Summer in Paris: Play Pétanque like a French Hipster

Last night, you may have caught our croquet party in the park. Somewhat stigmatized as an activity for old people, or rich people, or old, rich people, the game featuring tiny balls and tiny arches isn’t always the go-to social activity for the young and hip. But the times, they are a-changing. What I mean is, it’s not just a croquet-comeback sweeping the nation, it’s a world movement, and Paris is paving the way with Pétanque.

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(Oh, we’re young and hip too. Like these guys.)

Pétanque is a classic French outdoor ball game, traditionally a summer pastime for older dudes in hats. (Ok, hats are optional, but preferable.) And Pétanque is getting pretty cool. The first Pétanque Paradise, a multi-day festival dedicated to the game, is totally about to happen in Paris. The next event happens on August 30, featuring Pétanque on-the-street tournaments, that anyone can sign up for, food trucks, activities for kids and a rockin’ DJ soundtrack to keep the beat.

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So what’s the deal? Pétanque was invented in Provence in Southern France. It’s meant to be a mega-social game, played outside on sandy spreads with two teams up to three players each. Here’s how it works:

1. Divide into two teams. You can play Singles with one player on each side, Doubles with two players on each side, or Triples with three players on each side. When playing Singles or Doubles, each player uses three boules (the playing-balls) and for Triples each player uses two.

2. The team that wins a coin-toss picks a location to begin.

3. The starting location is marked by a circle 14 to 20 inches in diameter and at least three feet from any obstacles. The circle can be drawn with chalk, or made with rope… doesn’t matter. Once the circle is drawn, the player then stands inside the circle and throws the little cochonnet (the smaller ball). It can be thrown in any direction as long as it lands within 30 feet of the circle.

4. All boules are thrown from within the circle. The player attempts to throw the boule so that it lands as close to the cochonnet as possible. A player from the opposing team then steps into the circle and attempts to land his boule closer. The boule closest leads, or as the Parisians say (in French, of course) “holding the point.”

5. The team that has the boule closest to the cochonnet wins the round. A point is received for each boule that is closer to the cochonnet than their opponent’s closest boule. (Only one team scores points during a round.)

6. A new round begins. This starting circle is drawn around the final position of the cochonnet in the previous round. The winning team then selects a player to toss out the cochonnet from the new circle and then everyone starts throwing boules.

7. The first team to get to 13 points wins the game!

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So go grab some tiny metal balls, and start earning some Parisian street-cred before it’s cool here too.

About the Author: Elsie Sing


Elsie is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; her writing has appeared in a few university publications, under tables and on the sides of trains. She likes taking Polaroid pictures and planning rooftop picnics.