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As a second timer in Paris, I wanted to find a unique and unusual experience in Paris that was not touristy. It was my objective to uncover all the lesser known touristy spots. Following a stroll down the first-ever built high line, Promenade Plantée or Coulée verte René-Dumont, we got off at Rue de Rambouillet and headed for 81 Rue du Charolais. I noticed a building that was nothing special with stairs leading up to what seemed like a parking lot. A sign read Ground Control, so Pat and I followed our curiosity.

A bouncer stood outside checking the IDs of a group of 4 young French people. What was he checking for? Was this a speakeasy type situation? Were we in a college area and they were trying to get into a residential building? We followed their lead. We walked up to the bouncer, flashed our IDs, and followed the 4 young French people to the top of the stairs.

The last flight of stairs brought us to a large terrace with plants, herbs, old abandoned buses and trains now turned into swanky food carts, and patterned deck chairs immersed in greenery. It was early on a Thursday, so people were still at work. There were just a few locals here and there enjoying a beer and some food at the picnic tables and lounge areas. Where had we stepped into? Welcome to Paris’ Ground Control.

Ground Control began as a pop-up in 2017 in a former rail depot in the 12th arrondissement. It was started by the French rail company SNCF as part of their ongoing cultural effort to turn abandoned industrial sties into vibrant and local art, music, and theater districts. Following Ground Control’s huge success as a pop-up among locals, Halle Charolais, a former warehouse next to Gare de Lyon, was transformed into an entertainment space with indoor and outdoor seating, music venues, pop-up stores, food trucks, craft beer and wine tastings, cocktail bars and galleries, and organic food markets on Sundays. Music is a huge part of the scene here with occasional DJs and performances taking place. Workshops are held weekly as well from cooking, to music, yoga, and more.

We saw a few French people head into what looked like an abandoned railway hangar. We followed…inside are more cafés, art pop up stores and boutiques, and food stations. We walked by a group of people playing pinball, table tennis, and foosball open to the public. A large mock airplane has two French girls sitting outside on economy class airplane seats sipping a cocktail. What is going on?! I take a look inside the airplane and see a row of airplane seats leading back to a cockpit. A speakeasy-style cocktail bar is hidden within the cockpit. I had never seen anything like this!

We walked by the occasional organic grocery store and coffee shop as well as a whole section dedicated to the arts featuring designer furniture, art, vintage collections, and more for sale. There’s no shortage of food options here, they have everything from Mexican to African, Italian, and Chinese. If you’re looking for a unique and unusual experience in Paris or are looking for some downtime or place to chill like the real Parisians do, you’ll want to spend your evenings at Ground Control, without a doubt.

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