Tag Archives: standingovation

GREC – “Le Grand C”: Delightful

This is actually poetry, not a threesome

This is actually poetry, not a threesome

Parting from the Grec Festival can be quite sad – especially when, like this year, it has given you a chance to spend several lovely evenings. My friends and I could not have found a better way to do it than to pick “Le Grand C” by Compagnie XY as the last show, on Sunday 29 July. These French acrobats are so good, and their performance so well conceived, that I felt lucky and privileged to be among the audience. They manage to provide a quite different experience from Cirque du Soleil: their set is extremely sober and their poetic universe is based on silence, absolute trust, and human contact. When they softly hug each other as they build breathtaking human towers, or turn into the spinning dolls of a carrillon right before taking flight from a catapult, you cannot help but feel moved and enchanted. Except for the beginning of the show, which takes a bit too long to take off, they excel at building up momentum, then suddenly surprising you with an unexpected twist: the “Whoas” and “Eeeks” abound as you slowly surrender to their mastery, and when it ends you feel that you have learned a lot about the artistic drive, the challenges, and the astounding commitment of an acrobat. As we went down the steps of Teatre Grec, I found myself sharing a quiet prayer with the moon: may I climb up to this magical gardens again next year, and may I enjoy an equal share of inspiring times in good company as I have done in 2012.

UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 9 out of 10 + Standing Ovation

Portishead: Compulsory

Cheer up, Beth, You're coming to the beach.

Cheer up, Beth, You're coming to the beach.

Here is another FlashTip with some practical advice for Barcelona residents or visitors. Set your alarm clock: Monday morning, 9 April, 10am. When it rings, stop whatever you are doing; get on the Internet; open this page; pick your favourite date (Saturday 23 June may not be the smartest choice: it is the night of San Juan, which you will hopefully celebrate on one of this city’s gorgeous terraces); buy a ticket for you, and one or more as the perfect gift for someone you love; start to prepare for the most visceral sonic orgasm you are likely to get in 2012.

The Perfect Pitch

Yes, Portishead are coming (back) to town. And what a town: Poble Espanyol, a charming – if slightly corny – location where I had the fortune of seeing my Joanna Newsom‘s umpteenth concert last year. Since I have also seen our British trip-hop pioneers live a few times, I can confirm their gigs are not to be missed. An aural feast of mind-bogglingly sharp, lately even industrial beats intertwined with Beth Gibbons’ gloomy, transcendent vocals, their music will creep up from the soles of your feet and pull you in, then take your breath away as it thumps up to your brain. If you like electronic music at all, there is simply no way you are going to regret it. See you there.

UPS (Utmost Perfection Scale): 10/10 + Standing Ovation

Lech-Zürs: Unforgettable

This is just the beginning

This is just the beginning

Give it a try if… Rather than one-sided excellence, what you look for in a ski resort is the perfect balance of several factors – snow, slopes, infrastructure, landscapes, services, vibe and so on.

Steer clear if… You just do not see why a traveler should pay special care and respect to special destinations.

In publishing the specific reviews of the resorts I have visited this season during my ski trip to Austria, I will start from the one I have visited last, Lech-Zürs, which in the course of an unforgettable week has turned into my favourite ever (I would rank it second after 3 Vallées, but only for the sheer amount and variety of slopes). This jewel in the Vorarlberg region crown is not a destination for everyone – luckily, I would say – but do not miss it if skiing is high on the list of your priorities in life.

Demand, and You Will Get

I had read a lot about Lech and Zürs: apart from the tragic accident that had just occurred there, they were meant to have good pistes and be the poshest resort in Austria, mostly picked by affluent older citizens and devoted to absolute quiet and inviolable rest. Not my ideal plan perhaps, but I was curious to try it anyway. I had the fortune of spending a week there at affordable prices, being a grateful recipient of the legendary Cornelia spell (see below), and I discovered a reality that trumped all stereotypes: an ideal resort for any demanding intermediate or amateur off-piste skier, with well-designed slopes and every small detail in just the right place.

Even the mountains look stylish around here

Even the mountains look stylish around here

Do’s and Don’ts

To get a glimpse of this resort’s wonderful landscapes, check out tipsology’s Lech-Zürs 2012 photo gallery on Flickr.

LECH OR ZÜRS? – It is a bit like asking whether Ryan Gosling looks more handsome in “Drive” or “The Ides of March”. Both villages are beautiful, although Lech looks a bit more sophisticated and Zürs more informal. Skiwise, they are equally convenient – besides, a free SkiBus (a bit busy during peak hours) and a paying PostBus connect them in just a few minutes. I would suggest to go for the one where you find the best place to stay – but if you choose Zürs, do visit Lech one late afternoon or evening to enjoy its flair and wave to the paparazzi.

LODGING – I stayed in Haus Gumor (Lech), and would advise it to anyone. It may not be so luxurious as some other chalets in the area, but it is reasonably cheap, very clean, quiet, well-furnished, and in a great location, just a few minutes’ walk from the center of Lech. The diligent landlady, Christine Tschabrun, never refuses to offer a smile despite the hard work of running such a big house alone. The short road that leads to it might be a bit inconvenient in boots, but simply storing them in a rental shop downtown together with your skis will allow you to tap-dance your way up and down like Björk would.

A kind of magic...

A kind of magic...

sSSHtip (do not tell anyone!) – If Haus Gumor is fully booked and you are not totally risk-averse, contact the venerable Cornelia fairy a few days before travelling. If she says she can help, trust her without reserve: do not book anywhere, but go to her lair – AKA the tourist office – upon arrival. That is where the industrious enchanter, cheerfully aided by another, petite Cornelia (seriously!), will administer her magic spell, handing you the keys to the kingdom without upsetting your bank account. A cult following is definitely in the cards.

SKI RENTAL – Ski rental prices are higher than any other Austrian resort I have visited, but you can get a better deal by renting in advance through Snowell (try discount code stkd111211, hoping it has not expired in the meantime). My skis for this week: Völkl Racetiger Speedwall SL (really amazing).

Why would I want to go anywhere else?

Why would I want to go anywhere else?

SKIPASS – There is only one option, the reasonably priced Arlberg card, which will give you access to over 280 kilometres of slopes and many more off-piste, including St. Anton (one of the most popular Austrian resorts), Stuben, St. Christoph, Klösterle/Sonnenkopf and Pettneu. All of these cannot actually be reached on your skis from Lech-Zürs – unless you hire a guide and get ready for some fun – but a half-hour PostBus ride will do the job. Honestly I was so in love with Lech-Zürs that I did not even think of skiing in St. Anton for this time, but I am planning to go there next season.

SLOPES – Intermediate is the word, with very few black slopes and a lot of red, long, not especially challenging ones, plus many ski-routes providing a moderately wilder time. Piste design, albeit slightly artificial, is surprisingly good: in principle I should not have liked the place too much, since several areas have those intersecting/overlapping slopes I usually find boring, but in this case I was thrilled to ski down the same pistes over and over. For instance, do not miss all the highest slopes on top of Lech, including pistes 35a, 45, 46; the area which goes down to Zürs from the top of the Rüfikopf, with breathtaking landscapes I will not forget; most pistes around the Seekopf, Zürsersee and Muggengrat chairlifts, especially 10, 11, 14, 18; piste 7 on the opposite side; and beautiful ski-route 33, down from Zürs to the charming village of Zug.

A privileged resting spot

A privileged resting spot

INFRASTRUCTURE – Apart from the odd old lift here and there, the state-of-the-art infrastructure makes it clear that when you pay more, you get more. Most lifts are quite new, fast, comfortable and often equipped with the cleanest toilets you can imagine. So many details surprise compared to other resorts: a praiseworthy example of Austrian perfectionism in service of a seamless skiing experience, to be enjoyed without forgetting to pay due respect.

PEOPLE – The limited number of skiers allowed in the area, both on a daily and weekly basis, makes for very few queues and lots of free room on-piste. I was surprised by the general skiing level of visitors, higher than any other resorts I have visited – money won’t buy you happiness, but it certainly grants you an education! The average age was also lower than some claim, although I did spot several older skiers, while 40-something couples in Lacroix outfits were legitimately numerous (this seems like the perfect resort for a romantic ski trip – applications are officially welcome).

RESTAURANTS – I am glad to prove I have not been paid to write this by confessing I was a bit disappointed by food around here, especially compared to other resorts like Saalbach or Mayrhofen. It is not so bad, just plainly unimpressive – and sold at a premium price (18-20 euros for an average lunch). Keep in mind that some restaurants (like the ones scattered in the village of Oberlech) are not indicated on the piste map. Of all the ones I have tried I could mildly suggest only the Seekopf-Restaurant, with a spacious terrace, good service and acceptable specialties.

See you soon...

See you soon...

APRES-SKI – …what? Ok, ok: the coolest place I have seen is the apparently exclusive Balmalp, on top of the long Zugerberg chairlift.

UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 9/10 + Standing Ovation

Explore tipsology’s Lech-Zürs 2012 photo gallery on Flickr.

Read a post with general advice on the area – Skiing in Austria: Magical.

Visit Lech-Zürs‘s official website.

PostTip: Music for Skiing Alone

The sound of silence, and beyond.

The sound of silence, and beyond.

As a PostTip to Skiing Alone: Underacknowledged, I shall provide an in-depth look at the topic of music (with a few suggested albums to try out).

Laymen Logic

Several of the people who seem to reject the idea of solo skiing say they find it boring. I guess (a) they have never tried listening to music on the slopes, or (b) they belong to the ill-starred subset of the human race that, when asked “What kind of music are you into?”, replies with the infamous “Anything that’s on the radio” or even the execrable “A little bit of everything” (Choir: NEXT!).

No, Seriously

If (b) is the case: So sorry, I cannot help. After repeated attempts, I have given up such subset altogether and adopted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Not a snowball’s chance to convert them; pigs might ski before these people open up to the pleasure of organized sound. If (a) is the case instead, let me clarify that:

  1. Skiing with music doesn’t have to be dangerous; if you do it alone you will tend to avoid crowded areas anyway, and otherwise, any mp3 player comes with a state-of-the-art gadget called “volume control” nowadays.
  2. It is more than a fine experience; it is a non-negotiable requirement for the completion of tipsology’s Certified Solo Skier Training Program (see Level 4 – Get in Tune in the aforementioned post).
  3. Its learning outcomes largely depend on the choice of music; shallow shuffling is simply not an option.
Not exactly what I had in mind

Not exactly what I had in mind

Choose Life

Now, regarding the last point. Since the choice of the perfect album to ski with depends on multiple variables, versatility is definitely a plus. Pick whatever might be suited to the “here and now”, with a grain of salt: while Madonna’s latest single might be a perfect companion to dish-washing or, uhm, flossing, it will hardly get you in tune with anything other than her bank account. Rather, here are some suggestions. Ride and shine!


Skiing Alone: Underacknowledged

(The smiling face? It's behind the camera)

(The smiling face? It's behind the camera)

Give it a try if… You are eager to have another great story to tell – yourself, of course.

Steer clear if… You can’t even take a baby step without someone showing you the right direction.

“How vuz yer ski day?,” asked the wizened lady who had hosted me at her table with her husband over breakfast. “Simply amazing! I reached the other side of the resort and had a lot of fun,” I said. “Yesss, but… Only? [as in alone],” she inquired with a puzzled look. “Skiing only, no goot.” For once, I did not even knock up a reply. I would rather keep the secret of how I had treated myself to one of the most extraordinary days of my life.

"I only need one of those, thanks."

"I only need one of those, thanks."

Take One

Despite the fact that I have designated 2012 as “The Year of the Difference” – a theme I will elaborate on in future posts – my bourgeois roots keep me from calling myself a genuine nonconformist. After all, I did wear Armani for my confirmation and thought “Nine 1/2 Weeks” was a great movie. So the first time I resolved to ski alone, all I aimed for was a brief, half-determined attempt at enjoying the freedom my job grants me despite the lack of equally self-ruling playmates. There I was, gliding on eggshells towards emancipation: little did I know that I would turn into the King of Solo.

You can eat one of these every day without anyone warning you about your liver

You can eat one of these every day without anyone warning you about your liver

Aim for More

Society is simply not prepared for someone who chooses to spend a whole week riding white waves in the company of loneliness; if you decide to follow this tip, be prepared for high costs and a few weird looks. Yet I will endure the associated hassles anytime – and so should you – considering the rewards of this experience. I am not referring to the obvious, selfish benefits of picking the routes and the menus, or not having to hold your companion’s backpack while they take a #1. I am inviting you to skip right past these trivial details and engage in a tête-à-tête with the meaning of existence. Here is how.

Tipsology’s Certified Solo Skier Training Program

LEVEL 1: DIG UP YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE – Start by taking a deep breath and chanting your new mantra: I can do this. You can decipher that daunting piste map and end up turning it into your best friend. You can survive a whole week having the mountains as your only conversation partner. If you fall, you can lend yourself a helping hand. If you get lost in the fog, you can find your way out of it. You can do this, alone.

LEVEL 2: AWAKEN YOUR INNER CHILD – Train your levity muscles by playing suitable games – like turning into a world-class movie star that no one recognizes thanks to your helmet and goggles. Or celebrating in full regalia this year’s Tree Hugging Day. Or competing against yourself to see who is able to eat more apple pie. Or while you are skiing, falling on purpose every thirty-eight seconds. Believe me, it is fun.

To whoever invented this,              my eternal gratitude

To whoever invented this, my eternal gratitude

LEVEL 3: EMBRACE THE PARADOX – As you sit quietly on a chairlift, appreciate the genius of mankind. Look at the complex, imposing machinery we set up to explore another way of relating to this planet of ours, which happens to have snowy declivities we can slide down on. Isn’t it crazy? Now switch your focus to the distant scenery. As you gaze at the jagged peaks, contemplate the flawless beauty Earth reveals when we just f***ing leave it alone. Will we ever learn? And should we?

LEVEL 4: GET IN TUNE –  Now that you have switched off your mind, turn on your enhanced senses by skiing with music (provided, of course, you are a confident skier). Your goal is to acknowledge, through active and involved listening, the ever-flowing unity between the music on your MP3 player and each sensation and movement of your body. Once you get this, include the people, the landscapes and the weather that make up your environment. Finally, make room for the energetic fields that manifest themselves through silence and the absence of any form. Panta rei, my friend: unbrace yourself and just go with it.

LEVEL 5: You are now officially ready to have fun.

UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 10/10 + Standing Ovation

Read the PostTip: Music for Skiing Alone

Read an interesting discussion which originated from this post on the wonderful Snowheads.

"Welcome. I have been waiting for you."

"Welcome. I have been waiting for you."

P.S. When I set out to write this, I logged onto WordPress and look what post I found on top of the “Freshly Pressed” section. Isn’t life funny?

Related posts:

Skiing in France: Unnerving

Paradiski: Cozy

Espace Killy: Captivating

Digital Concert Hall: Groundbreaking

This is it, guys. I mean: this is it.

This is it, guys. I mean: this is it.

Give it a try if… You believe you have, or can find the resources to enjoy the absolute best of what the world has to offer.

Steer clear if… Classical music makes you itch, yawn or reappraise industrial techno.

You love the city where you live, but sometimes feel its boundaries pressing too tight. You get tired of having to explain anything that deviates from the norm. You start craving for the thrill of diversity. You catch your lungs longing for a breath of fresh air. Then you find the digital temple of Berliner Philharmoniker, the orchestra that is quietly changing the world through wit and inspiration. And you happen to feel at home again. Wherever you are: read on, reader.

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Orphans No More

I had the fortune of spending a few months in Berlin last year. And though I have run back to Barcelona’s warm embrace with a defrozen determination to settle down here, there are a couple of pieces of my heart,  a web of streams of my soul, and a thousand tiny marbles of my mind still lying in the German capital. If you also somehow consider yourself an orphan of Berlin; if you are interested in the most ingenious contributions to Europe’s cultural zeitgeist; if you just love symphonic music and find no reason to miss the best of it, be aware that you can access both free and paid video recordings and live streaming performances of Berliner Philarmoniker in their Digital Concert Hall.

Sir Simon Rattle and Berliner Philharmoniker - Photo by Monika Rittershaus - CC

Sir Simon Rattle and Berliner Philharmoniker - Photo by Monika Rittershaus - CC

Digital Enlightenment

Witnessing this impressively powerful group of committed musicians – arguably the best orchestra in the world – share their listening and their art during a live concert, even on one’s computer screen, is more involving than you might think. The sound and video quality is superior; same goes for the usability and accompanying contents. Camera directing? Sensitive and clear-cut. The programme choices, bold and revealing. Nothing more, nothing less than an accurate display of this orchestra’s love for perfection.

150 Reasons to Turn Off Your Smartphone

Tune in for a live performances once – perhaps buying a simple 48-hour ticket – and you are most likely to be back. A trip around the Archive, though, might mark a point of no return. Where else can you find such groundbreaking executions of Mahler’s and Sibelius’s complete Symphonies, excerpts from Schoenberg’s “Gurrelieder”, Brahms’s Fourth and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth, featuring Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Tugan Sokhiev, even our old friend Hélène Grimaud… More than 150 caskets to unlock and dive into like a child with a glorious honey jar. With 30 new concerts added each year, free documentaries and special events during the season, the 12-month ticket seriously qualifies for Best Gift Ever – including to oneself. I don’t know about you, but I keep wondering how I could do without it.

UPS Score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 10-/10 + Standing Ovation

Note: The minus is just because you are not physically there. Let us concede that to our beautiful sensual world. But a 10 is a 10 is a 10.

Kate Bush, “50 Words for Snow”: Miraculous

Just one fireplace short of heaven

Just one fireplace short of heaven

Give it a try if… You like subtle, nuanced music which reveals new layers with every listen.

Steer clear if… You have already had enough of this winter.

Kate Bush – the genius without which Björk, Joanna Newsom and many more would never have seen the light – is known for the excruciatingly long breaks between her records. In 2011, though, something must have clicked inside that quirky little head of hers. So much so that she put out not one, but two albums: after May’s reworks collection, “Director’s Cut”, 21 November saw the release of this 65-minute trove with 7 “songs set against the backdrop of falling snow”. Mmh, yes.

Keep Falling…

For someone like me, who first fell in love with music thanks to a generation of creative musicians like Peter Gabriel, Prince and indeed Her Royal Kateness, this haunting concept album – which has kept me so much company on French slopes these weeks – is nothing short of a miracle. Because, you see, while 2005’s “Aerial” appeared like a rapturous post-scriptum to a memorable career  (if she has taken 12 years to record this, will there ever be a next one?) and some of “Director’s Cut” sounded like she might have eaten one too many butter cookies on that countryside sofa, “50 Words for Snow” is a whole different kind of statement. If 26 years after her masterpiece, “Hounds of Love” – which easily was to the 1980s what Radiohead’s “OK Computer” was to the 1990s – she has been capable of doing this… We might as well be witnessing a promising new phase of her artistic life.

Who needs doctor Zivago when she's around

Who needs doctor Zivago when she's around

A Frozen Symphony

Kate has stated in a recent interview that this album holds some elements of classical music, and it shows. These seven songs sound like movements, each setting forth a different shade of the inspired underlying whole. Notes and sounds seem to develop organically, as if each new one were blossoming from the stem of the previous to build a magnificent frozen tree.

The Comfort of Maturity

It is mostly a subdued record, a low-key opus from a woman who has reached the seamless plain of maturity and is absolutely comfortable there. While skating on a frozen lake, in 1985, she was terrified by the presence of what she felt “Under Ice”; now she makes love with a snowman in “Misty”, wakes the morning after to find “Dead leaves, bits of twisted branches and frozen garden” on her pillow… and realizing it’s still snowing, runs out on the ledge to find him. Need I say more? Take some time off, close your eyes and get ready to melt.

UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 9/10 + Standing Ovation

A preview? Watch the hypnotic animation “Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe”:

A really complete unofficial website on Kate Bush, including a lively forum, can be found here.