Petanque a French obsession

Most know it as French boules (or Petanque if you are proper), the relaxing game played in the shade of trees on the gravel of squares across France by old men in vests and flat hats with Gitanes in their mouths and shots of pastis close to hand,  Nearly 17 million people in France are known to play this sociable sport and many have done so in summer campsites around the country.

It has suddenly become cool and an update to all this is in order. Petanque is fashionable as Karl Lagerfeld hosted a tournament full of stars in St-Tropez where designer petanque sets in soft leather and adorned with labels of Chanel and Louis Vuitton are selling for £1,500 and where Obut, the country’s largest manufacturer of boules is releasing a new line mad of tattooed steel for those teenagers that are style conscious or better known as petanquistes.

Earlier this year one tournament drew over 13,000 participants between the ages of 12 and 84, from 19 countries to the France’s second city. Pernod Ricard has announced exhibition matches in London, at Spitalfields every Tuesday night in August.

Ancient Greeks and Romans played with stone balls and the medieval Europeans wooden balls studded with nails and its popularity in French made it be banned from commoners for the better part of the 14th and 15th centuries. There are several versions that emerged in France but by far the most popular is petanque. Sir Francis Drake was known to have played before fighting with the Spanish and painting show his crew playing on gravel with metal cannon balls and others show him lobbing the ball, not rolling it. A more similar game to petanque was played here until the 19th century.