beaumes de venise

Place de la Pétanque

My family and I had the pleasure of spending three glorious weeks in France this summer. Half of that time was spent in Provence. We go to France to visit family almost every year (my husband grew up there) but I had never been to Provence before and was eager to see firsthand what I had heard so much about. As you can imagine, we took about a thousand photos from our meanderings from Paris to Arles, to Avignon to Beaume de Venise and I will be sharing my travel journal from these jaunts in upcoming posts.

The amazing house that we stayed in Beaumes de Venise came equipped with a Pétanque court. I am familiar with the Italian game Bocce, it has taken over a lot of hipster bars and restaurants in the past few years and I have friends that are on bocce leagues. However, I wasn't as familiar with Pétanque (pron. "pay-tonk") .  There were 14 of us on our trip so needless to say a lot of time was spent enjoying the court.

Pétanque is more of a tossing game, like horseshoes whereas traditional bocce is more of a bowling game. Bocce players take steps before throwing, pétanque players stand still. Bocce balls are usually rolled palm up, pétanque balls tossed palm down, so they get backspin upon release.

When playing Pétanque, one typically drinks Pastis, an anise flavored liquor popular in the south of France. It's a milky white spirit, similar to absinthe, but in fact, Pastis is a "liqueur", which means it is always bottled with sugar. Pastis is normally diluted with water before drinking, but often neat pastis is served together with a jug of water for the drinker to blend together according to preference. The addition of water changes the liqueur's appearance from dark transparent yellow to milky soft yellow. I personally am not a fan of Pastis, but it's de rigeur if you're playing Pétanque so à votre santé!

Another name for Pétanque is Boules, referencing the hollow steel balls that are used to play. Most people have their own set.  My husband's family all travelled down from Belgium with their personal sets!   Each player gets three balls and the goal is to toss or roll steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet ("piglet"). 

After deciding who goes first, a player throws the cochonnet—the target players aim for—from a designated throwing spot. The rest of the game is spent trying to throw your boules closer to the jack than the other team does.

There are two different throwing techniques :

_"pointer" (pointing) to throw one's boule with the intent of stopping near the cochonet (also known as placing).

_"tirer" (shooting) to throw one's boule at one of the opponent's boules to knock it out of play. This is often done when the opponent has pointed his/her boule very close to the cochonnet.

After all the boules are thrown, the team with the closest boule receives a point for each boule that is closer to the cochonnet than their opponents. A game consists ofseveral mènes (rounds). The first team to earn 13 points wins the game. The team with the closest boule receives one point for each of its boules that is closer to the jack than other team's closest boule.Young and old love this game, even my 4 year old got in on the action with his water filled plastic rainbow colored boules. So cute!

When a player loses 13 to 0, he is said to fanny ("il est fanny", he's fanny, or "il a fait fanny", he made fanny) and must kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny. Virtually everywhere in Provence where pétanque is played, you will find a picture, woodcarving, or pottery figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny. Often, the team that made "fanny" has to buy a round of drinks for the winning team ("Fanny paie à boire!", "the fanny pays for the drinks!").