Thursday, March 19, 2009

Signs of the times

One great way to get a feel for the local vibe is to pick out one small part of it and focus on it while you're travelling. One avid traveller I know always takes a dance class, wherever she goes. Several people (including me) like going into grocery stores, just to see what's hot and what's not. A while back, I blogged about a lovely article written by a traveller who makes a point of visiting post offices.

Here's my tip of the day for getting inside the heads of the locals: pay attention to street signs. Sure, you'll see the usual "men at work" and speed limit signs, but you'll likely see a few unusual things. Like this "watch out for surfers" sign on Easter Island, for instance.

Or this "iguana crossing" sign on the driveway of the Gingerbread Hill guesthouse on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.

Few people do quirky signs quite like the British. On a childhood trip to the U.K., I remember being fascinated by ominous-looking roadsigns featuring a giant exclamation point. At one point we even got out of the car to photograph one that included the caption: "Caution: Road liable to subside." (Few things I've encountered since have summed up the British talent for understatement quite so succinctly.)

Even something as innocuous as a street name can merit a photograph, as a recent New York Times story featuring the unfortunately named Butt Hole Road in South Yorkshire shows.

So what's the weirdest road sign you've ever seen in your travels? And what did it tell you about the place?


Vera Marie said...

Laura: There is a whole book of hilarious Indian signs along the road called Indian Highways Road Signs.

BTW, I'm with you on grocery stores. Besides the fact that I like to save money by picknicking along the way, I find it fascinating to learn what the products are that are featured in various countries' stores.

Tess said...

I should have taken you to see the Cat Crossing sign on School Road in Gibsons - it's outside the Happy Cat Haven (

Next time!!!

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

Those Indian road signs are HILARIOUS, Vera Marie! Thanks for sending the link. (I loved "This is highway, not a runway" and "Drive like hell and you'll be there.")

And I love the idea of a cat crossing sign, Teresa! We need one around here, as our cat Neville regularly shoots across the road like a demented bullet and makes me crazy.

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

I just found a blog about those funny Indian road signs by an author who has written a book about them:

julieoc said...

Hey Laura, my all-time favourite sign was in PEI:

Caution: Church Traffic

BTW: thanks for the plug about the HomeLink contest. Update: wants to match the prize, so now people have TWO chances to win!

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

Love the church traffic sign, Julie! Reminds me of a sign one of my sisters (or perhaps I was the one!) misread when we were kids. It really said "Watch out for pedestrians" but we thought it said "Watch out for Presbyterians."