Wander around any of Provence’s towns and villages and you’re bound to spot groups of French residents enjoying a lazy game of pétanque (a form of boules) in village squares and on park pathways. It originated in the Provençal village of La Ciotat (External link) in the early 1900s, with the goal of tossing or rolling hollow steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet, while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground. It’s relaxing to watch and will get you truly into the spirit of this leisurely-paced part of France – but better still: integrate with the locals, pick up a ball and try your hand at the game!

la ciotat