Across France every evening - and most afternoons - people of all ages and sizes come out to enjoy a game of boules on any scruffy piece of ground. Yet in Gascony, you may also see the game of Palet Gascon being played on the same pieces of gravel.
Palet gascon risked disappearing forever in the 1970s and 1980s but the resurgence of interest in all things Gascon and "d'Oc" in the last 15 years has brought the game back from the brink. The world championships are held at the hamlet of Lialores, just a few kilometres north of Condom on the 15th august (the public holiday of the Assumption). It is also possibly one of the few sports in the world in which anyone can turn up for the finals of the world championship - sober or not so sober - and on paying the entry fee (E8, I think) and play.
The game is played throughout the summer and the venues are announced on the internet
Basically, a player throws two large iron disks at a small pin 10 metres away. The pin has three coins on the top and points are awarded if one of your iron disks is closer to the coins than the end of the pin.
The World Championship is run with several rounds, to "separate the men from the boys" and the final round is held from 5pm, followed by a huge open-air banquet. You can do this in France because the weather is gorgeous in the evenings. If you hold an open-air banquet in Britain in mid-summer, you will either be drowned or get mildew.
Palet Gascon goes back into the mists of time, locally - and you have a fairly good chance of going away on holiday to get a tan and returning to work as a genuine World Champion!
The brandy - what else did you think?
One important local custom is the distilling of the Armagnac - the other one the tasting. Unfortunately I had - despite of my charming travel company - to limit myself in this respect - because I was the driver.
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