What would be a trip in the south of France without its most famous game of Pétanque? The linguistic school Alpha b doesn’t just offer French classes, but also want to show you the French culture in its whole. Spend an afternoon working on your southern French vocabulary while playing Pétanque with the other students at school on the hill of the castle in Nice.

Pétanque is a game but is also considered a sport in France. Besides, it is now a candidate to integrate the 2024 Paris summer Olympics! So, what is this game then?


Pétanque is a really simple game at its core. It is basically throwing balls while aiming for a special one. Each player has two to three lead balls (but there are plastic ones for children). The dedicated facility to play pétanque is officially called a “boulodrome”. However, most people playing for fun can choose any ground or field, as long as it has a flat surface and a bit of gravel.


A line or a circle must be traced on the ground to define the place to stand and throw the balls. A small wooden ball, called the “cochonnet” (“little piggy”) is rolled on the ground at the very beginning of the game, a few meters away from the players. Each player is going to get behind the line or inside the circle on the ground, and keep their feet together to throw their first ball the closer they could to the cochonnet. The name of the game comes from this position: in provencal, “ped tanca” means keeping their feet together, fixed, planted on the ground. It has evolved into the word “Pétanque”.

Once each player has thrown their first ball, the owner of the ball farther away from the cochonnet can throw their second ball first. Then the second person farther away throws their ball, etc. It is then interesting to choose if you have to “pointer” which means throw your ball the closer possible to the cochonnet, or if you have to “tirer” which is aiming for the ball of an adversary to get it out the way. You could then hear the typical saying when you play Pétanque, “alors, tu tires ou tu pointes ?”


Pétanque is well-liked in the south of France, but also by the tourists wanting to relax during their summer holidays. Like us in Alpha b, French people like to have an “aperitif”, or “apéro” for short, while playing, which means that you get to drink a cool rosé or soda while you’re waiting for your turn to play, and enjoy the warm weather of Nice during a sunny afternoon or a comfortable night.



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