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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.

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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:

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

Earthquake!

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!

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(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:

Sarah!

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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My heart is heavy, my whole body feels heavy. I am sad.

William is the son of our friends. He was a young man in his early 20s. He was handsome, sporty, personable, well educated, and utterly charming. He was the sort of guy you’d want to come home with your daughter. But this weekend Will ended his life.

As a teenager he developed a problem with alcohol, and then alcohol and drugs. With the support of his family he agreed that something must be done about his problem. He visited Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), accepted he had a problem and over the last few years, has fought valiantly against his problems. He hasn’t been on his own doing this. His family have been right with him on this journey. His step-father Richard has loved and supported Will as if each hour were the last. Every day Richard has driven Will to his AA meeting, sometimes when on holidays he has driven him four hours just so that they could attend a meeting of support.

Will was so brave.  He was kind. He spoke to groups of impressionable school boys of his problems, urging them, begging them to make the right decisions in life. He helped to change the attitudes of young men. But in the end it was too much for Will.

What can we do? What can we learn? If we see problems what do we do about it? We must spread Will’s story to the impressionable young out there, the young around you. We are all responsible – you and me.

Please don’t write any comments to this message. Just pray for Will and his family – to give them the strength to get through the following days and weeks.

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A traveller busy on her iPhone in the Paris metro!

Both the Interior Ministry and the local Paris train company (RATP) have warned that in the Paris metros there has been a large increase in pick-pocketing. An increase of 40% of reported thefts over the last year has astounded the French Interior Minister, Monsieur Hortefeux.

Of the reported thefts the majority of stolen items have been smartphones and in particular the iPhone. The Minister has encouraged the RATP to warn travellers of the risk of pick-pockets in the metros, as well as discussed with product providers whether there is a way of remotely and quickly disabling the use of stolen phones to make them worthless for subsequent operation.

In any major city such thefts are always a major issue and tourists in particular seem to have a “she’ll be right attitude” when touring around Paris. My family and I have observed on many occasions thieves in action. I hear often from my readers and travellers in Paris that they are safe carrying their handbags across their shoulders. However I have personally seen a number of handbags just ripped away from people before the thieves disappear in to the crowd. Once on Blvd St Germain near the St Germain metro stop a businessman was carrying his briefcase strapped across his shoulder and under his arm – a thief grabbed the bag and just continued pulling the man along the road until the strap broke and the thief disappeared with the bag including his computer into the metro never to be seen again!

Not everyone waits for their metro this way!

I always say to people to be security conscious. For men, never carry a credit card or too much money in your wallet – credit cards and excess cash should be carried in a security belt under your clothes. For ladies remember that a handbag is not secure – in fact it would be the least secure of anything! Now that you know that Smartphones are such a target, make sure you keep these well out of way – after all we don’t want thieves picking Apples in the Paris metro!!

But Paris is beautiful – enjoy it safely!

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Snow in Paris

You sit in the window as the feathery snowflakes drift slowly to the ground. You become transfixed watching in awe as these flakes try to defy gravity as they make their way to the ground. You call out to your family to come and watch. “It’s snowing!”

You crowd around the window watching this spectacle in front of you. You watch first the bikes struggling, then the pedestrians in the street struggling whilst still wearing their elegant Paris shoes, then finally it’s time for the cars to struggle.

We’ve got to go out and enjoy this! You go outside, you scrape up some snow in your bare hands and throw a snowball at your nearest and dearest – several in fact! Then just to finish off you get a handful of snow and shove it down someone’s neck under their clothes!! Victory! I hate it when that happens – to me!!

You go back inside, to the warmth of your apartment, leaving your sodden shoes inside the door. Feet are frozen, cold and damp! You rush to the window again. “Oh isn’t it beautiful, but if this keeps up we’re going to be in trouble”.

Well over the last 24 hours it’s been snowing in Paris, and now they’re in trouble. There has been around 15cm of snow through the Paris region, and the roads are chaos. Last night there were 160km of traffic jams around the main roads and on the ring road. As well many train lines were closed, and the metro was significantly disrupted making peoples’ return home seemingly impossible.

But then the sun comes out, and the whole place seems like a scene out of a fairytale! It’s as if someone has thrown bucket loads of diamonds over your neighbourhood. Everything sparkles! If you can keep warm and not need to travel around for the day this is one of the most wonderful views. What is it about snow?

I love Paris in the snow!

 

Snow at St Germain Cafe, Paris

A wintery day in Paris

A sunny start to a snowy day

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