A sign that I often pass near our house is marked ‘Accotements dangereux’ and is accompanied by a big orange exclamation mark. The road ahead is perfectly straight and usually completely clear. What, if any, evasive action would you take if you were on the road?
The answer of course, for everyone, is ‘none whatsoever’ – especially for us English who will typically have no idea what ‘accotements’ might mean or why they might be dangerous.
In fact it means ‘dangerous edges or ridges’ in the road. In this case they are almost invisible as you drive along at 90 kmh, until one side of your car suddenly plunges off one of the ‘edges or ridges’ and you hit your head on the windscreen – or fall off your bike…
In a similar vein, signs marked ‘fauchage’ usually come before about 5km of straight empty road while you forget about the warning, followed by a sharp blind corner that conceals the stationery tractor cutting the grass verges.
They do it purposely of course, so that the people driving the tractor (or more probably standing next to it) have a bit of fun, laughing to themselves as motorists come racing around the corner and have to skid all across the road to avoid certain death.
One sign I haven’t come across myself is this one for a ‘chien lunatique’ (kindly sent in by ftw reader and contributor Terry B) which would certainly make me nervous if I was cycling along.
Happily the sign came from Picardy and I’m pretty confident that even a lunatic dog woudn’t chase a cyclist from Picardy to Lot-et-Garonne.
Among my favourites, although a bit more subtle than ‘lunatic dog’ warnings, is a sign that comes from a village in Languedoc Roussillon that says ‘Les Fouilles sont interdite sur la territoire de la commune de Rennes le Chateau’.
This sign came about because of a long running story associating Jesus and Mary with the village, and a booming interest in anything vaguely to do with the Da Vinci code, arcs and covenants, cathars and related matters.
It seems the village has done very nicely from the rumours and has a flourishing tourist industry as a result, although the stories themselves have long since been shown to be the product of a local hotel marketing campaign in the 1950′s…
…be that as it may, Rennes le Chateau are happy with the tourists but not happy with people who visit just to start prodding and digging every spare inch of the commune each time that no one is looking, in an attempt to find rare and powerful religious relics.
Hence the village sign telling people that the are expressly forbidden from casually yanking out garden plants as they amble along or encouraging fido to bury a bone in the village, all in the hope of discovering something miraculous.