Born Wild on the French Ski Slopes

Born Wild on the French Ski Slopes

Richard Orlinski is one of France’s most famous contemporary artists.  I had not heard of him before I saw his works at the Val d’Isere ski resort in the French Alps.

Orlinski mostly works with contemporary materials like resin and aluminium.  He is known for creating works that are Pop Art influenced in industrial materials.  His works reflect the theme of “Born Wild” – looking at concepts of savagery and civilisation.  Born in 1966, he has been a sculptor since 2004.  His pieces are very much marked as “price on application” – if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.  We were told the Val d’Isere pieces run about €150,000.

He has a sculpture reflecting his theme of Born Wild.  This piece shows clearly his love of Pop Art and is an homage to American artist, Robert Indiana, famous for his sculptures of the world “love”.  Indiana had the letter “O” in his love statues tilted to show that love could never be perfect.  I wonder what the tilted O and backward N and D in this piece means.

Born wild

image: Richard Orlinski

There are several works of Orlinski at Val d’Isere that we saw – Wild Kong, Panther and Superman.  Two works, Wild Kong and Panther, are in the mountains.

Our ski instructor told us that he’d seen Panther go up in a ski lift to where it would eventually be placed.  The Panther is sculpted similar to a diamond and the light bounces off the different facets of the carving.  I think the faceting highlights the sleek power of the panther’s muscles really effectively.

Richard Orlinski panther

Wild Kong is, of course, based on the iconic character of King Kong. It’s pretty effective in conveying the born wild concept of the Orlinski – the beast that is capable of love and destruction. My son couldn’t resist mugging with Wild Kong.

Richard Orlinski Wild Kong

I didn’t actually get a photograph of Superman even though I passed it every day.  The sculpture is right at the bottom of the slopes where the ski school classes meet.  Every day I thought I must get a photo and, of course, never got around to it.  Superman was set pointing to the apres ski crowd in the village.  I think he would have been more effective in the mountains like the others.

superman statue

image: Le Dauhine

Orlinski modelled the Superman on Bolshevik art and asks the question what if Superman had landed in the USSR instead of the USA?  The “S” symbol on Superman’s chest is replaced by the Communist symbols of a hammer and sickle.

Say what??!  It might all be a little high-brow for me because frankly Superman is a fictional character.  Superman is also a very American character – friendly, farm boy who goes to the big city and fights for good causes.  There’s not nearly enough angst, family dysfunction, repressed sexuality, hopeless causes and death for it to be Russian.  My husband says this attitude is the American in me speaking.

Orlinski’s works are also on exhibit also at the nearby ski resort of Courcheval, such as this bear.

Orlinski bear

Image from Instagram @RichardOrlinski

Cool isn’t it?

I think it is a fabulous idea bringing art to the French Alps.  I find it amusing thought that both French resorts chosen (Val d’Isere and Courcheval) are known to have well-heeled clients. Art for the masses is good, but art that brings in wealthy clients for the artist is even better.

Les Bon Bons To Keep The Kids Sweet

Les Bon Bons To Keep The Kids Sweet

After a hard day’s skiing, I felt my kids and their friends deserved to sample some French candy.  It also gave me an excuse to go to the Monday market at the French Alpine resort of Val d’Isere to check out the stands.  There were a handful of stands doing French candies, nougats, chocolate and assorted other bon bons. When you are at a small town ski resort, a local market would have to pass for cultural exploration.

I thought these strawberry shaped marshmallows covered in red sugar were really pretty but they were huge!  We could easily split one strawberry between 3 kids.  In fact, we found them a little too big to eat.  After all, you really want sweets that are small enough to pop in your mouth when no one is looking.

strawberry marshmallows

These ever-popular little bears called petit oursons are a French childhood tradition.  They are chocolate-covered marshmallows and completely yummy. I am definitely a fan.

petit oursons

I found these hard French candies which the vendor told me was a Savoy specialty.  They are hard candies infused with a variety of random flavours – genepy (a liquor made from wormwood), pine sap, aniseed, eucalyptus etc.  I bought some for the adults in our group but everyone preferred the kiddy candy instead.

hard French candy

There was also the usual gummy snacks and caramels.  We bypassed those types of French candy because they didn’t look that new or different.

french market with bonbons

The French really like their nougat. In fact, the word nougat comes from French.   I didn’t know there were so many different types of nougat which vary in composition and chewiness.  Real nougat is supposed to be made from sugar but the nougat we Americans know from our candy bars (e.g., Snickers) is made from fructose and corn syrup.

French nougat

After the market,  we also had time to check out the local supermarket.  How pretty are these flower-shaped hard candies?

flower candy

The orange flavoured version of the candies are shaped like little slices of fruit.

orange candy

I had to get these chocolate covered biscuit ball-shaped candy called Crottes de Marmotte because they would really amuse the children.  Marmots are large squirrels that live in the mountains and Crottes de Marmotte translates into Marmot droppings. They taste a bit like Maltesers but the biscuit bit inside is crunchier.

marmot droppings

Carambars are another favourite of French children.  Our children didn’t like them as much as the marshmallow bears.  They are the hard, chewy, sticky-teeth type of caramel candy that dentists abhor.

french candy carambars

I also discovered chocolate-covered blueberries which were more popular with the adults than the random Savoy hard candy I had bought earlier.

chocolate covered blueberries

Our venture into exploring French culture through sampling French candy was on the whole successful.  As the kids would say in their fairly limited French, Les bon bons were tres bons.

Home Sweet Hotel Christiana

Home Sweet Hotel Christiana

As a general rule, we don’t stay in the same hotel more than once because we like to try new places and experiences.  The only time we have broken this rule is sking in Val D’Isere and the Hotel Christiana.  So you figure the Hotel Christiana has to be something special for us to keep going back there!

front of hotel

front of hotel

We returned for our third year in a row to the Hotel Christiana a couple of weeks ago for a week of skiing during half-term.  In fact we stayed in the same room as previous rooms as well.  It’s a family suite with a separate bedroom/bath for the children.  Our friends’ rooms are on the same floor and it’s easy for the children to run across the hall to each other’s rooms.

The hotel staff greeted us warmly and remembered our preferences.  Pretty amazing considering we are only back for 1 week every year!  The bartender makes this grog for me every year because invariably I have a sore throat at some point.  The grog is a mix of rum, honey, cinnamon, lemon and hot water with an Earl Gray infusion. Yum!

grog

grog

I also like that the hotel seems to have a regular clientele which return every year.  We meet the same families and our children play together.  The hotel guests are a mix of European and English with no clear majority of any nationality.

The food is superb.  There is an extensive breakfast buffet.  We’ve never been around for lunch because we like to try out the restaurants in Val d’Isere.  We always take half-board at the hotel because dinner is also excellent.  In fact, we sometimes go out for drinks but return to the hotel restaurant for dinner.

The hotel run a play/crafts room near the dining room during school holidays.  Our children like to hang out with their friends there while we eat dinner.

The location, likewise, is excellent.  It’s a short few minutes to the main ski lifts and to the main street in town.  There is a garage under the building should you chose to drive.  Across the street is the very popular night spot, Dick’s Tea Bar.  We, however, have heard no noise from Dick’s because the hotel closes its metal shutters at night.

Although traditionally decorated with its dark wood, velvet curtains and sofas, I noticed touches towards modern decor such as the Tom Dixon tea lights scattered around.  This hotel, however, is comfortable in itself and isn’t trying to reinvent itself as anything.  One night we were there, the King and Queen of Norway was having dinner in the restaurant as well.  With a fairly staid clientele, changes to the hotel are never going to be radical.

This hotel, however, is not stuffy.  My children regularly pad about downstairs in their socks.  I’ve noticed some children coming down to the children’s dinner in pyjamas.  When I hurt my knee skiing, I limped down to dinner in my complimentary spa slippers.

The spa, by the way, is very good.  I’ve eased away the ski aches and pains with an excellent massage.  There is also a pool which our children use most evenings and they have made friends with some of the other guests’ children playing in the pool.

Why do we return?  The convenient location, nice family rooms, impeccable service and great food are all important.  Most important, however, our children think of the Christiana as a ski home away from home.  You can’t place a price on warm, fuzzy feelings!