just waiting for me out of the arrival door.

I remember. She was wearing a lovely flowered dress with pale color. It is the perfect definition of a summer dress. I ran to her and give the biggest huge ever. My head on her shoulder, I smell her skin. I was paralysed. It was such a incredible smell. A smell of something new, a smell of freedom and sun. A smell of attraction and passion. From this moment, It becomes the smell of New Zealand. The smell of paradise.

That’s was my first contact with New Zealand and obviously my best. I’ll never forget my arrival in Christchurch. She’s for me the face of the country and the smell of a culture. I was charmed again by this truly kiwi.

My New Zealand is a lovely woman, beautiful, patient and hopefull.

Blog4NZ 21 to 23 March 2011

I know you have all subscribed to a blog about French travel. However, following the tragic events of the last three weeks, my attentions have been drawn to the heartache and hardship on our own Christchurch doorstep. For the next fortnight, French tourism will temporarily take the back seat so that we can all help shed light on the marvels and adventures of travelling in New Zealand. Please bear with me!

The world is in shock that one of the prime tourist destinations in the world could suffer such a harsh blow by Mother Nature, in the form of such a devastating earthquake which occurred on 22 February 2011. My desire has been to ensure that tourists around the world keep coming to New Zealand – just because central Christchurch has been badly damaged, does not mean that tourists should stop coming here. So with three other Kiwi travel writers, we have started our campaign Blog4NZ, which from March 21-23 will saturate social media sites worldwide, with wonderful stories about the beauty and excitement of New Zealand. There is no reason why over these three days we cannot get up to five million readers around the world. While all our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has lost someone or something, these stories will tell everyone that New Zealand is still very much ‘open for business.’

Now’s the time for all of you to help out New Zealand in its time of need. I haven’t heard from a lot of you who have subscribed to The French Way Blog, so now would be a perfect opportunity to participate! Simply leave two or three sentences about your favourite holiday destination in New Zealand in the comments section below, or if you’re really keen, submit an article to the Blog4NZ website. Your words will help, and will delight people with your fond memories of our beloved country.

“My task which I am trying to achieve is by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel; it is, before all, to make you see. That, and no more, and it is everything.”
– Joseph Conrad

The colours of New Zealand: still as beautiful as ever!

Photography courtesy of Frédéric Geffroy.

Blog4NZ Facebook Page: Like us!

Organisers of Blog4NZ:

I bet you remember where you fell in love. Maybe not just with a person, but with a place!

I remember when I first visited the fishing port of Villefranche sur Mer in the south of France. I was speechless, and promised that I would bring my future spouse for our honeymoon here – and I did.

Easy to fall in love here!

I remember when I saw Chartres Cathedral in France for the first time. In fact after seeing it, my outlook on life changed. I had never before experienced the magnificence of this story-book of stone.

I remember a family holiday in New Zealand visiting Doubtful Sounds. We travelled through the Sounds on a boat, completely isolated, completely alone, completely silent – there was a silence and a beauty that I had never experienced. A deep greeny blue mirror-like sea was only interrupted by the wake of our boat. “Look Dad at the penguins” my daughter excitedly exclaimed!

I remember where I fell in love!

I share my life with my family between New Zealand and France. I was brought up in Christchurch, and my family has been living here for over 150 years. On 21 February you will have read of the earthquake that changed our lives in Christchurch.

The effects of this disaster in Christchurch will be felt for years ahead. Homes and lives need to be rebuilt, buildings and businesses need to rise again.

Amidst this disaster we need to all reflect on the situation we find us in. Our struggle here in Christchurch and New Zealand is to ensure that internationally people do not see a beaten and damaged country.

In June 2010 there were major floods in the Var district in the south of France centred on the town of Draguignan.  They had over 25 deaths caused by these floods. This disaster was broadcast internationally through the internet and television. As a specialist in travel planning in France I was inundated by clients wanting to cancel their travel due to these floods. The reality was that the disaster in Draguignan covered an area of only about 10 square kilometres – it didn’t affect the whole of the south of France, nor the entire country of France. Only the people wanting to holiday in Draguignan were affected, and nearby was the glorious Cote d’Azur for them to enjoy, which would hardly have been too off-putting for holiday makers!!

New Zealand

The same can be said for Christchurch. The centre of Christchurch is inaccessible and for the moment a holiday in our city isn’t the greatest idea, but outside the immediate centre it’s almost business as usual!  But even in this area within an hour from Christchurch you can savour the pleasures of the French settled village of Akaroa or go trout fishing in the Rakaia River or some of the nearby fishing lakes, or go walking in the Southern Alps.

New Zealand can make you fall in love! It may be the golden sandy beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park, the pristine wilderness of the McKenzie country or the West Coast, the beauty and excitement of Queenstown and its adventure tourism, or you too could visit Doubtful Sounds or the nearby Milford Sounds.

So please don’t let an earthquake change your travel plans. We’d all like to look after you and help show you our country – the New Zealand Way!

Come and fall in love here!

Your help is easy:

Please forward this message to your friends either on Facebook, Twitter or StumbleUpon

Need help to Travel to New Zealand then contact:

Lookout Point

Tourism New Zealand

Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race

Christchurch Tourist Board

Read Earthquake Stories from Christchurch

Jim McIntosh of Holes in My Soles

Heather Hapeta

France – The French Way Travel Blog

Read Tourist Stories of Travel in NZ

Inspiring Travellers

Fundraising Assistance Please

Christchurch Earthquake Appeal launched by the NZ Prime Minister John Key

Red Cross

We have no cars, but for this I’m quite pleased. We can’t drive anywhere and so can’t see the entire destruction of my city Christchurch. Now we don’t even want to watch the TV coverage. One day we will recover our vehicles from the town centre, but we’d rather not see it right now.

We have been shown over the last week how even in the worst of times, you see the best of people, and this has been the most humbling of experiences.

We strive to retain our sense of humour and strive to remain positive. There are no shortages of stories around us, some that make us laugh and many that make us cry.

There was a friend who had parked outside a shop while he bought some provisions. During the quake the building fell down on to his car and flattened it. In desperation he had to get to his young children’s school. On the other side of the road was a Nissan car dealership. He ran over the road and said “quick I must have a car to get my children”. The dealer promptly threw him the keys for the new latest model Nissan and told him to go quickly. No names given, just go! The car was so new it didn’t even yet have number plates!

Then there was the story of the family whose dog ran from the home not to be seen for six hours after the quake, yet when it returned it was leading five other traumatised dogs. The owners looked after these dogs until they could find their owners! A similar story comes from our local traiteur who returned home to find his horses kneeling in a circle in their paddock. We are all affected.

Several times a day now we have a TV briefing from our Mayor and various experts. Supporting these experts we have a person giving the briefing in sign language (for the deaf). My 9 year old nephew visited us yesterday and proudly informed us of all the sign language he had learnt over the last week. He had mastered the signs for earthquake, after-shock, and dust – the only words we need to know at the moment!

Flooding is not something you would think of when you hear of an earthquake, but for much of Christchurch this was a major concern. Liquefaction is where water and silt is forced up through the ground from subterranean aquifers when under intense pressure. Our properties have been inundated with viscous sludge and water. It has been a week of heavy tiring digging clearing our properties. Drains are blocked with this thick sludge rendering drains and sewage systems inoperable. Yesterday I bought a supply of chemical toilets for my neighbours – we were so excited! If I knew a week ago that I’d be out buying a chemical toilet I would not have been laughing or as excited as I am today!!

Everyone knows of someone whose home has been destroyed. A home isn’t the same as a building – a home is where children have been born and brought up, a home is full of love and memories, a home is where all those “first” events take place, first steps, first words, first giggles, first friends.

Devastation is a word being used. It seems impossible to think of how much some people are suffering. We have a parent from school, who in ten seconds on 22 February at 12.51pm lost his home, his business, and his son.

If you are in a position to make a donation to assist our recovery efforts please visit the Red Cross website.

Personally I would like to thank all you wonderful people out there who have been in contact with us over the last week. I feel like I have heard from every person in France, Australia, America, and other countries as well. Your support and best wishes helps us all so much!

Knox Church - one of so many churches destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake.

My local shops in Merivale, Christchurch

My office was just a mess, nothing more. Other peoples' offices were destroyed.

This is the liquefaction sludge being cleared by these wonderful volunteers from my properties. Back breaking work. More than 150,000 tonnes needs to be cleared from Christchurch.

I was sitting in my office in Christchurch, working away diligently as always, but then everything changed.


Oh my God, book cases flew across the room, my computer was thrown off my desk. I was grasping at my desk to stop me from being thrown to the floor. I was on my own. Where were my family? Oh God, where were my family?

I sent a text message out to my wife, daughter and son. “are you OK? And I waited.

Those were the longest five minutes of my life as I waited. “I’m OK” came in three times! Phew, we’re OK.

And then one by one they came home! JOY.

We’ve just had a devastating earthquake in my home town, Christchurch. We’re OK, but hundreds and thousands aren’t. The centre of our city, that my great-grandfather and my grand father helped to build has been flattened. But we’re OK.

We’ve had no power for the last ten hours, no water, no sewage, but we are together and OK. There are people trapped in buildings across the centre of our city. Please think of them. There are thousands of homeless sleeping outside tonight (in the rain). Please think of them. On top of all that we are getting quakes every ten minutes which we should be used to, but these are different.

I am lucky to have friends all around the world, and while our power has just come on, I have a moment with internet access to let you know that we are OK. Our Prime Minister has said “we are a city in agony”. My family agree with him.

The days ahead will be sad as we try and understand it all. We have read of so much trauma and sadness throughout the world in the last few weeks, and secretly I’d like things to turn around for the better.

Love to you all!

I just need a bed for the night!

I hear this comment in my travel business all the time. Well, if you are going to travel to the south of France and find yourself in the beautiful fishing port of Villefranche sur Mer, just 7km out of Nice, and you just want a bed for the night, then don’t go and stay at the Hotel Welcome.

Nearly 25 years ago I brought my wife on a surprise Honeymoon from New Zealand to the south of France. She had no idea where she was going, but soon found out that there was a good 30 hours of sitting in a plane to get used to before arriving in this idyllic location.

This is the waterfront of Villefranche sur Mer. Restaurants on the waterfront. The Hotel Welcome just out of sight on the left of picture.

We hired a bright red convertible Peugeot car and drove up to the door of the Hotel Welcome. I was feeling fairly self-assured as I had learnt French at school, and I had brushed up on a few critical phrases, just so I could impress my new wife. With my wife firmly in hand I strolled up to the hotel reception and proclaimed

Bonjour Madamoiselle, je m’appele Monsieur Reese, j’ai une réservation à votre hotel. Hi, I’m John Reese I’ve got a booking here with you.

Comment ca s’écrit? – How do you spell that. (All good so far!!)

R E E S E – I slowly spelt each letter out.

Blank look across the desk

Errr, comment ca s’écrit?

So what don’t you understand. It’s R E E S E. Again I pedantically spelt out each of the five letters that make up my surname!

No, still a completely blank look, as she looked through the planning chart for the day.

Maybe the receptionist was deaf?

Finally I reached for her pen and wrote my name on a piece of paper.

Aaaah, Air Er Er Ess Er, Monsieur Reese!  Ah, Mr Reese, welcome to the Hotel Welcome! Phew !

(Sadly I never learnt how to pronounce phonetically the letters in French at school!!)

This was our introduction to this very special address. We have now returned to this place almost annually since that time and have been fortunate to experience the unique position of this hotel perched on the edge of the bay of Villefranche sur Mer. From the balcony of each bedroom you can sit and watch the comings and goings of the bay. During the day you can watch the luxury cruise boats sail into port and moor themselves in the bay right in front of you, you can watch the fishermen unload their catch right at your feet. Then in the still of a dark night you can look across the mirror flat water of the Villefranche sur Mer bay reflecting the lights and dreams of luxurious villas on the nearby Cap Ferrat, whilst listening to the gentle rocking of a nearby yachts’ masts moored in front of your hotel.

The Hotel Welcome on the waterfront. All the rooms have balconies.

But the Hotel Welcome is not just my second home. The famous French artist Jean Cocteau lived here for two years in the 1920s, and stayed in Room 22, which you can stay in today! The present owner of the hotel, Gerard Galbois, displays a sketch which Cocteau presented to his father, which carries the words “A mon très cher Welcome, où j’ai passé le meilleur de ma vie” “To my dearest Hotel Welcome, where I spent the best years of my life”. As well Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor stayed here, as well as Somerset Maugham.

I have many tourist who regularly return to the Hotel Welcome. Even without a car you have easy and regular access by train and bus, with places like Cannes, Antibes, Monte Carlo, Nice and Menton all being less than an hour away. One morning you might wake up and while enjoying breakfast overlooking this idyllic port view, you might decide to catch a train through to Italy to visit the Ventimiglia morning market just 40 minutes away – then after a pizza and pasta for lunch you can head back to your home away from home!

When you travel to the south of France you can either choose to have “just a bed” for the night, or you can choose to stay here at the Hotel Welcome – once you’ve been here, you’ll keep returning, just like me!

The view from my bedroom's balcony across the bay to Cap Ferrat. Bliss!

(Article written by my darling daughter Sarah)

“Love is all around” , Wet Wet Wet first belted out in 1994, and yes, in fact, it is. Whether it dwells in families, friends, places, romances, partners, or pets, the Scottish pop band have a point. Love is all around: people sing about it, paint about it, write about it, sculpt about it, and make movies about it.  Even as a child, I understood that Love in whatever form is the most powerful force and human emotion that exists, even though I had obviously never experienced it in its romantic form. Love defines the way we live our lives; the way we laugh, cry, fear, smile, hope, and dream. It can bring us together, or tear us apart. It can be the most reliable force, or the most volatile one. Love is truly the Zeus-like figure in the Realms of Human Emotions; altering the way we live our life, and sculpting the paths we follow.

Valentine's Day in Paris?

Like every important event in life (the birth or death of Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed there is usually a day to commemorate it. Well, what a splendid idea then to commemorate this wonderful thing called Love! Thank you, Saint Valentine. However, as mysterious as love is itself, we know very little about the real Saint Valentine. Interesting. We only know that 14 saints called Valentine were martyred in Ancient Rome, and their personal attributes were often roses, birds, or a bishop with a crippled or epileptic child at his feet. (Sorry, just had to chuck that one in there!) The February 14 celebration of love and affection, which we today know as Valentine’s Day, was in fact created in 500AD by Pope Gelasius (sounds a bit like an icecream to me: “I’ll have a wildberry gelasius in a waffle cone please.”) It was removed off the Roman Calendar of Saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, but today has remained a popular mass-produced-greeting-card-way to say “I love you”. I sound pessimistic, but for a very long time I had every reason to be….

For the first two decades of my life, Valentine’s Day was the second-most dreaded day of the calendar year. The first: cross-country. (Obviously.) Bouquets of flowers, chocolates, stuffed teddy bears, rose petals, Hershey’s Kisses, real kisses: you name it, I didn’t get it. For me the highlight of Valentine’s Day was sitting in front of the television with my single friends watching re-runs of Friends or The Notebook, eating calorific feasts of popcorn, Cadbury Caramello chocolate, and downing copious amounts of Pinot Noir to drown our sorrows. (Just to clarify, I’m talking about my late teenage years here not my primary school ones for all those who may have been confused and sliiightly concerned…) Although there were glimmers of hope along the way, I was always alone on Valentine’s Day. And yet, I never ever lost my belief in the thing we call Love. Because, as the old men on the NZ Mainland Cheese ad say, “Good things take time, but they are well worth waiting for.”

It wasn’t until I met my Special Someone In Particular where this wise theory kicked into action. Funnily enough, our first date (or ‘courting session’ as my grandmother might prefer to call it) was in Paris, the City of Love. On Valentine’s Day. Swoon. I got whisked off my feet to a glamorous and decadent Indian restaurant on the Left Bank (a mere three days after recovering from a violent vomiting bug) where I would be wined and dined in pure Parisian style. Despite the stomach cramps radiating to my kneecaps, a flame inside my heart burned brightly and I realized what this wait had been all about.

Excitedly I waited until the next morning before emailing one of my bestest buddies (/relationship counselor) back home in New Zealand. I believe the subject line of the email read something like, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, my BOYFRIEND is so COOL and LOVELY.” I will never forget the response I got back that evening:


Ah, wuv.

In Paris. The city of wuv.

He does sound dreamy. (Sigh)

Could a more perfect potential-future-life-partner exist? Well, probably not short of Mr. Darcy. Or Clive Owen. Or Clive Owen playing Mr. Darcy.

The only real problem I have with all this is that I can see no possible way of us double-dating any time soon. I mean, how would that work? We could start saving now, but dinner and a movie is looking somewhere ’round $3500 for me and Bek, not counting baby-sitting…

Aside from the obvious hilarity of this email and the continuous giggles that followed, the real reason I have treasured it is because it was the first time I have felt complete as a person: I realized I had my precious friends on both sides of the world, my devoted family, and now a loving Special Someone In Particular at my side. Love, in every possibly form, actually is all around.

However, we all know that Love isn’t just fancy dinners, cheesy Hallmark cards and Whitney Houston ballads; I did in fact see something on the silver screen the other night which depicted all this love business incredibly and accurately. French photographer Pierre Thoretton’s first documentary L’Amour Fou (literally translating to ‘Crazy Love’) depicts the lives of Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner of fifty years, Pierre Bergé. Within five minutes of the opening credits, I was an emotional train-wreck. We see Bergé in front of the camera; a man who has just closed the eyes of the man he had loved for half a century. Quite simply, he intimately tells us their love story; they fell in love, move in together within two weeks, and stuck together through turbulent waves of depression, fame, fortune, and the burden of being genius. Spanish literary great Paulo Coelho once described Love as,a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; it’s sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we’re doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.” And this is the exact reason why L’Amour Fou affected me so profoundly, as it highlighted the pure existence of Love, embodying all its beauties and its imperfections. Thoretton’s film is also a poignant reminder of the transient nature of life, and the importance of cherishing the one we love so dearly, for we never know what tomorrow may bring.

So…this Valentine’s Day, buy one of those much-loved mass-produced cards, a box of Hershey’s Kisses, or simply just tell your Valentine how much you love them. Although I will be 20,000 kilometres away from my gorgeous Special Someone In Particular this 14 February, we will still both be proposing a toast to Saint Valentine (whoever the heck he was) but more importantly to Love, because without it we’d be nothing. And as the Beatles once cranked out (albeit rather repetitively), “all you need is love.”

L’Amour Fou by Pierre Thoretton is screening as part of the L’Oreal Paris French Film Festival 2011 in New Zealand.

Screening times:

Wellington, Penthouse Cinema: Feb 15, 8.30pm

Auckland, Academy Cinemas: Feb 17 6.30pm; Feb 22 8.15pm; Feb 23 4.15pm

Auckland, Devonport Victoria Picture Palace: Feb 20, 6.00pm

Christchurch, Regent on Worcester Cinema: Feb 25 6.30pm; February 28 8.30pm

To read more of the NZ L’Oreal Paris French Film Festival 2011 you can click here.


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