Saturday, July 26, 2008

Indeed Amsterdam again

So it came to be that I found myself on a train to Amsterdam at 08h30 Saturday morning. I am a Scorpio and I am impulsive and sometimes that's not a bad thing. Yesterday (Friday) was the first day I did not get lost in Paris. I had a wonderful, full day and then it rained at night. These two things—a hassle-free day & rain—I guess reminded me of Amsterdam or at least I took it to be a sign that I was done with Paris. I decided a short weekend trip to Amsterdam was in order, so I got online at 5 am in the morning (I only went to bed at 3 am and I wasn't really tired—haven't been sleeping too well in the hot Paris flat). I got online, booked a ticket for a train leaving as early as possible (08h30) and then got ready, packed and, leaving my suitcase in Stéphane's Paris apartment, took my sac à dos and off to Gare du Nord where I was only a few days earlier :-)

I texted Sam when I was only 20 mins from Amsterdam Centraal and she came to meet me at the station! She gave me keys to her apartment, called me crazy, and off she went to another engagement promising to see me later. I slept in her cozy apartment and opened a book to a random page and guess what it said? "In Praise of Spontaneity." In praise of spontaneity indeed....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Amsterdam again?

I asked to take a picture of this bakfiets... the woman who owned the bike also had a lovely golden lab and asked me if I wanted to include him in the picture, which I thought was sweet... I asked her if there were many bikes like this in Paris and she said no and that she had to have it ordered specially—naturally, from the Netherlands :-)

Le Jardin des Tuileries et le Louvre 2

Le Jardin des Tuileries et le Louvre

Le Seine and along its banks...

A windmill in Paris?

The first thing I photographed in Paris and just around the corner from where I'm staying in Ivry sur Seine... funny, seems I'm never too far from a windmill (un moulin)....

Je suis à Paris!

Only 4 hours by train, but Paris feels worlds away from Amsterdam. For one thing, it's warmer. I'm actually hot! Though I hear it's warmer in Amsterdam now too (seems both cities experienced a bit of a cold spell), somehow I don't think it's as warm as it is here. I have to resist the tendency to respond in Dutch: my language gears are slowly turning, but it's taken a while, which is strange considering I speak better French than Dutch :-)

I had 4 people speak to me yesterday. Travelling solo has its perks and its challenges: more people are apt to approach you which can make for some entertaining conversation and insights into lives very different from your own, but it can also attract the gaze of men with an interest in you that extends beyond polite conversation. So far, it's been harmless and probably quite sincere: I've had 2 offers of "Prendre un café avec moi?" and that was just my first day! I was reading a book that Sam gave me on my last day in Amsterdam (Persepolis, thank you!) in the Jardin des Tuilieries, just resting my legs from walking around all day, and an older gentlemen approached me. We proceeded to have a friendly conversation in French (the more I talk, the easier it becomes :-) and, after finding out I'm from Canada, he told me his daughter lives in Montréal and he just came back from travelling in Québec for one month. After he left (and after refusing his offer to have a coffee, harmless I'm sure), a younger woman came by and asked me in English if she could sit on the bench where I was sitting. I agreed, of course, and we spent quite some time just sitting there, me reading, she writing and as I was getting ready to leave, I picked up my map to review my route and she told me "Oh, I thought you were French" :-) We had a lovely chat about how I'm from Canada and she's from Brazil, travelling various European cities before returning to Rio. It was her first time in Paris (I asked) and she said she loves it. I wished her safe and happy travels and we went along our merry way.

It is turning out to be that pulling out a map automatically marks you as a tourist (in case you didn't realize). This, however, turned out to be not so bad early in the day when I was stopped by a young woman yielding a camera who asked me (in French, naturellement!) if she could take my picture. I inquired about her intentions and it turns out she is doing a photo project about the people and places she encounters along the Péripherique (this is the long ring road that circles the city of Paris). Here I am, wearing sunglasses and my Yukon cap with a map on my hands, I probably couldn't look like less of a tourist if I tried! And so it was, that I happened to be in exactly the place where she was looking to photograph and so I agreed and then told her that I've done some photography myself and I would be interested in seeing her work (and she said she would be interested in seeing my work) so she gave me her card and her website address then asked me for my email address so she could send me the photo she just took of me! I thought that was sweet and sincere—what a totally random experience on my first day out in Paris :-)

I don't believe in coincidences: I think many "random" things in our life happen for a reason, it just takes a little focus to find out why something is happening right here, right now, in your life. With these little encounters in Paris thus far, it is no coincidence that Sam sent me a "random" SMS with the following message: "Today is a day of miracles, look around, they are in everything and in its timing." No kidding, eh?

The Buddha of Suburbia

Homo Urbanus - Homo Sapiens? Take 2

Friday, July 18, 2008

Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo

Unfortunately, after we left the house, I realized that the battery on my camera had died! So for our whole day excursion, I was without camera. Luckily, Sam's phone had a camera and I asked her to take this shot of the woman in the rain looking at the art in the sculpture garden of this lovely museum. The museum is out of Amsterdam and though it took a while getting there (train, then 2 buses, then bicycle :) it was more of a headache getting back! We must've missed a bus (though we waited for an hour) and so we decided to walk. After walking to the bus stop of the second bus we're supposed to take to the train station, we realized it was another hour till the next bus! Since the first bus never came, we weren't so confident that this bus would come (which was the last one of the day at 9 pm) so we ended up hitchhiking. We got a ride from a lovely Dutch guy who did a detour to pick up a TV from a friend and then dropped us off at the Ede train station so we can catch our train back to Amsterdam. There is so much that happened inbetween that I don't know where to begin. Hopefully this brief description gives you some idea of our day trip adventures :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Homo Urbanus - Homo Sapiens?

An art exhibit in Westerpark by Latvian artists. Note the tall podium with a deflated blue man on top (see entry below for more info about this piece).

View from window, Sam's place (detail)


Yummy cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, avocado, sprouts and arugala from Sam's garden :-)

My Suitcase to Sam's on Sunday

She had huge bike bags and it fit! Yay for moving by bicycle :-)

The best way to spend a Monday morning :-)

Sam's boat! A trip along the canals accompanied by ducks and houseboats :-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New address, old memories

Well, I've moved to a new address: Sam's place overlooks the Westerpark which has a lovely interactive art exhibit on display from Riga. (I will post photos later.) One of the pieces is a 3-metre high podium with a blue man on top with his hand raised. I understand this man to be your everyman dictator: but the beauty of this art is that the spectator has the option of deflating this man (he is like a balloon, filled with air) or of inflating him. Press a green button and he stands erect with his arm raised to the sky. Press a red button and his arm falls down and he becomes a small no-man. The choice is yours. This is the democratic process (?).

But well, anyway, I did not come here to comment on art by Latvian artists (but I do love being taken by surprise by art!). I am seeing old friends and settling into Sam's one-room apartment. She has a rooftop garden with a variety of plants she has seeded herself and nurtures daily. She has her interests and her priorities and sometimes we meet half-way. Mostly we fall into old patterns and habits, but we are friends and we are older and wiser and we are learning to be in each other's company in a way that is healthy and supportive. And what more can I ask for?

Yesterday, we had a lovely sunny day and Sam took me out on her lovely red boat! I had never been on the canals in Amsterdam and it was one of the best way to experience this city. We went away from Centrum (city centre) and ended up on a lake with a forest nearby. We docked, had a picnic, and just lay in the sun. It was so warm! Also, being on the water, the reflection of the sun from the water... well, we got a little sunburnt :( I would never have thought I could get sunburned in Amsterdam! Regardless, I have asked her if we can go out on her boat again (at least a few times!) before I leave the 'Dam. Now let's just hope for more sun and warmth and rain-free days :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The view from inside the PIC looking out

Photographing from the inside out... instead of tourists photographing from the outside, when they looked in, they saw me pointing my camera out ;)

Stedelijk Museum

I was most fascinated with the exposed beams and wiring when going upstairs still inside the museum... 


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Contemporary African photography, Amsterdam's gay bookstore, and PIC


1. Amsterdam's LGBT bookstore: Boekhandel Vrolijk where I picked up a couple of mags

2. "Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography" at Stedelijk Museum (35 artists, 5 of them female)

3. PIC (Prostitutie Informatie Centrum): Prostitute Information Centre

oh and did I mention cramps? all in all, quite a full day...

Dinner today: before and after

Okay, so I have some time on my hands :) I made dinner today and since I've been photographing all day, I thought why not photograph what I will be eating? With the cold, windy weather and on-again, off-again rain (not to mention being tired after the red-eye), I have been spending some time indoors. It's a great house (see photos below) and though usually 8 people live here, currently only 2 are here (everyone else is out of town). I will be staying here for a few days and enjoying the quietness that is both in this house and in Amsterdam when it rains (which is often).

The kitchen

My room!

The room where I will be staying for the first 6 days of my time in Amsterdam. Isn't it gorgeous? Lots of light, big windows, lots of plants, and a skylight above. Can you see the loft bed? I have to climb a ladder to get to the bed, but it's so cozy and so Amsterdam....

Day 2

Boats and bikes (what else is new, I am in Amsterdam, after all), and a bench looking into a field of trees and grass with a conveniently placed garbage can right beside it (?). And Piccola Roma... ah that little restaurant where I worked for 2 weeks while I was living in the 'Dam about 3 and 1/2 years ago. Two weeks was about how long it took for me to realize I disliked the job and I didn't need to be there... Well, turns out they're still around and I was able to find my old haunts with little difficulty (okay, well, I did consult the map here and there ;)

More photos to come; stay tuned...