Monday 15 July 2013

Tour Saint Jacques

Some highlights of a trip away are predictable from the outset, some are unexpected. A visit to Tour Saint Jacques last week was an unexpected highlight of our trip to Paris. I was familiar with the landmark Tour Saint Jacques, it was actually one of the very first things that I saw in Paris 15 years ago, on our first trip to France when confusion in a taxi took us to Tour Saint Jacques instead of Hotel Saint Jacques.

That's Saint Jacques up the top there
a 19th century addition

So I was particularly excited to find out last week that this summer Tour Saint Jacques was open to the public for the first time in 500 years! I knew that we had to do it. There is a rather intricate ticketing system, but it was actually easy enough in the end. The French language website is here.

The English language version is this:

Guided tours are available Friday/Saturday/Sunday from 5/7/13 to 15/9/13.
They take up to 17 people per hour so it doesn't get too packed up the top. They don't take kids under 10. It's 300 steps up a rather steep, narrow spiral staircase.

You have to book in advance. You can telephone on Thursday between 10 and 12 Paris time, or go to the tower at 0930 on the day that you want to do the tour. Which is what we did. Much easier than trying to talk to someone French in French on the phone (I can think of nothing more terrifying). There was only a short line on the day we went, and within 10 minutes we were booked onto the 11am tour.

It's a fantastic tour and totally worth the 6 euros (or 3 euros for students/unemployed/handicapped)-indeed it's a real bargain.

The tour is fully escorted and takes 50 minutes. It's in French. It's still totally worthwhile even if you don't know a word of French according to the male members of the Wicker party.

Our lovely French guide had clearly mastered
 Intricate Scarf Tying at an early age

Tour Saint Jacques was built between 1509-1523. Originally attached to a church, the church didn't survive the revolution, and so now the tower stands alone in a pretty square on the Rue de Rivoli.

The tower has been restored several times over it's life, from the 19th century to today. Most recently an 8.3 million Euro restoration from 1999 to 2009.

There appeared to be a rather long discussion on the difference between
chimera (on the left) and gargoyles (on the right)
which I may not have fully followed
water does spout from the gargoyles mouth but not the chimera

It's nice to see old friends pop up in unexpected place
St Roch

Tour Saint Jacques has actually had a number of uses over the years

Making shot

Foucault is said to have experimented with pendulums here too
(as well as at The Pantheon)

Being used as an observatory
Which is why the major statue at the base is a somewhat unexpected Blaise Pascal

The walk is conducted in 3 stages. The first two fairly easy stages take us up to rooms within the tower. 

Looking up within the tower
The third climb is really quite long and it was quite a relief to get to the top. 

Only 294 more to go...

It was a hazy old day, but the views of Paris were sensational. Breathtaking actually.

even if some of it isn't pretty

most of it is though

Can the views from Notre Dame really be any better?
Is their very length queue going to be worth it?

Weeping angel seen from on high
If you're in Paris this summer then make sure you visit Tour Saint Jacques.

Paris in July a glorious celebration from all things Parisian from

Dreaming of France a fabulous weekly meme
 from Paulita at An Accidental Blog


Parisbreakfasts said...

I like how you return to things you've done in the past.
This looks amazing but a lot of steps
A pedometer would get a workout on this jaunt!

Teddyree said...

Wonderful pics, 500 years of not being open to the public and you got to do the tour, how amazing! It will be winter 2014 when we visit so will have to check if it will be open then.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

The tour was worth it, even if just for seeing that amazing scarf. And there is something about not really understanding someone that makes an experience richer, somehow, like listening to someone read poetry.

I can feel, from here, all the others who have lived and breathed in that place.

Paulita said...

What impeccable timing you have to arrive after 500 years of being closed. Great photos and another place to add to my list. Thanks for playing along. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

Joy said...

What a great discovery! Those views are breathtaking -- worth the climb.

I wonder if French women learn scarf tying at the same age we're learning to tie our shoes?

Joy's Book Blog

Jeanie said...

Wow -- it wasn't open when we were there, so I've never been in it but by it several times. Looks fascinating! I have a friend living there (Paris) -- I need to make sure he knows about this!

Vagabonde said...

La Tour St. Jacques is one of my favorites. My mother used to live on Rue des Archives after my father passed away and I would walk by it many times. I did not know its history though – it was just another monument to me. What a great view you had – I would not go up the stairs because I have bad knees, so I am pleased you showed your pictures.

Marg said...

Amazing photos! So pretty.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

This is definitely on my TO SEE list for next time ,, I only had 5 days , but 5 days in Paris is better than nothing at all , and I had so much to do ,, SEE and enjoy all my friends company , days out with them and dinner too ,, but as I said in Parc Floral post , This was new to me ,, and so was La Defense ,, the Arc that sits in line with the Arc de Triomphe ,, it is amazing. thanks for your fab posts.