top of page
  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

From Provence to Paris ... What the Pétanque is Pétanque?!

For Joes - an absolute legend of a nephew, to say nothing of his ownership of the boulodrome, or pétanque court, (and master of the traditional Pastis drink to accompany!)


Did you know that much like the Olympics, pétanque can be traced back to Ancient Greece, only instead of balls, they played with coins and stones. Proud of her of her Greek roots, this game’s new heartland is in is in the South of France, Provence mostly.

And, this ain't your grandpa's pétanque! With a new hipster (or "Bobo" en français) vibe, pétanque is once again de rigueur!


More than just a game for many the enthusiast, pétanque brings with it more of a "lifestyle" vibe.

It even has a signature drink to accompany matches - Pastis! It's an anise flavored drink served at pétanque matches and apéro alike. The most popular and well recognized brand is Ricard, hailing from the Marseille region.


Throwing together a pétanque soirée at home? Fun! Don't forget to serve some delicious French nibbles to enhance the mood. You'll want to make sure your bites are easy to eat and navigate between your turn at the ball or even just as a pétanque savvy bystander.

Looking for a non-alcoholic Pastis type mocktail? Look no further than Pacific Anise.


Before heading into some of the basic rules of the game, let's examine some of the key vocabulary you'll need to get by...

· Une boule de pétanque = a pétanque ball. As a note, balls will have varying "markers" or lines on them so you can see whose is whose in the boulodrome.

· Un équipe = a team

· Le cochonnet / le bouchon / le petit / le but / le gari = the piglet, the jack (the small wooden ball)

· Un bouliste, un joueur de pétanque = a pétanque player

· Le terrain, le boulodrome = the area/field/ground on which pétanque is played

· Une mène = a round, an end

· Le gagneur = the winner

· Le perdant = the loser

Ok, let's get to the rules.

The goal here is - the team or player to get to 13 points first wins.

You can play the game with 1, 2, or 3 players on each side. With teams of 1 or 2, each player has 3 boules. With teams of 3, each player has 2 boules.

You'll toss a coin to see who throws first.

Still with me? Great!

Any player from the coin toss win team can draw a circle (with their feet or chalk, etc.) on the ground in which every player will stand to throw their boules.

The circle should be about .5m in diameter and at least 1m from any obstacle (trees, wall, water, etc.)


Now, that person who drew the circle of play throws the "cochonnet" between 4m and 8m (let's say 6-10 paces).

This littlest ball, too, cannot be closer than 1m to any obstacle.

Any player from the first team throws their first boule, feet together, aiming to land as close as possible to the cochonette.

image: Joes at the ready with the overhand throw!

A player from the opposing team then steps into the drawn circle and tries to place their own boule closer to the cochonette - or even to knock the other person's boule away from it!

*You must throw the boule (overhand or underhand, as you prefer) within 1 minute of your turn standing in the circle.

The boule nearest to the cochonette is the team "holding the point."


Ok still with me? Take note...

The players in the team not holding continue throwing until they play a boule closest to the cochonette. There's no set order of each player to play, but each player must throw their own boules.

When this team is out of boules, the players from the other team toss their boules as close to the cochonette as possible, even knocking opponents away.


We're almost there!

When both teams have tossed all their boules, you stop play and tally up the points. The winning team scores one point for each boule nearer to the cochonette than the opponent's closest. Have a measuring tape on hand! Only one team can score points in each round.


Sooooooo close now.... (pun entirely intended).

A player from the team that has won throws the cochonette from a new circle drawn around the cochonette's last position.

The winner or winning team is the first to reach a total of 13 points.

You've done it, you've played your first pétanque match! But did you know...


Let me introduce you to Fanny, "The Patron Saint of Pétanque"

To be fanny in a game of pétanque means to lose a match without scoring a single point (so a shutout score of 13 to 0).

Having to kiss fanny as acknowledgement of the loss is utter humiliation. Or is it?


Fanny is quite the legend. Some say she was a waitress at the Café de Grand-Lemps just after World War I. So gracious was she, that she allowed the losers to give her a little smooch on her cheek as kind of a fun participation ribbon.

Now, enter the town's mayor, who lost a game that very day and entered her café to claim his prize. So disenchanted was she that she lifted her skirt and gave him the other cheek instead. The mayor didn't skip a beat, gave her bum a peck, and so a new tradition was born.


Nowadays as well, even more fun gets added as there is always some kind of picture or idol of Fanny around to greet the poor sole who didn't gain a point. Sometimes there is a bell on hand to ring out the indignation of the moment! You can see in this image the gentleman on the far right mid-ring.

Sometimes the loser even buys a round of drinks saying "Fanny paie à boire" or "the drinks are on Fanny!"


So chic and popular has the sport become that even high end fashion designers have gotten into the game (see what we did there?)

You can see here the (overwhelmingly high priced) Chanel set of Pétanque boules and her signature Double C logo on the cochonette.

Play chic, P'Nichers!


When I am lucky enough to be able to play pétanque in Paris, I head to:

Jardin Tuileries

Métro: Tuileries on the 1 Line

Place Dauphine

Métro: Pont Neuf (7) and Cité (4)


(Note: over the last summer, it has become prohibited from playing pétanque in the jardin of the Palais Royale and they will fine you if caught.)

Need a little help with your game, set, match? You can actually register for lessons and be guided through the game by a pro - and bonus, they cay bring and carry all the materials needed for a successful time.


Bar vibe more your scene? P'Niche loves:

Chez Bouboule (several addresses)

79, rue de Dunkerque, 75009

Métro: Pigalle (12) or Possonnière (7)

Les Apéros de la Pétanque

19, route des Fortifications

Métro: Porte de Charenton (8)

Just to name a few...


Can't get away this summer to Paris or Provence? You can bring pétanque home with you with a (non-sponsored) game set, and arrange a tournament simply in your home backyard, nearby park, or even a beach.

Regardless of where you play, DO be careful around passersby - those boules are heavy and no joke if hit!

What do you think P'Nichers? Ready to meet on the boulodrome for a battle to 13 points? Let us know in the comments section below et à bientôt!


Recent Posts

See All


Ellen Betancourt
Ellen Betancourt
Jun 16, 2022

What a great post! I had found this sign on Etsy when looking at sets of boules. Now it all makes sense! Tee Hee! I want to play more than ever! Bisous!

Jun 17, 2022
Replying to

SO fun! I cannot wait to hear how your first boules game goes, it's just too fun! 😘

bottom of page