WHITSTABLE, BRIGHTON, LONDON, MASSERET, CONQUES">
Brooklyn Boule lands on foreign soil and goes in search of places to play pétanque. Although not really a pilgrimage nor a extensive cataloging of the best of the best, these are some of the places we visited and enjoyed a game or two.
Brighton, East Sussex, many of you may know as the Coney Island of England and home to the Brighton & Hove Pétanque Club. Although bad planning on my behalf lead me not to meet up with the club, I did see their pistes and threw a few boule abound. An absolutely fantastic site for Pétanque, right on the beach. They have three exclusive areas where they play and the two I saw were pristine and well looked after. I couldn't help but drool over these large areas enclosed by small walls and overlooking the sea and the elegant Brighton piers. Some day I'll have to go back and get in a few games.
London town, Cleaver Square, Kennington. The south London Mecca for pétanque players. Having heard for this spot for years I was looking forward to meeting up with some old friends and Hot club Pétanque's J-C Nowers, who organizes the games there. Cleaver Square is not your typical London square, being a central garden park. Surrounded by Georgian terraces, it's open, tree-lined and graveled. The Prince of Wales pub in one corner allows for outside drinking and the use of it's facilities. A fine time was had until the sun set and we all headed of in search of latenight food. Many thanks to all those that showed up at such little notice and to Ed for being such a gentleman.
So to France and our first stop was the small village of Masseret. Located just south of Limoges atop a high peek with a 360º view of the area around it. Beneath the Rapunzel-like tower built over the sight of an ancient chateau, is Masseret's "Boulodrome". 15 out door pistes and 2 huge indoor areas inside the Boulodrome itself. Although we missed the monthly tournament I did manage to get inside and gasp in awe at the size and location of this fantastic establishment. Of all the places we went in Europe, this was the finest. We played in the early morning before setting off again, enthralled that such a tiny picturesque place could have a perfect, year round space to play Pétanque.
And finally to Conques, the village I grew up in and our family home away from home for over 30 years. This is where I watched and learned how to play pétanque, from the old and young of the village. To play pétanque here as an adult, having honed my playing skill in New York, is an amazing grounding in my past and connection to the locals and the rich culture of the Central Massif. Unfortunately the piste that I once new has long since gone and a school was built on the site, now the local club has a spot and the end of of the tourist car park. But they have a club hut/bar and throughout the summer every Tuesday night they have a doubles tournament. Playing three games and prizes awarded by wins, not points. One win = Pâté, two wins = Pâté and wine. One for each player. And we didn't come off too bad, two bottles of wine and lots of pâté for the two competitions we played in...... On Sundays they have their practice games, where you play for free and engage in a little healthy tourist-free competition. ( Merci beaucoup à William de prendre les photos et tout le monde dans Conques )
An amazing trip, and well worth hauling our boules across the Atlantic, being ready and willing for any playable surface we could find. Being back in Brooklyn we a glad that we have somewhere local to play and realize that a Pétanque continues to catch on in the US, such things as Boulodromes and prizes = Pâté, could be just around the corner.