On a recent trip to Portugal, Sactown members Christophe and Michelle wanted to find a place to play pétanque while in Lisbon. They had not visited Portugal before and didn't speak Portuguese but knew that if they could locate pétanque in Portugal, they would find friends.
With a quick search online, they discovered Petanca S. Pedro Estoril and took a 25-minute Uber from Lisbon in search of petanca near the beach town of Cascais. After driving through narrow streets and confusing turns typical of small European towns, they finally arrived at a serene pétanque park where locals can be seen happily hurling boules on shaded terrains while a flock of sheep passed by. Club members immediately invited the two Californians to play, and their connection was instant.
When it comes to pétanque, the language of the game is universal. Whether they were speaking Portuguese, English, Spanish, or French, everyone understood each other and acted as though they were old friends playing again for the hundredth time. There was also a visitor from Mexico who joined in. Each person quickly knew the position they wanted to play (pointeur, milieu, or tireur); circle drawn, cochonnet thrown, and the fun began. The ease of playing and bantering happened immediately and felt particularly like home - players would cheer, laugh, and joke as people made carreaus or missed badly, in different languages and with beer in hand.
Christophe and Michelle were treated with wine and escargot cooked by members at the club's cafe located at the courts. They shared pétanque stories and dreamed of players from different parts of the world being able to travel and play together. They heard a familiar story from their new friends in Portugal- there are really good players who can't travel and compete outside of Portugal due to cost, such as their club members Mostafa and Ricardo (Portugal national winners), whom, Christophe and Michelle were convinced, would be pétanque rock stars in the U.S.
As the day came to end, the good-byes were more like "see you next time." Miguel from the club remarked, "We are like family here." This was obvious from the kindness expressed by everyone and the palpable sense of community.
Obrigado S. Pedro Estoril for making Sactown feel like your family. We hope our paths will cross again.