Best of 2000: Best Place To Play Petanque

Morley Field
Balboa Park
(858) 488-6710

It's your call: You can play bowls the English way, on manicured greens wearing formal whites; like the Italians, with wood-hearted bocce bowls in long sand pits; or like the French, anywhere there's a patch of open dirt. French bowls are smaller, baseball-sized 1H-lb. steel balls. Pétanque is the name (meaning, in Provençal, "feet together") that Jules Noir gave it when he invented the game in 1907. Make that "reinvented." People have been playing some sort of pétanque since Greek and Roman times. In San Diego, a bunch of Frenchmen started playing it on a patch at Morley Field in 1980. What draws them -- and now many locals -- is a combo of the game, the companionship, the food, the wine, and, incidentally, the exercise. You soon discover you're either a placeur or a tireur. A placer or a shooter. Placers try to get their ball nearest the jack. Shooters fling theirs in the air and knock enemy balls away. Pétanque is more about conviviality. Kids, men, women, rich, poor, champs, chumps -- they all play this game. Old guys too. Some old players too stiff to bend down use magnets on strings to retrieve their boules. You couldn't do that with bocce. First and third Sundays.

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