La Folie Douce, Val d’Isere

La Folie Douce*. Like anything that’s a hit, it inevitably with time becomes a bit commercialised, a bit formulaic. The upside of this is that it has honed its act impressively in the two years since I last went. The undisputable stars of the show are a guy called Kely Starlight and a magnetic, reminiscent-of-Blondie type character who plays the electric violin and seems to be perpetually cracking up. She has the entire male population (and a fair amount of the females to be fair) in thrall – a combination of her infectious laughter and her uninhibited aerobics-y dance moves. Oh, that and a rocking, curvaceous body. But back to Kely… his personality permeates the whole place. He’s camp as Christmas and just as popular, and as soon as he grabs the mike and clambers onto the bar, he commands the place. Diminutive as he is, everybody watches, everybody waits. There’s magic in him, and the crowd – and his team – feed off it. From a style perspective there seems to be some sort of tiger theme going on across all the Folie Douces (there’s one in Meribel and one in Val Thorens) but Kely is the one with the real flair.

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Looking at it objectively,  ’Ooooo, sometimes, I get a feeling...’ ‘My feelings for you will always be free‘  etc only have so much mileage and could get repetitive. In practice, they seem to work every time. The enthusiasm of the ‘cast’ (it’s after all a kind of show) is infectious, and you can’t help but grin.  The saxophonist dude, the supporting female vocalists, and the all important DJs are no less responsible for the euphoric vibe, and the cute barmen sporadically breathing fire and spraying champagne certainly don’t hurt either.

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My jury’s out on La Folie Douce though. It’s becoming a little bit overloaded with sloane clones – all this year wearing Onesies, and slopping champagne about dancing on the elevated VIP area behind the bar (where else?). We went 3 times last week. Sunday and Monday were unbeatable: a really fun, friendly crowd of all ages and we skiied back ‘home’ on a high, my husband in circles (and me suitably impressed by the backwards skiing) vowing to go there every day. But Wednesday was awful – packed out and that ‘verging on agression’ feeling (the ubiquitous beefed up security guys attesting to our not imagining it). We still laughed a lot in the 15 minutes we stayed – at a table dancing ‘crackhead’ (a too-skinny middle aged lady who was having a great time but looked liked she’s partied once too often and needed a damned good meal and some dental work) and at a lot of the guys who were to be fair good looking, but too cool to smile. (SO uncool, how do they not get that?) Least liked outfits: pale pink onesies. Best liked: the odd few wearing bandanas or arabic scarves round their necks, which looked kind of incongruous. And I always like a bit of incongruity.

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La Folie Douce is definitely the place to see and be seen, and it’s a big lot of fun, which is made to feel even more special by the fact that you know the time is precious (it closes with the ski lift, @ 4:30pm, so once you factor in a day of skiing before that, it’s a small window). Oh, and it also has a cosy indoor space for eating (the usual on-the-slopes fare – spaghetti bolo, roast chicken & frites, tartiflette) and a quite smart outdoor dining area if you want a ‘posh’ lunch on the slopes. But if you ask me, it’s best in small doses and there’s just as much to be said for laid back meals at bistrots in town and falling into bed replete with foie gras, steak tartare, potatoes dauphinois, and a nice large dose of vin rouge.

* Sweet Madness would be my translation but I could be wrong.

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