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 cafe, this evening[/caption