Ode to a Road Sign
Apologies for missing last week’s newsletter, guys. I was in France! I planned to send it out while I was there but we didn’t really have any internet and to be honest, it was lovely to switch off and enjoy some analogue time. We stayed in a beautiful fishing village in Brittany, living in a house overlooking the estuary with a seasalt breeze drifting in each morning. I could tell you all about the coffee, crêpes, moules, frites, cider and madeleines, or watching the fireworks over the water on Bastille Day, or rockpooling for sea gooseberries and paddleboarding in the waves. But what I really want to tell you about are the road signs.
Me and Dave shared most of the driving, and once I’d gotten used to metric speed limits and driving on the right hand side of the road, I have to say the ‘autoroutes’ (motorways) in France are bloody lovely. So clear and smooth! Although they don’t seem to have heard of takeaway coffee which was tricky on the seven hour drive to the ferry port. Possibly the first time in my life I’ve longed for a homogenised coffee chain.
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Anyway, we weren’t long off the ferry before noticing these illustrated, sepia-toned road signs scattered along the motorways. What I loved about them was they weren’t particularly helpful in terms of directions, but through these simple illustrations they told us fleeting stories about the areas we were passing through. Some were historical, others war or wildlife themed. But they all gave us little glimpses into the places we were passing - the villages and towns hidden by the roadside trees, each with their own micro-cultures. We were travelling too fast to get proper photos so I’m going to paste a few stolen stock photos here:
Aren’t they fabulous? Perhaps it was just the hours of passenger boredom but they really brightened up the journey for me and got my imagination going about what each sign represented. Motorways are pretty boring places to be, let’s be honest, but it’s great to see this kind of creativity when it comes to connecting travellers with the landscapes they are passing through. It helps to heal the modern fragmentation between people and place, and I would love to see something similar in the UK. Perhaps I’ll email someone…
If you’d like to see my sketchbook pages from our week on the French coast, just click the link below. I hope you’re all having a lovely week! Our budleia is absolutely covered in butterflies and it’s such a reassuring sight to see.