Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A post office

The iconic poste (post office) in France is a venerable institution and one that French people can still count on. When you mail a first class letter within France, chances are it will arrive at its destination the next day. When you want to refer to something as easy and quick, you say that it moves comme une lettre à la poste (like a letter in the mail). No problem, smooth sailing.

La Poste du Grand-Pressigny. Click to special-deliverate.

The post office was also a place to make phone calls back in the day when not everyone had a phone in their home. When I was a student in Paris in 1981, I went to the post office to make phone calls in one of the private cabines (phone booths), often having to stand in line until one was available. That service has dwindled now that most people have cell phones. But another service has grown: la banque postale. Yes, the post office is also a full service bank with its own ATMs.

The color brand of the la poste is bright yellow, as you can see on the signs above. Letter boxes are yellow. Mail carriers drive yellow cars and vans, and in some places they ride mopeds or bikes, also yellow.

Before the name changed to La Poste, the post office was called the P.T.T., Postes, Télégraphes, et Téléphones. In those days the post office was also the phone company; that changed in 1988 when France Télécom (now called Orange) was created to manage telephone (and now internet) service. On most poste buildings around France you can still see the ghosts of the old signs. In the photo above you can just barely make out the old words on the white band above the newer gray strip where it says "La Poste."


  1. We haven't had a Poste office for the last two weeks... they've been re-doing the interior. It re-opened yesterday... so I shall be interested to take a look later today and see if the outside has changed at all. That notice on the door handle told us where to go for the various services whilst the work was taking place... it was one of the first things the decorators removed!! Fortunately, they left the small-print version on the post box...
    The PTT signage can still be seen in Bossay-sur-Claise... where the Post Office is now a biblotheque... the Art Deco exterior looks superb.

  2. Hi! My local post office here in Lyon France was one of those chosen a few years ago for complete renovation and a new concept in service. So it's clean bright white, blue and yellow everywhere, there are hostesses to ask you if they can help and they have installed several machines which sell stamps, weigh packages, issue recommended letter envelopes. Seems the only thing it doesn't do is serve an expresso.

    Oh, and the biggest change is that the staff now make a conscious effort to be polite and it's smiles all round. It was all a bit strange at first, given how things were before, but I got used to it in the end.

  3. cheese louise, wish the USPS would operate so efficiently. it's going bankrupt quickly. mail a letter today, and who knows if it will ever get where it's going.

    WE HAVE SURVIVED HURRICANE SANDY! (at my house, anyway)

  4. Orange is a private company, oui?

  5. Walt

    If you want to read updated news and the status of the hurricane e- now tropical storm: http://status.huffingtonpost.com/

  6. Our closest ATM in Paris was once la Poste.
    @anne marie in philly - The USPS is not going bankrupt. Their only financial problem is being caused by the stupidity of Congress!


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