Let's Play Pétanque!!

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French Language & Culture

Authored By:

Hayley Tornquist

Pétanque (often referred to as Boules), is a popular French game that dates back to the early 1900’s. It is a relatively simple concept that involves throwing small metal balls towards a target. The target—a smaller, ping pong sized ball— is called the cochonnet and is thrown at a distance of between 10-20 meters at the start of the game

Once gameplay begins, players take turns throwing their boules towards the cochonnet, getting as close to it as possible. Each player alternates throws until all of the metal boules are on the field. Points are tallied each round by measuring the distance of each player’s boules from the cochonnet and giving points to the ones that are closest to the target. The game continues until one player (or team) reaches the predetermined number of points set to win the game. 

While the main goal of the game is to throw your boules closest to the cochonnet, players may also try to hit the opposing teams boules further away. This creates more variance in possible strategies of the game.

Pétanque’s portability makes it a very popular leisure activity in parks around Paris. In fact, many parks have designated pétanque playing fields where groups of friends can get together to play and those strolling by can stop and spectate the competition. 

CIEE Language and Culture Global Navigators got to learn and play pétanque this week in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Divided into teams of 2-3 players, the students were able to practice their boule throwing skills while also working together with their teammates to try and win the game. Some students even got special lessons from a local Parisien who walked by and saw them playing! 

According to Doah Kilic, “I thought that playing the game was very fun, as well as competitive. It was a good way to spend time with my friends. When it came to winning, the game got pretty heated, and although I lost, I’m a winner in my heart.” 

While not all players left the field with a win, they did walk away with smiles on their faces and throwing arms well-trained in the techniques of Boules