Pieces of Ate Cafe, Caernarfon, Wales.

Pieces of Ate Cafe, Caernarfon, Wales. Cafe name uses a creative play on words that’s been a tradition for many shopmakers since the 1300s.

We see signs everywhere–small, tasteful signs. Enormous billboard signs. Signs that direct. Signs that advertise. Signs that inform.

While we may think of signs as a modern invention, they’re definitely not! Way back in 1393, King Richard II, of England, passed a law requiring pubs and taverns to post signs identifying the type of ale they served for the ale tasters’ information. Ale, or beer, was one of the most common drinks in the middle ages in many parts of Europe, where grapes didn’t flourish for wine.

Every city appointed four ale tasters, also known as ale conners or ale founders, whose job it was to check the quality of ale in each pub. Medieval authorities wanted to ensure good taste and adequate alcohol content in this very important beverage!

Medieval shopkeepers, like modern ones, soon discovered the signs had other benefits and started a long tradition of creative signage…

So today we have signs everywhere. One thing I’ve discovered as a traveler is that if we pay attention to signs we get an insider’s view into a culture. Here are some of my favorite signs from Wales.



Phone booth in Wales.

This phone booth in Wales offers email and texting as well–not something you’ll see in North America!



Welsh Sign for Home Reared Beef, Lamb, and Pork

Welsh Sign for Home Reared Beef, Lamb, and Pork–Here in North America that would be naturally grown rather than home reared. Natural meats are those raised for human consumption without additives, although, unlike organic foods, there’s no third-party verification system.



Welsh sign for Elderly People.

Welsh sign for Elderly People–there isn’t, unfortunately, a North American counterpart to this sign. I particularly liked the image of the medieval castle behind the sign!



Pot Jam store in Wales--the pot here refers to the jar!

Pot Jam store in Wales–the pot here refers to the jar!