Archive for the ‘special signs’ Category


Durban International Airport, South Africa


Palazzo Pipi, Tenerife, Canary Islands

marionettesmwAfter the somber, sobering article about Auschwitz—and indeed with the sobering reality all over the world about the Covid-19 pandemic—here is something much more light-hearted and fun.

Over the years, as we’ve traveled the world we’ve noticed many lovely signs for the toilets in different places. Some countries call them toilets, some the WC, some the bathroom, or restroom (mostly in the USA). “Restroom” is quite confusing for many people from other countries, as in their minds it’s not a restroom, they just want a toilet! Even more confusing is “Washroom”, also used in USA—the connotations for this word are many things, but usually not a toilet!


Berghoffs Restaurant, Chicago, USA


Fairbanks, Alaska—the iconic Eskimo


Fairbanks, Alaska

In British colonial countries, the slang word for toilets is “the loo”, as in “I need to find a loo”. But it isn’t common to find this word actually used in a sign on a door.

Many places just have signs that say Men and Women, or Ladies and Gentlemen, or a red female sign and a blue male sign (common in Japan and Korea). But, some places have got more inventive and have a theme that fits in with that place in some way. Sometimes we’re not quite sure why the sign is that way.

Anyway, we’ve taken many photos in different places, and I will try to start finding them in our huge collection of photos. Here are a few. If anyone has some to share, that would be great!


This set is from Fairview Wine Estate, South Africa. Fairview makes great wines, and also keeps goats for great goat cheeses.



This set is from Skukusa, Kruger National Park, South Africa



Sadly, I don’t remember where this set is from—pretty graphic!



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Besides having fun checking out the different languages when we travel overseas, it’s also interesting to find unusual signs—even locally. Sometimes humorous, sometimes provocative, sometimes thought-provoking or just quirky.

Here are a few from different places.

Found in Champaign-Urbana, our home town. At first I thought this was a made-up word, but no. Zymurgy is a new word to me, meaning a branch of applied chemistry dealing with fermentation, as in winemaking, brewing, preparation of yeast etc.


Pigs in California, in Napa area.


Glasgow, Scotland: Door of St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art ( a very interesting museum actually). Great to see how inclusive this is.



A Glasgow café: clever play on the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.


In Hohhot, northern China. We wonder what a humane liquor is. Humane for whom?


In the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Many of the roads are narrow and winding and not always well marked— this takes the cake!



Found in Oviedo, FL—we didn’t actually see a tortoise.


At a café in Prague, Czech Republic. Probably true, I’d say.


Near Reims, in France’s champagne region. How apt that a town is called Bouzy (like boozy).


In South Africa: Worsis boerewors (a special farmer sausage, that is hugely popular). A clever play on “may the force be with you”.


Street sign in Seattle. Is it supposed to be Wy or did they forget the ‘a’ to make Way?


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Watch out for kuku, dassies (or hyrax or rock rabbit), and small buck (deer)

Watch out for kuku, dassies (or hyrax or rock rabbit), and small buck (deer)

A rural shop where the braai meat might be bought

A rural shop where the braai meat might be bought

Just about every country has their own ‘way of speaking’, their own special words, even when the most popularly spoken language is a common one (like English). South Africa is definitely one of those countries. We were in this wonderful country recently and thought it would be fun to give you a few ideas about these phrases and  how to speak English ‘South African Style’. These are some of the words/phrases that we find people in the US often get confused over.

Things you’ll probably hear (often) in South Africa:

Just now (in SA)—Sometime soon; Shortly.

Now now—Sooner than “just now”.

Howzit—Friendly greeting as in, “How is it going?

Play play—Pretend.

A leg of lamb for the braai

A leg of lamb for the braai—thanks Vera G

Boot—Trunk of your car.

Bonnet—Hood of your car

Robot—Traffic lights.


Braai —Barbecue.
 Having a braai is a favorite SA pastime

Hold thumbs—Cross your fingers that something will happen.

Make a plan—Somehow, we’ll make it work.

Lekker—Very nice.




And some road signs:

Rumble strips

Traffic calming zone

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Kosice, Slovakia: Smelly Cat café and bar, on Zvonarska cesta 6

One day, while strolling the side streets of Kosice, I came across a café with an intriguing name and accompanying logo: “Smelly Cat”.

Sign for the Smelly Cat

Sign for the Smelly Cat

Cover of the Smelly Cat menu

Cover of the Smelly Cat menu

“Why on earth a smelly cat?”  I wondered. Didn’t seem like a very appealing name. So, the next afternoon we went in for a coffee and asked the waitress. Turns out it’s taken from the NBC hit series, “Friends”, in which Lisa Kudrow played Phoebe Buffay. There’s a well-known song in the series, called “Smelly Cat”. The writers of the series penned the lyrics to the infamous song, but she came up with the tune.

Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat

What are they feeding you?

Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat

It’s not your fault……..(and many more verses)

Turns out, this fun café/bar is very popular, especially at night and especially with young folk. We ended up going there 3 times: once for coffee, once for a glass of wine and once for a bottle of wine and a snack, and really liked it each time.

Outside of the Smelly Cat one very cold afternoon

Outside of the Smelly Cat one very cold afternoon


Rod inside Smelly Cat early one evening

Rod inside Smelly Cat early one evening

Outside is painted bright yellow, and has seating with blankets for the cool evenings. Inside it’s cozy, with tables and chairs of different shapes and sizes, lots of framed photos of local people and bookshelves stuffed with books. There’s even a corner with a toy box for kids. There’s a good choice of local wines, beers, coffee drinks, cakes and savory snacks. The servers speak quite reasonable English and are very happy to advise on what to have. Prices are pretty reasonable. If you are ever in Kosice it’s definitely worthwhile seeking out this lively place.

Who would imagine that we’d find NBC “Friends” alive and well here in eastern Slovakia?



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Follow the Owl

Follow the Owl

Good-Luck Owl

In Dijon, France, there is a self-guided walk called Parcours de la Chouette (Owl Walk or Trail) shown by owl arrows and numbered owl plates in the pavement (sidewalk). There are 22 stops at notable sights in the city. An owl is “l’hibou” in French, but a tufted owl is “la chouette”. These stylized owls are definitely tufted.

We start out at the train station and are curious as to why the city uses an owl symbol. Turns out that the owl is the icon of Dijon. This is based on a small stone owl, sculpted into the wall on the north side of the Notre Dame Cathedral in the 15th century.

The facade of Dijon's Notre Dame Cathedral with the three rows of false gargoyles

The facade of Dijon’s Notre Dame Cathedral with the three rows of false gargoyles








The little owl statue has been stroked so much that we can hardly distinguish its features

The little owl statue has been stroked so much that we can hardly distinguish its features

This amazing cathedral has a façade unlike any I’ve seen before, with three rows of false gargoyles across the front. But this little owl is not one of those. It is around the corner and about 6 feet off the ground.  No-one seems to know why an owl was carved here, but legend says that if one strokes the owl with one’s left hand while wishing, then the wish will come true. People have been doing this for hundreds of years, so now the owl is very smooth and shiny and has lost many of its features. We wait for a quiet moment and do as thousands before us.

I too become a believer for a few moments while stroking the smooth stone. Who knows?


Rod makes a wish

Rod makes a wish




Viv reaches up to make a wish too

Viv reaches up to make a wish too

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Shop in Old Town, Zagreb

Shop in Old Town, Zagreb

Sign spotted in Zagreb

Sign spotted in ZagrebCroatia and the Cravat (Necktie)

Croatia and the Cravat (Necktie)

An interesting factoid from our travels in Croatia

All around Croatia, especially in the capital Zagreb, we saw signs proclaiming that Croatia invented the cravat (necktie). For example, “At every business meeting across the world, you always have a piece of Croatia with you. The Cravat (necktie) originates from Croatia….the best design and quality by Croatia speaks every language.”

Many shops sell the neckties, and some clever marketer has come up with a Croatian logo in which the “A” inside ‘Croatia’ (and sometimes ‘Croata’) is replaced by a cravat.

We were intrigued and determined to find out more. A little research comes up with lots of information. The cravat, the forerunner of the modern tailored necktie and a symbol of culture and elegance, is associated with Croats. Neck scarves were part of Croatian battledress and a form of identification. They have not actually patented it, but they spread it as an accessory through Europe in the 17th century and it quickly became popular after France’s king Louis X1V embraced it. The word ‘cravat’ appears to be derived from the French word ‘cravate’, which was the French changed pronunciation of ‘Croate’.

posterCroatia even has a national Cravat Day on October 18th, which has spread to other European countries, and as far away as Japan, as World Cravat Day. The celebration began in 2003 when Academia Cravatica wrapped the old Roman arena in the Croatian town of Pula with a giant red necktie, as a way of promoting the cravat as part of Croatia’s world cultural heritage.

We find many interesting facts and snippets of information—-who actually first wore the cravat (besides the military), how to tie it, what fabrics to use etc.

So, if you want more information, follow this is a start:


Below: Picture of Croatian baroque poet Ivan Gundulic: the oldest known portrait with a cravat, 1622 (Picture in public domain).

Supposedly the earliest portrait of someone wearing a cravat

Supposedly the earliest portrait of someone wearing a cravat

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A Stellenbosch Wine Route sign

A Stellenbosch Wine Route sign

View from Kanonkop Estate

View from Kanonkop Estate

Vines at Bilton Estate in winter

Vines at Bilton Estate in winter

Cape Wines

When in the western Cape you pretty much have to drink wine—there’s such a variety, choice, and selection, and almost everywhere you drive you’ll be in or near vineyards. Not far out of the city of Cape Town on your way to the wine towns of Stellenbosch or Paarl or Franschhoek you’ll soon get to miles and miles of rolling vineyards with a backdrop of impressive mountains.

If you’re lucky you can visit some of the wine estates to taste and buy wine there, but all the supermarkets and liquor stores carry a good range too. Generally, prices seemed quite good to us. Here are a few examples from our very recent trip (the exchange rate is roughly $1=R8.5):

Alto Rouge 2010, R64.95; Blaauwklippen Shiraz 2010, R62; Uva Mira Sauvignon Blanc 2012, R75; KWV Sauvignon Blanc 2012, R49.95; Beyerskloof Pinotage 2011, R59.95; and Roodberg 2011, R84.99.

Doing part of the wine route is a really fun activity and does reflect a way of life in this part of the world—you get to see some of the

Vergelegen Estate has lovely buildings in the Cape-Dutch architecture style

Vergelegen Estate has lovely buildings in the Cape-Dutch architecture style

gorgeous Cape countryside in addition to visiting some of the estates, many with pretty gardens or parks, many in lovely old Cape Dutch buildings. But, how to pick which ones to visit? There are just way too many to even contemplate visiting them all, plus wine tasting is a very personal experience. But, from our experiences, basically all the estates are great and you won’t go wrong with whichever ones you choose.

I’d suggest first getting a copy of the brochure “Stellenbosch and its Wine Routes”, plus the brochure for Paarl, “the little black book of Paarl.” Check out the small description of each place—hours, what they offer etc—plus locate them on the very clear maps, so you can plan to visit places that are close to each other. It also depends on where you’re staying—we were based in Somerset West, so getting to both the Stellenbosch and Paarl wine areas was very easy. You can also get information online, but the booklets are probably easier to carry around. Good sites: www.paarlonline.com (but they don’t cover all the wineries), and www.wineroute.co.za for Stellenbosch and its surrounding areas.

A big family lunch inside Fairview Estate's restaurant

A big family lunch inside Fairview Estate’s restaurant

Many estates have cafes or restaurants, so doing lunch at one is also a nice option. Many also have animals and activities for kids and/or a playground, which is useful if there’s a little one in your party (there was for us this last time). Many also have markets on certain days of the week, such as at Blaauwklippen on Sundays 10am-3pm; at Heathersage and Lourensford on Sundays once a month (different Sundays).

Note that you have to pay for tasting but it’s not a lot and it’s well worth it.

Some of our favorites are Blaauwklippen, Fairview, Delheim, Muratie, Uva

Checking out the animals at Blaauwklippen Estate

Checking out the animals at Blaauwklippen Estate

Mira, Morgenster, Vergelegen, Laborie and Bilton. Why? The wines are superb, the settings lovely and most of them have a place to eat and pretty gardens. You can picnic in most of them, if you buy the picnic food from the estate, but Muratie and Laborie allow you to bring your own picnic food. We used to like Spier a lot, but lately it seems to have become rather more touristy and that special atmosphere is not there for us any more (but the wines are still great).

Any time of year is good to visit, but the warmer months are probably best as you can sit outside and enjoy the gardens and superb views of vineyards and mountains.

Some of the excellent wines at Muratie Estate

Some of the excellent wines at Muratie Estate

Later I’ll describe some of our favorite estates in more detail. Till then, enjoy any South African wine that you are lucky enough to find.

Tasting wines at Delheim Estate

Tasting wines at Delheim Estate

Vines at Uva Mira Estate in winter---it's the highest (in altitude) estate in South Africa

Vines at Uva Mira Estate in winter—it’s the highest (in altitude) estate in South Africa

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