Signs all around us – Part 2

This week we’ll look at signs that touch you on an emotional level. They may make you chuckle, scratch your head, feel a pang, feel trepidation or its opposite, relief, or even make you hungry/thirsty (often because of where they’re located).

Let’s eat/drink!

The photo below reminds me of a fantastic place where we had breakfast in Ireland. We’d missed the breakfast slot at the hotel, but the front desk staff recommended this place on a local farm, whose name refuses to stick in my head. However, I can always bring up this photo with the place name thoughtfully imprinted on bags in which to cart off loaves of their fresh, crusty bread.

Our lodge deep in the Amazon jungle along the Madre de Dios river, served up a wild assortment of irresistible cocktails. I believe I tried the Anaconda 🙂

On a trip into eastern Ontario last fall, when the pandemic situation on our province was still largely contained, we visited a farm market that’s famous in the area but danged hard to find, even with a GPS. We’re glad we persevered, though — a dazzling assortment of homemade and gluten-free products listed on the sign behind the counter. We’d tucked a cooler in the back of our pickup truck in case there was anything we wanted to come home with; we filled that up and stuffed a couple of paper bags full of fruits and vegetables in between the golf clubs on top of that!

A little libation of the colonial variety with a flight of beer, helpfully labelled, at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

Something every hot and thirsty traveler wants to see, a roadside stand offering fresh tropical fruit juice.

Signs of delight

I loved this bumper sticker so much I had to take a photo of it, in the town of Sleepy Hollow in New York State.

Knowing is half the battle 😉

A hiking trail through some woods had a section created especially for all children of all ages.

This vervet monkey in Kenya clearly needed its morning java.

Head-scratchers

Clearly this fellow would be the solution to all of life’s problems 😉

Of the ‘what the heck’ variety. This sign could also fall under the ‘induces trepidation’ category. We saw a number of signs like this in eastern Tennessee. Really, why would anyone need to rent a machine gun?!

This sign only fell into this category after we drove round a mountain for over an hour trying to find the spot, unsuccessfully, followed by blowing out a tire as we went back down the mountain, put on the spare on the side of a steep and narrow road and limped the rest of the way down to our bed-and-breakfast. Let’s just say that signage in Ireland lacks a lot of pertinent information and frequently stumps the GPS in your rental vehicle.

A wave of nostalgia

I grew up in the Woodstock era. I was much too young to be allowed to go, but the scrappy little music festival ended up making history and defining a generation. When we found out a few years ago that the site had been restored and was available to visit, we had to go — to stand in the place that was such a big moment in our youths and to share in that moment even if only in retrospect.

We also grew up with the Charlie Brown comics. One of the annual Christmas-season events in our house is a viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas — we never tire of it. It remains a popular show to this day, but I’m not sure more recent generations realize what a time capsule it is — children walking around by themselves after dark, lots of wide snowy undeveloped spaces and frozen ponds to skate on, the popularity of metallic trees… We’d been down to the fantastic ICE! show at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville once before while spending Christmas with one of our cousins, and on a return visit as soon as I found out that the theme that year would be A Charlie Brown Christmas I booked the tickets! It was a chilly blast from the past to walk through the entire story done in larger-than-life ice sculptures.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has always been my favourite spooky story, with the big bad as a dead Hessian soldier on his jet black horse with a flaming pumpkin for a head! In another aha moment, as soon as I found out that the town of Sleepy Hollow actually exists (originally called North Tarrytown but adopting the name from Washington Irving’s most famous story out of affection and marketing value), I knew we had to go. The entire area is Irving country and replete with all kinds of Halloween events. But most important of all, you can walk across the modern incarnation of the bridge that helped inspired Irving in his 1820 tale of terror in the wilds of Westchester County.

Although this style of signage was iconic of an earlier generation, when you stumble upon one now it’s a perfect little time capsule of a bygone era when post-war life was good, the economy was booming and North America was full of innocence and optimism.

Shiver me timbers!

As a devotee of haunted attractions, I love the creativity in signage used to intrigue us and make us wonder if it’s safe to go on.

Of course, this photo is of one of the least-frightening Halloween attractions around, but it’s an opportunity to turn into a five-year-old again for a few hours.

Busch Gardens in Williamsburg does a little eerier version — not too frightening, but lots of atmosphere!

Signs throughout the park during the day promise thrills after dark.

Here in Ontario, Fort Henry in Kingston takes advantage of its built-in architecture to turn into its creepy alter-ego once the sun goes down.

Next week we’ll continue on this theme with poignant signs that give us insight into the tears of the past.

As always, all photos are by me and all rights are reserved.

Signs all around us – Part 1

No, this isn’t an alien-conspiracy theory post (sorry to disappoint). Signs of all kinds punctuate our lives — they inform us, warn us, teach us, engage us, sometimes bewilder, amuse or anger us. A lot of times people ignore them — something I see almost daily when I’m out driving! But signs tell us so much about the culture and the times. I especially find signs in foreign countries fascinating, and the ‘fire gathering place’ sign from my post two weeks ago reminded me of that as well as inspired today’s post.

I started out taking sign photos on our travels as place markers, really, although to my hubby’s dismay I remember the location of 99% of the photos I’ve taken, as well as details and how to get there. But after a while, some signs began to catch my eye because they were intriguing in their message, or off-the-wall, or so emblematic of a place/time. I have hundreds of photos; this is just a tiny selection.

Signs that make a statement

As our small safari tour was leaving Nairobi to head towards our first game reserve in Kenya, this sign jumped out at me. The university was clearly making a very strong stance about corruption. This trip was a last-minute creation, after the original adventure I’d put together for Egypt had to be cancelled due to the Arab Spring revolution throughout many parts of the Middle East, so I didn’t have time to learn a lot about Kenyan politics before we arrived. I looked the subject up as soon as we got home, and found that corruption had become rife in Kenya, particularly in the government, a sad state of affairs since the country gained its independence from Great Britain in 1963.

As you enter Colonial Williamsburg from the Visitor Center, you journey back through time along a walkway paved with stones that highlight what your life would have been like in certain eras. You might have to read this one a couple of times to understand its import. Unfortunately, 156 years later, slavery still exists.

We’ve seen many billboards like this on our road trips through the central-southern part of the U.S. Interestingly, on the opposite side of the highway we’ve also seen big boards advertising a chain of sex-toy shops, so one might wonder about the chicken-and-egg sequence.

Although the Troubles in northern Ireland flared up over two decades ago, they’re still very fresh in the minds of the people, and there are still strong feelings on both sides. Peace is fragile there; when we were there two years ago, Brexit was looming large and threatening to start things all over again. You can take a Black Cab tour with a guide who’s both knowledgeable about what went on and sensitive to the people who still reside in areas like Shankill Road, one of the most violent hotspots at the time. Many walls are painted with either commemorative artwork, or messages like this one that encourage the young adults now to avoid getting caught up in hostilities.

Helpful signs

If you like to drive yourself when travelling, directional signs are a godsend, of course. Here we were entering the Skyline Drive in Virginia from a midpoint — there are a limited number of access points — so this sign helped us determine which direction we needed to go in.

There are several hop-on/hop-off bus routes in Dublin, Ireland, and signs like this are dual-purpose: they help you find your way when you disembark, and they list both the traditional Irish name for a place as well as the English-language version, thus keeping an ancient language alive and vibrant. It’s entertaining to try pronouncing the Irish versions.

You don’t see many of these anymore, a row of clocks telling you what time it is currently in different parts of the world — useful if you’re a business person or want to torture yourself with jet lag by reminding you what time your body might still think it’s in. They were a fixture in black-and-white adventure movies from the 1930s and 1940s. This one was located in our hotel in Lima, Peru.

Iconic signs

Some signs become famous in their own right.

Some are iconic because they represent a location that’s world-famous,

Others capture an entire culture in their visual structure.

These are the entrance gates to Buckingham Palace. There’s no verbal pronouncement of the location, but there doesn’t really need to be, does there? If you’re standing in front of these gates, through which visitors may not pass, you’ll be duly impressed by the lavish stonework of the supporting columns and the magnificence of the crests, indicating that what lies beyond is the preserve of one of the last remaining monarchies in the world, as well as all the history and pageantry associated with it.

Warning signs

Shush!! Evidently impatient truck drivers passing through this crossing between districts in Peru are wont to blow their horns when they get tired and fractious.

The safari lodge we stayed at in Livingstone, Zambia, is located inside Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. If you stay there, you’ll have wild animal encounters every day — zebras wander around the grounds drinking from water drainage troughs along the paths (not that it rains much, but the spray from Victoria Falls shoots high up above the lodge’s roofs and falls as a form of rain), monkeys that will tear apart your room and all your belongings if you make the mistake of leaving a window open, and crocodiles lurking in pools of water. No touching, please. We saw one brainless tourist narrowly avoid getting kicked in the head after he tried to pet a zebra, despite the warning signs.

This may not look like a warning sign, but it is for anyone who’s gone to Africa to bunji-jump in one of the most famous locations in the world. The sign indicates the exact spot on the Victoria Falls Bridge where the Zambian side of the Falls and the Zimbabwe side meet, and this is where the bunji-jump station is located. Why does that matter, you may ask? Because if a jumper has an accident while they’re flinging themselves off this perfectly good bridge, neither country has to claim liability.

These instructions at the remote archeological site of Tiwanaku in the Bolivian Andes are also clear as a bell, even without words.

I think it’s fair to call this TV screen a warning sign. We’d just found out the day before that a Category 3 hurricane, which had appeared out of nowhere, was heading directly for our vicinity. It had pounced on Florida as Category 5, but had thankfully downgraded by the time it reached us. All we could do was keep an eye on the news, download the Red Cross alert app onto my phone, rearrange our touring plans, and hunker down in our hotel room with some dinner in the fridge and battery-operated candles on the dresser.

That morning, after a hurried trip to see the Yorktown Battlefield, we did spot some helpful signs like this one, should the need arise:

Not-so-helpful signs

Some signs do try, but they’re just not much in the way of real assistance.

This wall sign at one of the convents in Peru may have meant something to the residents, but for tourists, trying to figure out where we were in the maze of winding streets and rooms in the little city-within-a-city in Arequipa was not aided by looking at this.

When signs don’t exist

There are times when the absence of a sign imparts a lot of information…

In the display window of this store in Lima, if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.

The lack of a sign may also be either a deficiency on the part of the powers-that-be, or the lack of an infrastructure through which to sue if you’re injured. Here our group is scrambling down one of the most terrifying staircases (I call it that loosely) we’ve ever descended, at Machu Picchu in Peru. There was no railing to prevent us from falling several thousand feet down into the Urubamba river gorge on the right of the stairs, and only a sheer rock face on our left to use for some dubious comfort as we felt our way down the worn rocks stuck into the ground. We dared not take more than one step at a time. I wanted to kiss the ground when we got to the bottom.

What was really aggravating was watching the locals scamper down as if it was nothing.

Come back next week for more on the subject of the wild and crazy world of signage. All photos are by me and all rights reserved.