One of my favorite pastimes is boules, a game similar to Italian bocce ball. It’s also known as pétanque, a contraction of the French pieds tanqués meaning “feet tied together” because it’s required to stand with feet positioned in a designated circle while tossing a ball rather than a running start, as in bocce or bowling. Nothing made me happier upon our arrival in St. Paul de Vence, a medieval city in the region of Provence–where the game originated–than the prospect of watching a game with some French pros. I didn’t have to wait long.

After checking into the local Best Western, we enjoyed a cappuccino at a nearby restaurant, Le Pigeonnier. Sitting on the patio we had a view of a court and a game in progress. The seriousness of judging whose boule lands closest to the ping-pong-sized wooden ball thrown out to begin the game (the cochonnet, literally, “piglet”) is evidenced by the photo below, surreptitiously snapped so as not to attract unwanted attention.

The last stop on our European junket, Vence provided not only a little spectator sport, but Keith had the opportunity to preach in two more churches, in Nice and St. Paul de Vence, where, as in Marseille, he was warmly received.

We had a day to explore the town, and not only had a good meal at a hotel, Mas de Vence, but found many charming shops like those in Le Castellet, such as a toy store, Millesime. (How can you not love a place whose proprietors are named Fifi la Ferraille and Zoe Bonbon?) We purchased not a coloring book, but an entire cardboard castle requiring a young artisan’s hand, complete with dozens of marking pens. (Sorry, dear daughter-in-law!)

In the morning we said goodbye to our friendly host and hostess at our hotel. As usual, we had selected it because it met one of our criteria: they took pets. Oddly, it was the only place in all our travels where Carson was not permitted in the dining room. Another negative was that although there was high speed Internet, it was not available in the room, so any work had to be conducted in the lobby. That said, they were warmly accommodating to some special requests we made.

We directed our trusty Skoda  to Nice airport, heading home to Salt Lake City via JFK in New York. We’d not just passed through, but spent time in, for a meal or a bit of sightseeing all of these (maybe another one or two) cities, towns, or villages: Nice, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Sanury-sur-Mer, Le Castellet, Marseille, Grenoble, Bern, Vaduz, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Bratislava, Budapest, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Sistiana, Bologna, Scarperia, Galliano, St. Agata, Pisa, Genoa, Savona, Monaco, and St. Paul de Vence. We’d learned a great deal and met some great people, taking away a treasury of memories. One thing I know for sure:

We’ll be ba-a-a-a-ck …

(Le Pigeonnier, 06140 Vence; Millesime, rempart-ouest 06570 Saint Paul,;; Mas de Vence, 539, av. Emile Hugues 06140 Vence 33 04 93 58 06 16