Paris Shop Signs: From the Ridiculous to the Sublimely Ridiculous, Part Four
- Published on Tuesday, 01 May 2012 00:00
- Written by David Jaggard
It Doesn’t Mean
What You Think. I Hope.
At last, a place where people who enjoy sitting on long-necked glass bottles can get together and... Oh wait, maybe not.
As I write this, France’s future hangs in the balance. With election day approaching, the two presidential candidates are locked in a close battle whose outcome will determine the course of crucial political, social and economic developments in the country, the European Union and the world.
So this is the perfect time to look at yet another batch of inadvertently funny shop signs. Let’s start beyond the Périphérique...
On a recent trip to the Basque region on France’s southern Atlantic coast, Nancy and I stayed in the beautiful port town of Ciboure, which is right next to the beautiful port town of Saint Jean de Luz. (They have a surplus of both water and beauty down there.)
Historically, Saint Jean de Luz is best known for being the place where Louis XIV was married to Maria-Theresa of Austria, who was, as her name so unequivocally indicates, the Infanta of Spain. That’s odd enough, but the lasting influence of that event has spawned some oddly anachronistic business names:
From Sagecul’s History of France: “The day before his wedding, the young king went to the bookshop to get a copy of La Joie du Sexe, but didn’t have the nerve to take it to the cash register, so he just peeked at the illustrations until the clerk yelled at him to either buy something or get out. Then he went to the drugstore, where the pharmacist refused to fill his Viagra prescription without seeing a drover’s license or an oil portrait ID, so he bought two boxes of ribbed condoms and headed over to the Louis VII-XI convenience store for a six pack of Taureau Rouge.”
We also spent a day in San Sebastian, Spain, where last year I stuffed myself silly with tapas, and where this year I learned something important. Everyone who has ever said, “This is the place,” was wrong — this is the place:
We were getting from place to place by train and bus, so I was unable to photograph all of the ill-advised signs that I saw. However, somewhere down there in the villages between Biarritz and Bilbao there is a sports shop called Foot & Balls (men wince as they walk by), a waxing salon called Epil Story (it’s a ripping tale), a hair salon called Hair Mama (next door to Hair Mia) and a restaurant called The Restaurant. I have to admit that it sounds more tempting than “A Restaurant.” Not much, though.
No doubt they get their supplies from this imaginatively named business on Rue Montmartre in Paris (“S.A.” is the French equivalent of “Inc.”):
Sticking with nutrition but getting back to Basque country, my favorite find was this café whose sign I spotted on the road to Bayonne:
It's hard to read here, but it really does say "Bullimic Café."Sorry for the quality — I had to take a fast shot from a moving bus.
Since I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, I looked the place up on the Web later and found out that the name actually makes sense. Kind of: it’s not exactly a café, it’s a teahouse and adult comics shop.
Adult comics are more popular in France than the puerile kind, an unfortunate phenomenon that may well provide the topic for a future C’est Ironique. So it’s logical for a comics shop to have a tea salon, much like the combination bookstore-coffeehouses in the United States. And it so happens that the French word for “speech balloon” is bulle. Hence “Bullimic” with two l’s.
I suppose the name is also intended to imply that the café’s graphics-hungry patrons are “bulimic” for comics, “gorging themselves” on story after story, album after album, and then... And then the metaphor breaks down. I hope.
Just down the road from the Ink ’n’ Drink there, I also got a poor-quality bus window photo of this hotel:
Yessir, if you want your genuine first class, top-drawer quality you’ve got to pay for it. That’s right, thirty-eight euros — per night, not per week. Keeps the riffraff out.
But if it’s hyperbole in hotel names that you want, you have to come to Paris. Specifically, you have to come to this hotel on Rue Rodier:
Really, “perfect”? Every single thing about this hotel — decor, furnishings, linens, lighting, service, etc., etc. — is absolutely, totally, unimpeachably flawless, immaculate, impeccable and irreproachable?
If so, I have an ex-girlfriend who needs to stay in — in fact, live in — a place like that. And the only café she would ever need is just a couple of blocks away on Rue du Delta (photo from Google Maps):
I tend to doubt that it’s truly “ideal” (for one thing, I hear they stir the martinis), but I’m pretty sure I’d rather hang out there than at the club in this building near the Bastille:
It’s on Rue de l’Ave Maria. That explains the name. But seriously, how much fun can you have at the Hail Mary Club? And what’s the dress code? Cassocks and choir robes?
Speaking of which, what is it about clothing that inspires so many ludicrous logos? A third of the entries in my previous selection were from the garment industry, and my gracious reader Katie Anders graciously sent me the final three entries in this week’s roundup, starting with this shop at Châtelet:
I take this to mean that this place sells men’s clothing for boys. Big boys, presumably. Boys as big as any two normal boys, which is why they deserve a double plural.
The fashion oxymorons are flying at this store on Boulevard Sebastopol as well:
Two problems here. First, “Used” is a registered trademark? What other evocative brand names do you have in your portfolio? “Stained”? “Ripped”? “Threadbare”? “Peed-in”? And secondly, despite being used, and God knows what else, these jeans are “luxurious”? If you say so...
But let’s remember, luxury isn’t the most important thing in life. No, the most important thing in life is to eat at least two servings of fruit every day. And to have fun. As we are reminded by this shop on Boulevard Voltaire:
OK, so there’s a kiwi fruit. So far so good.
Now, how would you describe it? Is it ripe, plump, juicy? Any adjective that one would normally associate with fruit? Green, fuzzy? Squashed, rotten?
Wrong. It’s none of those things — it’s fun. That’s one hell of an unusual kiwi. Obviously the only one in the world that could be described as... but wait — it can’t be all that unusual, because there are at least two of them.
By the time I get enough photos for Part Five of this recurring feature, I hope to have located Fun Kiwi III and IV. And eventually the Pharmacie Fun Kiwi XIV.
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Reader Annette Cartozian graciously sent a photo of a souvenir shop on Rue du Cloître Notre Dame whose awning proclaims "Free entrance" (in English). Her comment: "Free entrance at a souvenir shop... really??!!"
David Jaggard replies: "Thank you for the note, and well spotted. As absurd as it is, there's actually a logical explanation for 'free entrance,' which I elucidated in an Ironique last year."
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