We are literally steps away from the Jardin du Luxembourg – the Luxembourg gardens. Oh, what a delight! We have walked from one end to the other. Watched little kids have boat races, studied sculptures, listened to a Chopin concert, ate ice cream, and watched teams of Petanque (pronounced, pay-TONK) players. Even Leonina witnessed this grand sport.
Petanque is like lawn bowling or bocce ball. And it is, with the exception of having to stand feet together in a circle marked by your opponent. The history goes back to Egypt in 5200 B.C.! Clubs exist around the world. Here in France, it was first invented in 1907 specifically to allow people confined to a wheelchair. Just two weeks ago, celebrity Chefs had a fundraising competion to raise money for handicapped children and their families. From the young to the elderly, it’s a game for everyone to come, play and socialize.
Usually, there are two or three teams playing against each other. The idea is to throw a little yellow ‘cochonnet’ (means, piglet in French) up to 30 feet away. Then, you want to bowl or throw the ‘boules’ as close to the cochonnet as possible. There’s a point system and the team that reaches 13 first wins.
Having returned a few times, we noticed that team members like to stay together. We learned that each person (mostly men, it seems) have designated strengths for different jobs to become a successful team. One person may be a good ‘pointer’ - throwing the ball as close to the little piglet as possible. Another teammate is the tireur, the striker – one who is able to strike the opponent’s boules out from near the piglet. Then lastly, the milieu, a jack-of-all-trade, one who is generally good all-around. One of these people will be the ‘director’ who makes strategic and tactical decisions – usually the one with the most experience.
It’s all in the concentration and being able to focus “like a robot” that will bring a team up the ranks. We could tell that it was fun, yet serious. Lines drawn, balls clicking, rolling, wiped by an old cloth, cigs dangling. The man in the blue shirt actually went into a trance-like mode. He was the ‘striker’ and was 95% right on. Chit-chatting with us on the side-lines, we all laughed and had some winking going on. Then, I think the man in the blue shirt said with a smile, “Your chicken would like to go swimming in the lake?”, or something like this. It was time for Leonina to go into hiding for a while…
Just watching made me want to get up and give it a try. But, I don’t have a set of boules (your personal boules are stored in a wooden hut). In addition, I think it was a private club. Not sure how I would fair since I’m terrible at bowling. But, great at ping pong! I guess these hefty guys don’t bounce. In any case it has been great fun watching them and learning about this popular French sport.
Oh, yes! If you ever go to this park, you should know that it’s like Lego-land. There are three difference kind of movable chairs. People pick them up, move them around into different configurations to read, sleep, people-watch or socialize. It’s like a game in itself – everyone eying up their next chair they will scoop up (and these are heavy metal!). Tre interessant!
See photo album: Sunday in the Park