Paris: A Wave that Meant the World

Late afternoon arrival at Gare du Nord, Paris

Late afternoon arrival at Gare du Nord, Paris

I’m always overjoyed to arrive in Paris, and today was no exception.

In this evening’s darkening twilight, something special happened as we made our way to the apartment amidst the bustle of the quartier. We crossed the street in front of our neighbourhood café. One of the waiters stepped outside. As we looked over to him, he spotted us. We waved. He did a double-take, registering our faces and backpacks. Then he smiled and raised his arm in an enthusiastic, welcoming wave.

I should note that — as is generally understood about the French — only after I’d been coming and going in this quartier for a decade did this waiter (and other locals) actually acknowledge they recognised me at all. In 2008 — ten years after buying an apartment near the café — I wrote that one of the waiters: ‘knows us and greets us with recognition.  We’re not quite regular enough to have real chats with him, but maybe we will someday.’

Someday has arrived. Our waiter seems to have taken a particular liking to Clive (who wouldn’t?); last year, he strode over to greet us on our first visit and gave Clive a firm handshake. I basked in the soul-deep pleasure of being greeted as a local. The day before we left, Clive presented him with a clip-on koala, which he immediately fixed to his tie and wore for the afternoon, or at least as long as we were there. He chats with us now, and he and Clive seem always to communicate well, despite knowing virtually no words of each other’s language — which Clive describes as ‘one of life’s mysteries’.

This evening, after the unexpected welcome, we continued to our destination and our waiter turned to serve his customers. A glow remained inside me: gratitude for our journey (easy train, Tube, Eurostar, and Métro rides that all lined up with each other), our arrival in the City of Light, and a wave that meant the world.

Our café, this evening Our cafe, this evening[/caption

7 Responses

  1. Aww … that is such a sweet story, Carolyn. Funny how it can feel so good to be recognized in one’s neighborhood, especially at the end of a journey. 🙂

  2. I don’t really know what to say Carolyn .. except, “someday” as arrived and it is AMAZING and to top it you both had a “great ” journey.

    My heart thuds when I arrive at Gare du Nord .. like YEAH!!

  3. Elizabeth, you definitely understand! Thank you — it’s a good feeling indeed, and the fact that it took so long makes it somehow even sweeter for me.

    Anne, I know *exactly* what you mean! There are so many great cities in the world but nothing quite compares to arriving in Paris 🙂

  4. Gosh darn, lady, I must be having peri-menopausal emotionality bouts or something, because this post got me all choked-up and misty-eyed. 😉

    (Okay, I seriously WEPT as I got into writing this comment, actually. Jeepers, this is worse than being pregnant, haha.)

    Maybe I just recognize and deeply appreciate having “made it” in a place like Paris, and just how meaningful that wave from the waiter at the café really is.

    And also goshdarnit if that gosh darn Paris didn’t worm its way under my skin and make me fall in love with her, even when I resisted because *everyone* was in love with her.

    Since being away, I figured out that I have my own special affair with her, something deep that changed me.

    Please enjoy your special time there. I’ll be thinking of you, and how we got to meet up last year, and the year before that (there were two times, right?! LOL. It’s all a blur!).

    Hey! Maybe this year you can finally connect with Paul! Just switch things up a little: the past couple of times he could not connect and it was just me, now it could be vice versa.

    I’m so happy that you have arrived, Carolyn. And by “arrived” I mean not only arrived for your latest visit, but *arrived* to acceptance in Paris.

    My love to both you and Clive!

  5. Hi Karin and thanks for your comment! Appreciate your ‘getting it’ so deeply, and I love that you developed your own love affair with this city.

    Hope all is well with you — this trip we are mostly being hermits — would be fun to meet your Paul in person and we will be back (sooner rather than later, I always hope!).

    Until then take care and all the best to you both from both of us.

  6. Hi Carolyn, I’m so pleased that you were greeted so warmly. The first person in our neighbourhood to do so was Louise. It was wonderful. And we’ve found a similar place in Blois, and love the way they look after us as soon as we walk in.
    I am back in Paris now so hope we can meet up. How long are you here for?

  7. Aussie in France, thanks for your comment and just confirming our exchange of e-mails, I look forward to seeing you in March! And we hope to return to Louise as well – such a great spot.

    Cheers for now and Bonne Année 2013!

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