5am always comes early. We went out for dinner last night with my new French partner and his wife, to a nice place just off the Champs Elysee. Despite a fairly Anglo-Saxon on-time start at 8pm, it was a lengthy affair that meant we didn’t get home until after midnight. Which made dragging myself out of bed even more difficult. Aude, on the other hand, remained fast asleep, preparing herself mentally to tackle the sales in Paris.

I learned a few things this morning:

1. The RER may be the quickest way across Paris, but at 5:30am, you can get a cab from one side of Paris to the other for under €10. At this price, it’s hardly worth the hassle of lugging your bags around.

2. Paris is really a very small city. Denfert-Rochereau to Gare du Nord, basically one side of Paris to the other, only takes 15 minutes by car when there’s no traffic. And that’s with a normal, sane, calm driver. Put a typical Parisian behind the wheel and you’d shave three minutes off, at least.

3. When Eurostar insists that you check in an hour before your train, they’re not really serious. I arrived at the station at 5:50am to discover that check-in for my 6:43 train didn’t open until 6am. And, this being France, 6am actually meant 6:10.

4. They’re delightfully apologetic when Eurostar is delayed. Actually, I knew this already, but it’s always a pleasant surprise. We were about ten minutes late leaving Paris this morning because they had to change engines on our train. With the way the conductor apologised, you’d have thought this was pretty much the gravest sin you could commit, so humble was the apology.

When I can be bothered to get out of bed early (or when I’m jetlagged and stuck in a foreign city), one of my favourite things to do is to watch a city wake up – and Paris is a wonderful city to watch come to life.

5am is an interesting time. The last of the drinkers are heading home, in time to grab a quick shower and make a haggard start to their day. The dustbin men are walking through the street, clearing the rubbish. Bakers are hard at work in their bakeries, getting ready for the morning’s first customers, and the odd greengrocer is cleaning his stoop and beginning to arrange his vegetables.

When I arrived at the station, it was deserted. The odd businessmen walked purposefully to catch the 5:58 train to somewhere, but mostly there were just a few bums keeping warm for the night. A few minutes later, the police were moving the bums along, and 15 minutes after that, the station was full of people, catching their trains. Shutters were raised on shops, cafes started serving coffees, and Paris was awake.