* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Petanque 1 Yesterday, our Canadian friend requested our help in cleaning up some property out in the middle of nowhere before a group picnic next week.  As we aren't part of the group, we'll have to find our own activity for Bastille Day; but in helping out, we got a day out away from all our typical responsibilities.  When the work was done, we played a bit.  A game of Petanque (the group's activity), to be precise, which I played for the first time.  So I thought I'd explain a bit about this very French game.

On my very first visit to France, several years before we moved over, when I had no clue this trip was a prelude to my future, I came across a group of people standing around watching this game of metal balls being played.  Always curious, I asked another bystander what was going on.  He tried to explain, but my complete lack of French kept me from understanding what he was calling this game.  So I had him write it down.  I actually may still have that note in the notebook I carried around with me.

This is the Wikipedia entry explanation of this game, which of course wasn't available back in 1988:

Pétanque is a form of boules where the goal is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally "piglet") or jack, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground. The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass, sand or other surfaces. Similar games are bocce , bowls and (adapted to ice) curling . The current form of the game originated in 1907 in La Ciotat , in Provence , in southern France . The French name pétanque derives from the expression pès tancats meaning 'feet together' or more exactly 'feet anchored'.

Petanque 03
Under our new bedroom
After we moved, I saw this game being played everywhere.  It's even been played at my own house during group barbecues before we built pools and bedrooms over our available space.  Being terribly uncoordinated at any sport (I was always the second to last picked for the school phys ed teams, before the fat pimply girl), I was never interested in trying it myself.  Until yesterday.

Petanque 02
Go, Jenny!

We had a beautiful day, we were in a beautiful setting, our friend has been playing for four years now so has a good idea of the game, so it seemed like the perfect time to finally learn something about this national pastime.

Petanque 04
Playing after hard work mowing and tree trimming

Petanque 05
Beginner's luck
After having the basic rules explained, I tried my hand, not expecting to get my ball anywhere near the little wooden one.  Was I ever shocked to actually touch the little ball in the first round!  (I got knocked away immediately; victory was very short-lived.)
Petanque 06
Doc Leo taking a turn
Petanque 07
Analyzing the throw


Petanque 08
Setting up the throw
Petanque 09
How close did I come?

There is a particular way you typically throw the ball, which totally goes against the natural tendency, and you can tell as soon as you let go that you didn't do it right at all.  Until it bounces on the ground and takes on a mind of its own.  Often, that actually went in my favor! 

We each had three balls, and I ended up coming the closest to the little one several times, only to get knocked out by someone else.

Petanque 10
Can't come a whole lot closer!
Finally, it was my turn to win the round, and then I went on to win several more.  At no time did I win because I had any clue what I was doing or by any skill level I achieved, but it was still rather fun to add up a few points myself!
Petanque 11
The others weren't even close!

Perhaps now I'll have the courage to participate myself the next time I happen to be around a more involved game with those who have much more skill at controlling where the ball goes when thrown rather than "relying" on stones to help me out!  But it was fun to finally try my hand at something I've watched others do for so many years.


  1. At last, you're doing something fun where you aren't hauling stones, cleaning or cooking! You look fabulous and this is delightful to see. I feel that my best approach to all games is to have another glass of wine and cheer on anybody who wants to play them! Hugs and a glass of wine from me to you!

  2. i've seen this game played all over Europe. There is even something that looks similar played at the Senior Center in Arcadia Park. Since I'm not a senior I didn't paid close attention. But it does look like you had a fun day. I was never good at group sports either which is why all my athletic endeavors tend to be solitary, like running or biking. I'm glad you were having success with your new game.


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