Ask almost any French person about pétanque and they’re likely to tell you that it’s a sport played by les vieillards in the south of France as they enjoy their Ricard (sans eau, of course). But, walk by a pétanque court today and that may not be what you find. According to the AP, the game is making a resurgence in popularity, becoming the “it” thing for many young people. These days you’re more likely to find the old-school pétanque players sharing the court (perhaps somewhat skeptically) and their Ricard with the newfound generation of fashionable pétanque players.
Pétanque is said to be the less athletic version of French boules (because when I think boules, the first thing that comes to mind is athleticism). It originated in 1907 in a small village called La Ciotat near Marseilles after a former boules champion was crippled with rheumatism and could no longer compete with his friends in the game. The rules were adapted to shorten the length of the court and to eliminate running prior to the throw. Pèd tanco, meaning static feet in the Provençal dialect, was thus invented. The object of the game is fairly simple; two opposing players (or teams) attempt to land their boules closest to a smaller ball called a cochonnet, literally meaning piglet.
Want to have a go at pétanque for yourself and fait comme les français? All you need is a set of boules, ranging from $30 for a non-competitive set to $2,100 for this Louis Vuitton designed set, and a flat graveled surface. Can’t find a spot conducive to playing the game or just too lazy to get off the couch and play the less athletic version of boules? No worries! With the release of Pétanque Master for the Wii, now you can play from the comfort of your own home. But don’t forget the Ricard!
Hopefully you’ll have more luck than Anthony Bourdain did when he visited Provence.
And just because they’re awesome…