La Pétanque is a traditional French game that originates from Provence. Though various versions of the game exist throughout the world, its current form was invented in La Ciotat in 1907.
When traveling the South of France, you will typically see people, often elderly men, playing Pétanque on the village square, under the plane trees. Played on gravel or sand, the game is commonly associated with taking life easy, retirement, holidays, and a glass of the famous anise-flavoured liquor known as Pastis.
Played in two teams or individually, the goal is to throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet which stands for “piglet”.
After drawing a 50cm circle on the sand, where every player will throw from, the starting team throws the cochonnet a good 8 meters away followed by their first boule. The opposing team then throw their first boule. From that point, the team that is not closest to the cochonnet keeps throwing until they get closer than their opponent’s closest boule, or until they have none left.
When all the boules have been thrown the winning team adds totals the number of boules that are closer to the cochonnet than any of the opposing team’s. They then draw a new circle on the ground and throw the cochonnet for the next round. The first team to total 13 points wins the game.
There are different techniques and terms associated with the Pétanque. However, better than losing ourselves in technical descriptions, here is a video of the Masters of Petanque in Istres in 2010. As a bonus, you have some nice images of the town in the introduction.
A writer who depicted Pétanque parties in a very picturesque and humorous way is Provence’s very own Marcel Pagnol.