The Art of Boules

Coming from the Provençal "Ped-tanca" meaning the game of planted feet, Pétanque, or Boules, is more than a sport, it’s a veritable French tradition. Inseparable from the singing accent of Southerners who play with passion throughout the year, this ancient practice is an important part of a genuine Provençal lifestyle.
By Mélissa Darré

Boules, A Provençal Heritage

Long regarded as a popular phenomenon, even accused of being a cliché, Boules has become a recognized discipline. Practiced since antiquity, it has evolved over the centuries through its rules, its methods and its accessories into its current version, born in 1907 in La Ciotat almost "by chance."

Indeed, it was with the historical match by prodigy Jules Hugues, suffering from rheumatism, that the famous "ped-tanca" supplanted its predecessor “le jeu provençal,” in which players ran three steps before throwing the ball. Preferring a minimum of movement, Jules "Le Noir" and his partners executed their favorite pastime without momentum and on a shorter field. Boules was born.

Boules, A Provençal Heritage
© GettyImages - Mel Curtis

The Ultimate Friendly Sport

With the familiar refrain of "You shoot or you point?" the sport has steadily conquered more and more followers. Rapidly carving for itself the lion's share among the other games of bowls using stone, clay or wooden balls, such as bocce and lawn bowls, Boules brings people together around shared values. Cosmopolitan and friendly, the game appeals with its accessibility.

A game Rabelais defined as "suitable for all ages, from childhood to old age." And rightly so, today close to 500,000 French people are club members. "More than 20 million people currently play Boules" asserts Michel Montana, president of the largest annual bowling competition the "Mondial La Marseillaise."

The Ultimate Friendly Sport
© Fotolia - JMDZ

A Sport and A Way of Life

And today this summer pastime enjoys a touch of glamor that one could never suspected, even attracting luxury brands like Chanel. Between strategic discipline and a relaxed state of mind, there's something for everyone during the matches played on village squares, enjoyed until nightfall around an aperitif.

Although recognized since 2013 as a professional sport, the game hasn’t forsaken its good nature, so typical of the South. As described by the Mayor of Marseille Jean-Claude Gaudin, "More than a hobby and more than a sport, Boules is above all an art form combining competition, fun and relaxation. Marseille is deeply attached to this Provençal passion.

A Sport and A Way of Life
© GettyImages - David De Lossy

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