A corner café opens early and I sit inside to watch the city stirring through the window. The concierge in the block of apartments opposite me brushes off her doorstep.
An impeccably suited man wearing loafers with no socks, cashmere scarf tied elegantly at his throat, dons a helmet and purrs off on his scooter.
“Un express, bien serré, s’il vous plait,” comes the order at the counter, a time-short commuter wanting his morning caffeine shot quick and strong. Obviously not a regular if he has to ask. Another man sits with an espresso and the morning newspaper, paying more attention to the passing world than the headlines. People-watching is an obsession in Paris and there are few cities where outright staring is as acceptable as it is here.
A waiter is putting out chairs, carefully arranging them so they all face the road, rather than each other, so customers can all enjoy the show. The theater continues as I walk the street. The French even have a name for the aimless stroller like me: flâneur. From a boulangerie comes the smell of croissants, the breakfast of Paris.
The baker has been at work since 5 am, rolling out dough made the night before and allowed to rest overnight. The mandatory sign in the window saying “au beurre” tells me they use real butter, not margarine, so I stop in to buy one, joining a line of well-dressed customers. No one would think of going out, even to buy breakfast, without looking smart. Everyone knows they are on stage in this city.