Friday, 1 July 2011

Playing Petanque at the Bassin de la Villette

Why is it when Irish people go anywhere on holiday it rains? 
This stereotype has never been more clearly demonstrated than by my friends recent visit to Paris. one month earlier we had been basking in glorious sunshine and 30 degree heat and next thing you know Irish people arrive and we get rain, clouds and a temperature maximum of 18 degrees.

Anyway after the lamented departure of my Irish compatriots a mandatory heatwave ensued. what to do during the hot weather in Paris is always a difficult question, considering Paris has a complete lack of coast line (a la Dublin) or complete lack of swimmable rivers and lakes (a la Zurich).

Of course the city's way of compensating for this is with the “Paris Plage” this phenomenon is when they shut down some of the streets around the Seine and turn them into “beaches”. A lot of people are quick to criticise these spaces and while they are far from the real thing they do allow people such as myself to don a bikini and douse myself with ice cold water every 20 minutes right in the centre of Paris. 
Nothing seems stranger than sunbathing in said bikini while 200 tourist walk past on the bridge above you on the way to Notre Dame, but having frequented Paris Plage previously in 2008, trust me the break from the heat is a welcome relief.
the grass and deck beaches mean no sand in your swimsuit

However seeing as this year Paris Plage only starts on the 20th of July an alternative has to found, and considering the only thing your likly to enjoy along the seine at the moment is a mouth full of car and tour boat exhaust fumes, the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th seemed like a suitable waterside solution. Cycling along one of my favourite routes by the Canal I once again enjoyed seeing people out enjoying the hot weather, even if it was a little quieter seeing as it was an ordinary working day and the extreme heat was forcing people to stay out of the direct heat.

Having so few people about though was a bonus and upon arriving to the canal I managed to find a perfect spot by the waterside, but with lovely tree casting a shadow onto the ground nearby.

After spreading out my picnic blanket and pillow people slowly started arriving. While the aim of the day had been to play petanque (see my version of rules below), chilling out and chatting seemed higher on the agenda. While we did have one or two games we only ever played to first to 5 instead of the traditional 13. We even managed to get our photo taken for the local website (bottom right), in an article about the heat wave.
our picture from the article

With the sun still beating down and shadows on the south side of the canal becoming more and more scarce we switched sides before hunger finally drove us home. Seeing as it was now quite late in the evening, the canal had completely changed from a meagre scattering of sunbathers earlier in the day, to crowded and busy, with brasseries and cafés in full swing.

Over all a good day and some nice cycling. Also I was very grateful to have my saddlebag with me so I could put the game of boules on my bike, because an 8 ball set is quite heavy.

For those of you not familiar with petanque here is a quick summary the rules I know.

1.    Each person gets 2 balls or “boules”
2.    Someone throws the small ball called the “le cochonnet” or jack
3.    Everyone takes turns to throw 1 of their balls closest to the jack
4.    The furthest person away goes first in the second round of ball throwing , followed by the next furthest ect.
5.    The person with their ball closest gets one point
6.    If the same person owns the 2 closest balls they get 2 points
7.    This traditionally continues until someone reaches 13, or what ever number everyone agrees on, as people get bored easily
Apparently you can play in teams ect, but not too sure about that. I do know that if you are only 2 people you can split the balls evenly getting 3-4 balls each, which means the points go up faster and the game is shorter.

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