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Top 17 French phrases to learn before Paris



French phrases to learn before Paris
Terrorising Paris with my inability to speak French

The last time I spoke French I managed to fail my Year 9 course at High School with a rough rendition of introducing myself and then staring blanky at the teacher when he asked me further questions.  This time I vowed to do better and practice French phrases to learn before Paris.  

So before our trip to Paris I popped into the local public library and borrowed the Learn French for Dummies guide.  I skim read it for about an hour or two a night and tried to learn a little bit to help us order our morning pastries and baguettes.

Below are our top French phrases to learn before Paris that we found helped us the most when we were cycling and wandering the streets of Paris.  Now I am definitely no expert so while I have tried to provide a breakdown of how you say them as well as the translation be prepared that the Kiwi accent that we have probably didn’t help us out too much!  However, it really does sound like it is spelt (in the brackets) and every time you say a line you will gain in confidence so keep practising.

French phrases to learn before Paris

Whenever you meet someone on the street and/or EVERYTIME you walk into a shop make sure you acknowledge the person with a simple greeting such as:

Bonjour (Boh(n)-zhur) Translation:Good morning and hello


Bonsoir (bohn SWAHR) Translation:Good evening

Throw in a little Monsieur or Madame to spice it up a little bit as well.  Usually at this stage you will get a similar response followed by a barrage of French while you stand there with your mouth hanging open and a blank expression on your face.

Now is the time to close that mouth, smile and break out a quick note to mention you have no idea what they so eloquently said:

Je ne comprends pas (ZHUHnuh kohm-PRAHN pah) Translation: I don’t understand.

French language in Paris
Got by with enough French to enjoy breakfast

The person you are speaking to will usually switch straight into English and you won’t have any more problems.  However I found this a bit annoying as I often wanted to practice myFrench rather than rely on English.  So when they would answer in English, if I could, I would speak a little bit of French in each sentence.

Even if it was just agreeing with, or disagreeing with what they were saying:

Oui (wee) Translation: Yes

Non (non) Translation: No

You can also ask them whether ornot they speak your native tongue.  Surprisingly we never had anyone thatwe were not able to communicate with effectively or that could not speak alittle bit of English:

Parlez-vous anglais? (par-layVOO Ong-LAY?) Translation: Do you speak English?

Often after the initial introduction or entrance it is polite to ask:

Comment ça va? (koh-mahn sah vah)Translation: How are you? 

And if they ask you in return then reply with a simple:

Bien, merci (bee-uhn, MEHR-see) Translation:Fine, thank you. 

Some old bird

A good one to use when you are wandering the Louvre with your eyes flicking back and forth between the artworks while bashing into everyone is:

Je suis Désolé (Zhuhswee DEH-soh-LAY); Translation: I am sorry


Excusez-moi (ehk-SKEW-zayMWAH) Translation: Excuse me

Another one that really helped a lot that we used when trying to find something, buy something, or just ask a question was usually to begin with:

Je voudrais… (zhuh voo-DREH…) Translation: I would like…

And if your Mum ever taught you properly then make sure that when ordering that coffee or croissant make sure you ask politely with a:

S’il vous plait Translation:Please

The French are very polite as well so make sure you never forget to use this phrase after someone has actually helped you.

Merci! (Mehrsee) Translation:Thank you!

Finally, on your way out make sure you leave the same way you entered by giving them a “Cheerio” (preferably not) or:

Au revoir (oh rer-vwahr)Translation: Goodbye


Bonne nuit (bohn NWEE) Translation:Good night

And no matter what, even if I felt like I had offended them or they were rushed we would always finish with a quick:

Bonne journee (BOHN-zhuh-nay) Translation: Have a nice day

This always without fail seemed to generate a smile out of even the most sour faced baker at the local corner store.

One of the best ways to learn from here is just practice, practice practice.  Now I made a few mistakes but I felt like we got by.  One of the most useful things we did was to write the French phrases to learn before Paris on to little post-it notes which I stuck around the room so that every time I passed them I  could practice them before we left.

I usually also ran through the French phrases in my head (yes I am a weirdo) if I was heading down to the Hotel Lobby or just before going into a shop so that I would say the right things. You would be surprised how often a smile and a quick attempt at speaking French would get us, rather than just butting in with; “Hey you, how do I get to that big famous metal tower?”

Getting my daily fix

What have your experiences been with learning a new language or visiting a foreign speaking country? And how did you cope?

Oh and if you are struggling to order something in the local patisserie store then just ask for “le pain aux raisins” (les pahn oh ray-sayn).  I had two a day and they were delicious!

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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  1. Jerick

    September 5, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    Exactement! My personal favourite is ça va? (short for how are you?) and then you respond – oui, ça va. et toi?

  2. FourJandals

    September 5, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Merci Jerick! You can definitely learn the slang quickly if you just have a chat with someone, such as the hotel desk staff who were always more than happy to help me out with my pronunciation. I have just tried to explain the more "formal" language above though. Cheers.

  3. Brendan van Son

    September 29, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    As a French speaking Canadian I feel the need for at least 3 swear words should be included in this list.

  4. Do

    November 28, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Hello !
    Your blog is sympathetic and I have met it by my cousin’s page on FB via NEW YORK HABITAT
    I’m Froggy 🙂 … and suggest the french usuel word “tongs” for jandal.

    Good journey and stage in old Europa!!
    Do Dourthe

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      November 28, 2011 at 2:26 PM

      Thanks! Always love learning new words for Jandals 🙂 Will have to update our page to list all the different names around the world I think. Hope you keep following us! Cheers Cole

  5. Sam

    January 31, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Good selection of the essential French phrases. It can be amazing how much more positive a reception you can receive when you make an effort with even just a few phrases of another persons language.

    • Cole

      February 1, 2012 at 9:38 AM

      I totally butchered the French language but definitely found everyone nicer when we spoke/attempted to a little bit.

  6. Jarmo

    January 31, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    Great, thanks! Heading to the French alps in March, and things always go more smooth if you know a few phrases of French. This should help! 🙂

    • Cole

      February 1, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      Where are you skiing Jarmo? We will be in 3 Vallees the first week of March!

  7. Alouise

    January 31, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Great list. After nine years of French from Elementary to High School, the only phrases that stick in my mind are the phrases that won’t do me any good traveling. However I do remember “Où est la toilette” – where is the toilet. That could come in handy.

    • Cole

      February 1, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      That toilet one is definitely a good one Alouise! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Laurence

    February 1, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Living in France means that I am rapidly learning that my school boy French is not quite as brilliant as I thought it was. Generally it starts off well.. and then goes wrong when people attempt to talk back to me. Still.. it’s all good fun!

    • Cole

      February 1, 2012 at 9:43 AM

      Haha that is exactly what happens when we attempt it as well. Once they speak back to me it is all downhill but a polite smile usually wins them over haha.

  9. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    February 6, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    Before I went, I learned to say, “I am very sorry. I do not speak French. Do you speak English.” Took me forever to memorize it, but it seemed to be received well 🙂

    • Cole

      February 6, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      As long as you learn a couple of key phrases Stephanie then I think it is appreciated 🙂 Our goal is to learn Spanish this year!

  10. cheryl

    February 8, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    Ha ha, cute! Glad you got by. 🙂

    Learning a new language is always tough. Trying to learn German now and it’s hard!

    • Cole

      February 8, 2012 at 9:26 AM

      I want to learn Spanish this year! Will let you know how it goes Cheryl haha.

  11. IPBrian

    February 18, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    Great list…I would throw in addition to Excusez-moi… Mon français n’est pas très bon. Translation: My french is not very good. Please correct me on the grammar if the translation doesn’t match up completely, but the Parisians I kept saying it to got the drift.

    • Cole

      February 19, 2012 at 8:52 AM

      Sounds about right to me Brian! But good that is definitely a good one if you can remember it 🙂

  12. A Cook Not Mad (Nat)

    April 19, 2012 at 6:49 AM

    We were in Italy last year, one month in a small village, we were the only English speaking people. You learn words very quickly when you get hungry.

    Another word for jandals, in good old Québécois, scougoune.

    • Cole Burmester

      April 19, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      So jealous of your time in Italy Nat! Luckily we are headed there in June/July so looking forward to it. And thanks for the extra word for Jandals 🙂

  13. Aggy

    November 19, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Awesome! I lived a year in France and still the language is too difficult for me! My fav sentence is “Je voudrais un pain au chocolat et beaucoup des macarons svp!” 🙂
    Oh, and don’t forget “Pardon!” – it’s an important word especially in the Paris metro!

  14. Kelsey

    February 18, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    Something to add, please never say “Adieu”!! This is so rude, even if you don’t mean it. It is perceived as “I will never see you again, nor do I want to!” Only say “Au revoir!” or the like. Thanks:)

    • Cole Burmester

      February 18, 2013 at 8:23 AM

      Thanks Kelsey. I never knew that! Luckily I have never said it 😉

  15. Sarah @the_hedonista

    April 13, 2013 at 5:30 AM

    I find myself using “la carte du vin, s’il vous plait” and “l’addition” all the time!

    • Cole Burmester

      April 13, 2013 at 10:34 PM

      That should be in the top phrases for France as well 😉

  16. Benjamin

    August 22, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    It’s impressing how a few basic words can totally change a travel abroad. Everytime I go abroad, I always learn some basic vocabulary, and it totally changes the way natives interact with you, they become even nicer and it lead me to very nice discoveries abroad.

    • Cole Burmester

      August 22, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Definitely like learning as much of the local language as well. At the moment I am in Thailand and it is much harder than French haha.

      • Benjamin

        August 22, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        Oh yeah, I learnt some Thai when I was there, definitely not easy :D. Good luck :).

  17. Longchamp Le Pliage

    August 3, 2016 at 11:02 PM

    Hello, I think your blog might be having browser
    compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, fantastic blog!

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Adventure Travel

Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos

These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.



Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.

To be honest, I was relieved.

The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.

Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

Puenta La Reina Bridge – Camino de Santiago Arrows

There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.

Church of Obanos

The Church of Obanos

And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.

The French Way - Camino de Santiago

The French Way – Camino de Santiago Photos

Puenta La Reina

Puenta La Reina in the evening

Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.

Puenta la Reina Bridge and Sunrise

Puenta la Reina Bridge at sunrise

Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!

Church of Santa Maria - Los Arcos

Church of Santa Maria in Los Arcos

While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.

The endless French Way

The endless French Way

Irache Wine Fountain - Fuente del Vino

The free flowing Irache Wine Fountain or “Fuente del Vino”

Hay bales along the French Way

Hay bales along the French Way

Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.

Ermita de San Miguel

Ermita de San Miguel

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.

Natural arches - Camino de Santiago

Natural arches on the Camino de Santiago

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel



Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.




Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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