The young and old, rural and cosmopolitan all agree: A perfect Summer evening is spent in the company of good friends around a game of pétanque, glass of Pastis in hand. Walk five minutes in any direction in Paris in July and you’ll find a round of boules in full swing and picnic in tow. If you’re new to the sport, fret not, we’ve got you covered here in our guide to Paris pétanque.
• A set of 6 hallow metal boules and the little wooden cochonnet.
• A hard dirt or gravel terrain, roughly 40 feet long.
• Pastis or rosé. Pastis is an anise flavored liqueur served with ice-cold spring water, it is popular throughout France but often associated with the Provençal lifestyle. A chilled rosé is the go-to alternative for the anise adverse.
To score the most points by placing your boule nearest to the cochonnet and keeping your opponent’s boules away. This is achieved firstly by strategically placing your boule and secondly by knocking your opponent’s boule further from the cochonnet.
Tête à tête: 1 against 1. Each one-person team plays 3 boules.
Doublette: 2 versus 2. Each team plays 3 boules.
Triplette: 3 versus 3. Each team plays 2 boules.
Le Bazar Total: Full discretion, I made this term up out of necessity and it is not in compliance with Pétanque Federation standards. Le Bazar Total is the team division you end up with when you tell everyone to meet you around six and they trickle in until midnight with whatever boules they have around the house. So, two teams of between 2 and 5 members, each team playing roughly 3 to 9 boules.
1) Once your terrain is claimed, toss a coin to see which team goes first.
2) Draw a circle with (roughly) an 18 inch diameter. A member from the first team will throw the cochonnet from inside this circle. The cochonnet should land no less than 18 feet but no more than 30 feet from the circle.
3) The team that throws the cochonnet also plays the first boule. The opposing team throws the second boule.
4) From here on, the team with the boule furthest from the cochonnet after each throw throws the next boule.
5) Continue in this fashion until one team has thrown all of their boules.
6) The other team then throws their remaining boules.
• Throw your boule as close to the cochonnet as possible.
• Knock the cochonnet closer to one of your team’s boules.
• Knock the opponent’s boules further away from the cochonnet.
The team claims as many points as they have boules nearer to the cochonnet than the opposing team.
When all the boules are thrown and the points are awarded the round is over. The teams with the most points at the end of a round starts off (throws the cochonnet and first boule) the next round.
The first team to earn 13 points wins.
If your team looses 0 – 13 you may required to kiss the butt of a woman named Fanny. Don’t ask me why, no one really knows, but it’s legend, and tradition, dating back to the 19th century.
Great Places to Play in Paris
Everywhere! All the large parks have multiple designated terrains and many smaller neighborhood parks have at least one playing area. In terms of players these are the spots frequented by local folk, from teens to elders. You may learn a lot from playing next to these pros and as long as you don’t mess with their game they are more than happy to have you play alongside.
The Canal de l’Ourcq is a hip spot for pétanque and picnics on Summer nights. There’s not much light after dark so make sure to bring a brightly-colored cochonnet.
For a quick but elegant game on your lunch break the Palais Royal or Place Dauphine is the perfect place to meet up with your team in surroundings fit for a king.