I’ve always associated Pétanque with France, in particular the South. Based on countless trips to France, I had an image of old gentlemen enjoying this game in the afternoon sun, possibly after supping on a couple of glasses of pastis. Apologies for the stereotype!

In Castelnaudary, where we have our house, there are four boulodromes or areas to play pétanque. I was surprised to discover that in our village in the Surrey Hills, there are two pétanque clubs. Pétanque is not only played in France! I decided it was time to find out more about this game and here are some fun facts I unearthed:

  1. The name pétanque comes from la petanca in the Occitan language, deriving from the expression pès tancats meaning “feet together” or more exactly “feet planted on the ground.”
  2. ‘Boules’ and pétanque are two different names for the same game.
  3. The metal balls used in the game of pétanque are also called ‘boules’.
  4. Some sources claim that pétanque can be traced back to the Egyptians. Others suggest that the Ancient Greeks were the first to play games that involved tossing stones or coins.
  5. The Romans added a target, now known as the jack or cochonnet.
  6. Theoretically, anyone can play pétanque, irrespective of age or gender.
  7. Pétanque is very popular in Asia, notably in Thailand.
  8. The first Pétanque World Championship was held in 1959,
  9. If you buy a pétanque set in France, you are not allowed to take it on board a plane. The metal boules make them ‘objets interdits’ or ‘forbidden objects’. They have to go in the hold.
  10. Pétanque is not an Olympic sport but not for want of trying!
  11. Petanque is pronounced:

    Of course, as well as the traditional pétanque sets, there are the coloured, plastic ones. When our sons were small, boules was a much-loved family game. We still play boules, as a family and with friends, when we are in France but we have a ‘proper’ set with metal boules!

    Are you a fan of boules or pétanque?