It is only when I am standing 54 metres above the centre of the city that I can appreciate what a relatively low-rise city Paris is. The Tour Saint-Jacques is a conspicuously high vantage point, and I am on top of it. Only the twin towers of Notre-Dame compete with my ascendancy; the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur are distant midgets.
Previously, I had always headed for the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette and its green AstroTurf and comfy deckchairs when I wanted to survey Paris from above, but this is better. More exclusive for a start.
The Tour Saint-Jacques is only accessible on a guided tour. Tours run hourly from 10AM to 5PM on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, for a very reasonable €10. Pre-booking is recommended. More by chance than judgment, I find myself on an English-speaking tour of just four individuals.
It requires 300 steps up a narrow, stone spiral staircase to reach the summit. There are two resting stations en route, the second of which is on a floor, which had once done service as a meteorological laboratory and which appears to have only recently––and hastily––been vacated by 17th century scientist Blaise Pascal.
Our guide takes the opportunity of the stop to explain about the history of the tower from its 16th century origins as part of the Église Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie to its modern reconstruction. The lesson is refreshingly succinct; no one is under any illusion that the main attraction is the rooftop view.
Viewed from almost any angle, Paris is a very beautiful city. This is in part a result of planning; a result of history; of romance. However, it rarely looks better than from the summit of the Tour Saint-Jacques. Our guide remains conspicuously silent; there are no words needed when the landscape is so eloquent.
I photograph the rooftop gargoyles; briefly quiz our guide regarding his views on Brexit and Parisian politics in general; but, mostly, I just lean on the parapets––north, south, east and west––and gaze out over the city.
A sunny autumn day and it feels good to be in Paris.
© E. C. Glendenny
Show her a tall tower, and E. C. Glendenny is up it.