Best Place to Play Pétanque San Francisco 2008 - Pétanque Bowling Field, Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park has so many tucked-away, little-known attractions — the cardplayers' shelter, the fly-casting pool, the archery field, the lake reserved for model yachts and sailboats — it isn't surprising that there's a tree-lined clearing set aside for the purpose of playing pétanque. Formally invented (after a lengthy gestation period) 101 years ago in Provence (Balzac and Pagnol were aficionados), the game resembles Italian bocce and English lawn bowling but has its own particular mystique. The idea is to stand, feet together, and toss heavy, palm-sized steel boules at a smaller wooden ball (the cochonnet); whichever team gets its boules to roll closest to the cochonnet wins. One recent sunny afternoon, members of La Boule d'Or were practicing for the following day's tournament. The myriad strategies surrounding this seemingly simple pastime were impressive indeed (players can try to dislodge opponents' boules or the cochonnet itself). Benches are provided for kibitzers or the merely curious.