It was nearly closing time. The last order was in and the chef was wrapping up. It had been a long and tiring day. Summer in Paris was peak tourist season, and my cafe near Sacré-Coeur Basilica was bustling with hungry travellers eager to savour French delicacies.
The cafe was now empty, except for one customer who was seated by the window. She had ordered the scallops as an entrée and a Cremè Brûlée for dessert – one of our specialities and my personal favourite.
She was strikingly beautiful, her long black hair flowing like a river down her shoulders, her kind eyes gazing out the window watching the world go by, and a wonderful smile that warmed the heart. She was perhaps in her late twenties, no older than thirty, and seemed to be of remarkably mixed ancestry – her features possessed a hint of the Nordic, the African, the Asian and the Latin-American.
As I presented her the bill, I could not resist starting a conversation. She had been travelling for a long time and had seen many wonderful places. She loved the local cusine and asked me to pass on her compliments to the chef. She spoke with me in English, but in the strangest accent I had ever heard – in fact, it was almost as if there was no accent at all! It was neither British nor American, or Australian or even Indian.
We spoke at length about a variety of topics – the weather, current events, politics and sport. There was a calm serenity about her and she seemed wise beyond her years. I was so engrossed in our conversation that I hadn’t noticed how late it was. She gasped when she looked at her watch, excused herself politely and was off on her way. She had left quite a few Francs as a generous tip, and had drawn a little smiling face on the bill. I have that little piece of paper in my possession, even to this day, and I do not know why.
Time passed and things changed. The Wall fell, Europe integrated, the world economy nearly collapsed and a strange kind of terror struck close to home.
I had moved to Amsterdam a few years ago, wanting a change of scene. My restaurant was quite popular with a steady stream of tourists and regulars frequenting it. It was one summer evening, when I was helping out with the orders, that I noticed the woman seated by the window.
It was her, from the cafe in Paris many years ago. She did not look as if she had aged a single day. She must have been quite hungry, having ordered a pizza and a sandwich. As I placed her order on the table, she looked at me and gave a wonderful smile of familiarity. I do not know how she recognized me… I was now pushing sixty and time had changed me.
I took a seat across the table and we started talking. We spoke at length about a variety of topics – the weather, current events, politics and sport. I asked her about the places she had visited since we had last met, and she regaled me with fantastic stories of her travels. I was so engrossed that I didn’t notice how late it was. She gasped when she looked at her watch, the same one she had worn that summer evening so many decades ago, politely excused herself and got up to leave. She had left quite a few Euros as a tip and had scribbled a little smiley on the bill.
As I walked her to the door, I asked her if she would visit again.
Perhaps another Time, she said to me with a smile, and walked away into the cool evening breeze.
Author’s note: Travelling across Europe is a wonderful gastronomical experience. I really enjoyed the local food and drinks in every city that I visited!
All pictures taken with my Huawei Honor 7 mobile.