Purse paradise

Many years ago, I walked through the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, mesmerized that the history of mankind could be told through footwear — from caveman to Christian Laboutin. I was fascinated, given my penchant for shoes. (Yes, I have way too many.)

So when I stumbled upon the Tassen Museum Hendrikje in Amsterdam recently, I had to go in. Housed in a beautiful old building on Herengracht, the museum pays homage to, what else, handbags. It’s not as extensive as the shoe museum but tells a 500-year-history of handbags and purses in the Western world. Through bags, you get a good idea of how social norms changed for women.

And the museum shop is terrific if you are in the market for a good bag.

Pedal power? Art walk is better

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The New York Times published an interesting story today about bicycles in Amsterdam. In a city of 800,000 people, there are 880,000 bicycles. The Dutch have led the way in pedal power but as the story points out, and as I found out firsthand when I was there a couple of weeks ago, the bikes can make for chaos on the streets.

I almost got mowed down by one on Herengracht.

bikeI opted not to fight to find parking places for my bike. Not to fight for space with other cyclists on crowded streets. Instead, I walked.

And did things you cannot do on a bike. Like meander through the city’s Zuid district and soak in the annual sculpture show. I got off Tram 16 and walked south on Minervalaan, stopping at sculptures made by artists from all over the world. Among them: China’s Ai Wewei and Nigeria’s Sokari Douglas Camp. In all, there were 66 pieces on display under the summer sun.

Here’s what the official ArtZuid website says about the exhibit:

“In 2008, Cintha van Heeswijck took the initiative to draw greater attention to the urban expansion of the south of Amsterdam, known as the Plan-Zuid, designed by architect H.P. Berlage almost a hundred years ago. This world-class platform for sculpture adds a jewel to Amsterdam’s crown of leading cultural events.”

After my two-hour stroll, I agreed.

Read the New York Times bike story here: http://nyti.ms/10BPQcq

Which country is this?

Ezequeil Zeff (left) and Lautaro Rivas of Buenos Aires.
Ezequeil Zeff (left) and Lautaro Rivas of Buenos Aires.

I thought I was in Amsterdam until I sat down to dine at Kantjil & de Tijger on Spruistracht. On the menu was an Indonesian feast: Pangsit Goreng, Ajam Sereh Pedis and Oteh Oteh. I ordered a sampling of savory stuff. Hadn’t eaten since breakfast and had walked all over the canal city. I was hungry.

Just as I’d finished dinner, a couple of guys sat on the other end of my outdoor table. We struck up a conversation.

They were in search of beef. Naturally — they were from Argentina.

Ezequeil Zeff, 30, and Lautaro Rivas, 46, had been in Amsterdam for a week. They were software guys from Buenos Aires. They liked Amsterdam but the Dutch, they said, were lacking soul. The people here needed a lesson in life from the Latinos. They might have coffee shops here but no tango.

The two Argentines had tired of bland food and come upon this Indonesian place for a little fire in the belly. They wanted meat, like any good carnivorous Argentine. I was worried. I’d eaten at the Pampas-style steakhouses in Buenos Aires. They are the finest in the world. I was worried these two ravenous Argentinians would be more disappointed in the meat dishes here than a Japanese person at Benihana. But they liked it. Whew.

Oddly enough, the next night I strolled into an Argentinian restaurant quite by accident and continued my South American adventure right here in Holland. The empanadas were deelish. So were te jump prawns. Just that they looked at me the entire time that I ate them.