A Secret Gentlemen’s Club

On a curve of the Rue de la Cavalerie, not far from the Ecole Militaire and Eiffel Tower, stands a rather grandiose art deco parking structure. Even more impressive than its exterior though is the fact that tucked away on its 6th floor is an unexpected Basque pelota trinquet.

Looking above the ground floor it is difficult to imagine that this 1920s building is a car park, but in many ways this is no ordinary structure – and indeed, no ordinary car park. Bring your eyes down to ground level and you’ll see that alongside the entrance is an Aston Martin garage!

My interest, though, is in a discreet doorway to the left which leads – via a small, creaking elevator – to the 6th floor and a terrace that offers views across the neighboring rooftops towards the Eiffel Tower.

I had been invited here to discover an unsuspected and seemingly secret world, the Club de Pelote Basque de Paris, for a tour of the establishment, an explanation of its history – and a chance to play the game myself!

One thing is immediately obvious – this is a place that was designed as a gentlemen’s (sporting) club. Although the building itself sports the clean lines of the art deco movement, the interior of this club is rather stuffy (or cozy), with a predominance of wood and ochre coloured walls. It is easy to imagine members in previous times puffing away here on cigars, the smoke drifting upwards, slowly deepening the tones of the walls and ceilings.

Although the sport itself is ancient in origin, and today based roughly on the French jeu de paume, this particular trinquet – as well as the tennis court alongside and a (now closed) restaurant above – were built by an Argentinian. The facilities were for the Club de Pelote Basque de Paris, founded in 1929 by the same man – the country’s ambassador to France, and many of the original fixtures and fittings remain.

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