Diplomats tell us what Kiwis need to know about their homelands.

The thing you probably know about my country is:

Paris, French flair, the arts, wine and food, Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle and yes, Les Bleus beat the All Blacks from time to time.

But the thing you really should know is: France is a country that stretches from the Pacific (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna) to the Americas (Guyana, French Indies and St Pierre et Miquelon), from Africa (Reunion) to the southern Indian Ocean (the Kerguelen Islands).

Over there, we think Kiwis are: Our only rugby mates, valiant and friendly allies "from the uttermost ends of the Earth", outstanding adventurers like Sir Ed, outdoor enthusiasts from a unique country.


On a short visit, you should: Visit Paris, now more than ever. Like your Prime Minister and his family, watch the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees; look down this avenue from the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower's twinkling lights.

On a longer visit, you should: Discover two of my favourite regions:

1. Alsace, where my family history can be traced back to the 15th century: follow the Alsatian wine route, or "route des vins", from Strasbourg to Mulhouse through beautiful villages like Riquewihr and Mittelbergheim and visit the Vosges mountain range where you must share a farmhouse lunch and savour a "kugelhopf", a delicious coffee cake.

2. The French Alps, where my family goes in summer, or in winter for skiing: an unspoilt paradise.

Our national sport is:

Football in Northern France and rugby in the southwest.

The one food thing you really should try is: A cafe creme and a tartine (fresh baguette generously topped with butter) in any cafe in Paris; a macaron from world-renowned pastry chef Pierre Herme, a piece of edible art; Choucroute (a sauerkraut and cured meat dish) with a bottle of riesling from Alsace.

Make sure you avoid: Starting a political debate in a cafe at 8am with a Frenchman; you may still be there at 10pm.

The weather is: Full of contrast, just like the French. Best way to get around ... on a bike.

A handy phrase you should know is: Liberte-Egalite-Fraternite: It resonates even stronger today.

Florence Jeanblanc-Risler is the French Ambassador to New Zealand.