P1070809Like ghostly apparitions, advertisements from an earlier age whisper hints about the past lives of buildings and places.

There was a bakery here before?

Rue Trivalle, Carcassonne

A cured-meat shop down the street? I love the specificity. Not just a butcher, but charcuterie–sausage, ham, cold cuts and such.


This one was near the charcutier. A rival? Salaisons are salted foods, mostly ham and such. Wholesale and retail, it says. Felix B. was called the nice (gentil) something. I wonder what!


This little place was an auto garage? It’s true that cars were smaller back then. The buildings on these streets are very old–13th century mostly–very narrow, with low ceilings. But if you’re a mechanic, you find a way to make your business.

Rue Trivalle, Carcassonne

Again, the specificity: wines for Catholic Mass. The second line most likely read vins de dessert–dessert wines–because Banyuls wines are very sweet.

Banyuls on the coast

This one is no advertisement, but a warning: With the Legion or against France. From World War II. Reminders of war are never far away in Europe.


Hints that life was different then.

08.MAY 12 - 02
Peyriac-Minervois. A ruche is a beehive. Midi means noon but it also means the region of the south–where it’s always noon. It was a small grocery store.

No online shopping. If you wanted something, you went to the specialist.

Limoux. Fabric and clothes.
Also in Limoux, Marius Long made casquettes, sold retail at the price of wholesale. Thanks to Midi Hideaways for the casquette (cap) tip.
Another clothing shop, which still exists, in the center of Carcassonne.

When we were hunting for an investment property, among the eight-dozen-plus places I saw was a magnificent ruin (at a modest price, but requiring a large fortune to restore to habitability) that included an atelier. The seller’s father had been a sign painter around the era of many of these signs. The workshop was a hoarder’s bazaar, but there were so many interesting remnants of signs. Sign painting was a real profession then.

A Swiss apèritif. In Carcassonne.

Occasionally there also are hints of the boom times, from the Belle Epoque or during the 1920s, when advertisements and store signs were more elaborate. This gorgeous mosaic, which glimmers gold in the sun, is signed by the ceramists Gentil and Bourdet (who also did quite a few Paris Métro stations) and adorns what originally was a butcher shop–hence the cow’s head. The surrounding arch is marble from the nearby village of Caunes-Minervois. Today, the address, on the main street in the center of Carcassonne, houses a real estate office, still in the same family.

Rue du Verdun, Carcassonne

The top photo is outside the halles (indoor market) in the center of Carcassonne, on rue Chartran. A droguerie is like a pharmacy for your home. Gazaniol was the family name of the owner.

Are you also a sucker for anything old?

43 thoughts on “Vintage Signs

  1. Lovely collection! I love old signs, and the places where you have to keep them like in the historical streets of Salzburg. And the French, with their sense for everything beautiful, produce signs that get better with age like a good wine 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a whole photo archive devoted to ‘Dubonnet’ signs. I took at 17 when living with a family in Tarverny on the North Eastern edge of Paris for my mother who always drank Dubonnet and Bitter Lemon as an apéro. It has expanded exponentially over the years – I guess it’s a collection of sorts. I loved this stroll and find my eyes straining to try and make out some of the missing words. Failing to do so, I shall just have to make them up and stories in my head with them. A lovely post

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Mais, bien sûr- in fact when I was staying with her in late Jan/early Feb of this year, I showed her the digital file I have called ‘Mummy’s Tipple’ … she loved how I have continued to add to it. Little things,eh?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post – I’ve been taking pictures of these ‘ghosts’ for ages and not yet got round to doing a post!! May I re-post yours instead at some point? The Pneu Station looks lovely, from the days when tyres would be repaired and refurbished!! La Ruche du Midi turned into one of the huge supermarket chains, not sure if it is Auchan, Casino or Carrefour, but I believe their head office was in Beziers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to see your signs.
      Thanks for the interesting tidbits. I got tired of slogging through honey results, but with your info I got the answer: La Ruche Méridionale, formed in 1905 and based in Agen, was sold in 1989 and resold eventually to group Casino.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Those signs are now generally referred to as “ghost signs.” There’s a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to posting photos of them. Two I know of here in France and others in the US.

    I also have photos of the boulangerie in Carcassonne, but on my visit there I missed the nice tiled one outside les halles. Thank you for posting these!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for documenting the painted signs in your neighborhood. Too many of the signs where I live have been painted over in the past 10 years in a flash of re-plastering and repainting.

    I’ve started a photo essay of the name signs of small older villas in my own town as they fall victim to the wrecking ball. They are often little jewels that are too small to renovate with the land becoming more valuable than the house that sits on it. It’s something they don’t do in the US (name their houses) and I love the way each name sign is so different to the next.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you’re documenting them. On the one hand, I understand how difficult and expensive it is to renovate/restore an old building correctly. On the other hand, these old places are what make a town charming. And for replastering, it’s a hard call. You don’t want places falling apart, but you don’t want to lose these quaint emblems of the past.


  6. Friends bought an old Boulanger in a town in the Pyrenees. The are restoring/renovating it. The sign on the front of the building has wonderful patina. I’m going to forward this post to them.
    Why, oh why does almost everything in North America have to be shiny and antiseptic with no soul….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Because it’s new! But people in North America love old-time signs. It’s just that there are more of them from the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s, vs. older. In the ’50s, France was rebuilding from war, and I suspect they didn’t worry about things looking shiny; not destroyed would have been good enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful and evocative post.
    I too love old signs.
    We lived in a cottage in the UK for four years before we noticed ( in strong sunlight which is rare in UK!) That there was the ghost if a painted advertising sign on the gable end of the house next door.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love old signs – many of the small agricultural towns here in Texas have those, too – Giddings (on the path between Houston and Austin, my two hometowns) had for years one that sported my family name in the “ghost” part of the sign, and what I think was peanuts, so it must have been an ag station of some kind. I regret never asking in at the truck repair it has become before they painted over it. Not as romantic as “boulangerie” but it was very intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know Europeans, but especially the French, go crazy over vintage American stuff. I don’t know any Americans who have done Route 66 but I know lots of French and Belgians who have and others who dream of traveling it. Exotic depends on one’s point of view!


  9. No old signs living in a city, but I really enjoyed your photos.
    You might be interested in knowing about “Fileteado Porteño”. A popular decorative art born in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the XX century. The first “fileteadores” started painting horse drawn carts and then the buses in the city and also the trucks. I’m pretty sure you will see nothing alike in other parts of the world.
    This art almost died after 1970 due to the ruling of a law prohibiting “fileteado” on the buses of the city. It is now considered an art and there have been some exhibitions in museums of the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love old sinage and photograph it wherever I can when traveling. I find it fascinating to read the sings and then take in the buildings and try to image it the way it was then.

    Thank you for commenting about my post on meal prep, your response made me laugh because my husband is the same way that yours is. He is a foodie and I think he might have more cookbooks than I do. Every weekend he likes to experiment with marinades, rubs, etc for whatever meats he has planned.

    As for me, I grew up on simple meals and comfort foods have always been my favorite. As I child I went thru a phase where I would only eat spaghetti for every meal. I love the comfort foods of my childhood. I do eat them sparingly and try to stay healthy. As I said, as I age carbs agree with me less and less, as does dairy. Oh well, c’est la vie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! That reminds me of one of my kid’s books. A little bear who wanted to eat only bread and jam, and so the parents, at every meal, served the little bear bread and jam. The little bear eventually got sick and tired of bread and jam.
      I enjoy your blog, but sometimes the comments don’t go through. I read it every day!


  11. I, too, came across ‘ghost signs’, when a friend started posting photos of these on Facebook. They were in the UK. As a result, I have started looking out for them in Castelnaudary. I really must photograph them!

    Liked by 1 person

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