Histoire d’enseignes. A story about signs (1)


We have been home for a week. We brought back a lot of pictures, Christmas gifts, memories, and two stubborn colds. New Year’s Eve was a blur, as we unpacked, filled the fridge, picked up Hailey Le Dog and Felix Le Cat at their respective hotels, and found the time to go look for Junior’s new furry friend, Hammy Le Hamster (a promise is a promise, after all). We toasted the New Year with dear friends, barely standing, and finally collapsed early on 1.1.11—  Ouf! Phew!

This week, friends, students, and acquaintances have asked me about Le Blog. I did not realize Les Aventures des S. à Paris had such a following. This made me happy. My readers asked if Le Blog would continue now that we are back in the Pacific Northwest. I replied: “Pourquoi pas?”– Not only do I still have pictures from the trip I would like to share, but I also have great plans for Le Blog (details to follow). And, really, quel kick this has been!

Where to start? I know. I am going to talk about something fun I did while in Paris during the Holidays. Thanks to the new supersonic camera Le Husband gave me as a Christmas gift (I swear it’s practically impossible to miss a picture with this fabulous little thing), I have had the best time taking pictures of signs. “Signs?”, you ask. Yes, signs. I love all signs in Paris. Enamel street signs, first of all. You know the ones. If Sleeping Beauty woke up in the middle of the Champs Elysées one day, she would only have to look at the nearest  blue sign, and voilà, she would instantly know where she was. How perfect are Parisian street signs? Not only do they look good, but they also tell you right away what Arrondissement (district) of Paris you are in (Left Bank, Right Bank). That’s not all. Street signs are usually named after a famous person, or event. As soon as you read them, you are literally transported back in time, and, if you are like Moi, your imagination starts wandering. Illustration…

Colette, French novelist, Gigi (le Musical), Chéri (le novel)…

What are the names most commonly found on French street signs? I am tempted to answer “République” or “Charles de Gaulle“– even though this is just based on personal observation, not on official statistics. I am pretty certain that e.v.e.r.y. French village/town/city has at least one rue (street), avenue, place (square) named after the glorious French Republic (born after the Revolution in 1789), or after the famous French statesman and war hero.

Before you start imagining this French girl walking around Paris taking pictures of blue street signs, I must add that I am interested in many other signs, like, par exemple, restaurant signs.

“At the Three Little Pigs” — How cute is that? 
“The White Wolf” sits immediately across from
“The Three Little Pigs” 
A great name for a restaurant, a simple, laid-back meal enjoyed pot-luck style

If, like Moi, you like signs, a great place to visit while in Paris is the fabulous (and free!) Musée Carnavalet. This is a favorite of mine, and it is dedicated to the history of Paris and the French revolution. The building itself is, quite simply, gorgeous. Built in the 16th century, the Hôtel Carnavalet was a private residence (some people have all the luck!) until it was turned into a museum in 1880. Two former hôtels particuliers form the museum, actually, but that’s another story.

Musée Carnavalet, le Marais

A popular display at le Carnavalet is a model of La Guillotine. Invented by Dr. Guillotin, the machine was put to good use during the years following the French Revolution and remained the main method of execution in France until the death penalty was abolished in 1981!

La Guillotine… in action!

My favorite part of the museum is very different and somewhat light-hearted. I give you: “La Salle des Enseignes“, the room of signs! A dream for sign lovers. Old signs, some dating back to Medieval Paris, boutique signs, office signs, advertising signs. Heaven, quoi!

Carnavalet – Salles des Enseignes

A funny thing happened as I was taking pictures of signs all over Paris. I started seeing black cats. I had one waiting at home, you see, Felix Le Cat. After a few days, it seemed that Felix was tagging along on the trip, popping up on street corners, in the most unexpected places. So I started collecting photos of black cats, just because. Miss you, Felix!

A suivre… To be continued here.

Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

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  1. Mimi Charmante on January 10, 2011 at 10:05 am

    LOVE the signs – my favorites however were le menu signs handwritten with the specials de jour!
    Happy you are back and can’t wait to see you Wednesday~

  2. Cherie Moore on January 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Very interesting and great photos, especially les noir chats. I have one also, Chloe, with white paws and neck.

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