Tag Archives: Amsterdam

Topdeck Travel: Days Twelve Through Fourteen

14 Aug

Amsterdam.

Oh hey internet. You know how in my last entry I was preparing for something called ‘Amsterdamage’? I was not wrong. The reason you haven’t heard from me in almost ten days is because I was in recovery. Picture foetal position and weeping, but the good kind of weeping, you know? Anyway, here’s what happened:

Day Twelve

Our first stop in The Netherlands was Rembrandt Hoeve, a clog-factory-slash-cheese-with friendly staff. Maybe a little too friendly. The clogs were actually really reasonably priced compared to what you’ll find in the heart of Amsterdam, and you got to see them being made. The cheese wasn’t really anything special in my humble opinion, but you got to sample it and see that being made, too.

Third time lucky?

As we were driving through Amsterdam I could see that we must have just missed Pride by a few days. There were rainbow flags and balloons everywhere! When I was there last year I think we’d missed it by a week as well. Oh well, there’s always next year…

Once settled, Jamie took us on a tour of the Red Light District (I’ve already shared my opinion on that particular subject), and then took those of us who were willing to brave it to a live sex show at a place called Moulin Rouge. It was pretty entertaining but once you’ve been to The Box everything kinda pales in comparison.

After the show we all went to a bar and a few of us went to a coffee shop and things just got a little hazy after that. I think even if I lived there I’d never get used to just being able to light up whenever I could afford it. Even the concept of smoking tobacco indoors is far too European for me.

Day Thirteen

The penultimate day of our tour began with an optional bike ride, which I happily slept through. It was a free day, and Vicki, Rachael, Florence and I took the tram to Waterlooplein to try and replace the sunglasses I bought there last time. However, we were a bit too early and the markets were still setting up, so we went to see the famous Flower Markets instead.

Then I dragged Florence all the way from the markets to the cafe next to Anne Frank Huis because I wanted to show off my knowledge of local cuisine. You probably won’t believe me but Lunchroom Dialoog has the best paninis in the entire universe. Goats cheese, honey and thyme, I swear. You know how a regular panini is like a piece of awful dry lukewarm bread? Like the second you take a bite of that Costa crap you wonder why you wasted £6 on the same taste you could’ve got from chewing on the napkin? Not here. No sir, not here.

Next stop was the Homomonument, which is right around the corner. At its most basic level, the Homomonument is a giant pink triangle (actually, it’s made up of three triangles) – but it was designed to inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination, which was particularly pertinent in the wake of our visit to Dachau. There were some quotes that people had scattered around on printed pieces of paper that I didn’t really understand, but I saw a woman crying on its steps and all I wanted to do was hug her.

Florence and I went to the RLD to buy fishnet tights for some reason and then went to Spui to check out Cafe Hoppe, a recommendation from Jamie. It’s a pretty cute little bar that’s been standing since 1670.

And then, to our last meal.

Our last night together was always going to be bittersweet. We may only have known each other for a fortnight, but I know these people better than I know most of the kids I graduated with last month. We went to a bar beforehand, a couple of us had a smoke, and then we went for dinner before an optional cruise (which everyone clearly took). The cruise had a free bar so I think we were all pretty content.

Here’s Vicki, myself, Patricia and Rachael on the cruise. Why yes, I am completely out of it, thanks for asking!

canal

After the cruise we went to Pirates Bar, what Jamie affectionately called ‘the worst bar in Europe’. The songs changed every thirty seconds, the floors were sticky, people were smoking, it was dark, and you had to pay to use the restroom. I ordered a vodka and mixer and it was over nine euro — but then again, the barman let me have it for free… and there was fire breathing. So it was actually pretty rad.

The night got pretty messy and in closing I think Australians are the reason why they’re banning tourists from coffee shops.

Day Fourteen

On our last day I woke up feeling a little.. spacey from the night before. I wasn’t the only one! It’s a shame, because I was really looking forward to Bruges. I still enjoyed Belgium though! We had waffles. And my goodness, do Belguins love their dogs. I swear I saw a dog in a pram.

We touched back down in London just in time to hit rush hour on the tubes. It feels incredibly weird to be around so many English accents again. In many ways, I can’t believe it’s over. I think I crammed more into those fourteen days than I had into my whole life!

Stay tuned over the next few days for my overview of the trip, then normal broadcasting will resume.

Read the rest of my European Wonder adventures here.

Art Attack: Boxhead

2 Apr

I discovered Boxhead in Amsterdam in Outland Store, a tiny gallery space not far from the Red Light District, and I was blown away. This artist, using such a simple concept, seemed to encapsulate every thing I was feeling at that point in my life. I passed it off as a herbal-tourist-reaction, but months have passed and the feeling remains.

In fact, Boxhead gives me a lot of feelings.

A piece of art has caused me to have an emotional reaction. Is that normal?

Begoña Toledo, otherwise known as Boxhead, cannot remember a time when she didn’t make art. At school in Zaragoza, when most of her friends were playing with dolls, she was drawing. This translated into an interest in fashion when she became older. “Not all the model crap,” she clarifies. “I wanted to make clothes. That’s how I learned to draw the human body, never took drawing lessons, I learned anatomy by copying the model bodies on the magazines to dress them after with my designs.” She studied Fine Arts, in Barcelona before moving to Utrecht to do her postgraduate Visual Arts course, and has now been living in Amsterdam for four years.

Boxhead works primarily with paint on canvas, but she doesn’t limit herself to this medium. “I’m seriously eclectic, I draw, paint, screenprint, make toys, spray, sew… the medium is never the main reason in my work. I use the one that suits better the idea I want to develop.”

Where’s your head at?

Something about her work pertains to categories, being literally ‘put in a box,’ while also defying these categories by denying her audience access to any tangible emotion the subject may be feeling as she walks trough mist, through rain or tears. We don’t know what she’s thinking as she forms part of a manufacturing line, looks down at the landscape around her. We don’t understand – and this feeling is internalised. Do we understand ourselves?

The boxes give these pieces both a private and public life. They are shy and responsive at the same time, protective yet open. We don’t know whether the box is imposed upon Boxhead, or if she is wearing it by choice. We don’t know whether it is a part of her or if she is using it to conceal her true identity. And Boxhead doesn’t privilege us with her subject’s thoughts. It’s a Schrödinger’s cat type situation, in which the subject is both devoid of feelings and overwhelmed, faceless and beautiful, or ugly.

I find it interesting that the subjects are always gendered female, with their typical pocketed dresses and rounded thighs. This speaks to me of a kind of self-awareness, while also conversely pertaining to childhood and uncertainty. According to the artist, Boxhead has “a rebel attitude in the sense of identity.”

Boxhead’s paintings question our notions of identity and self-hood. They speak of gender politics, urban existentialism and consumer culture. They speak, and while I don’t know what they’re saying, exactly, I know I want to listen.

Presumably due to the economy, or some equally romantic starving-artist reason, Boxhead has started selling her paintings through Facebook. I bought a tote. Totes aren’t usually my bag, but this was one of seven, so it’s kind of like I carry my stuff around in my own little horcrux. Which is nice.

I urge you to go check her out before she makes the move to London later this month.

This article was originally written for Autostraddle’s Art Attack month, which was ace. Unfortunately this author was lazy writing her final year dissertation and failed to submit it in time. Please do ‘head’ on over to Autostraddle and take a look at their fine, punctual submissions.

What is the real problem with prostitution?

7 Jul

Someone once told me to always open with a joke before getting to the heavy stuff, so here goes! “How do you make a hormone? Tell her a misogynistic joke.”

Basically, Amsterdam was amazing. It was full of canals, cyclists, and coffee shops selling cannabis (or ‘jazz cigarettes’ as my friend Dawn calls them, adorably). And it also boasts the infamous Red Light District, which is one of the main tourist attractions and puts a whole different spin on the idea of window shopping.

Prostitution has enjoyed a long tradition of tolerance in Amsterdam. Like marijuana, the Netherlands’ approach has been to legalise the trade and impose regulations. However, my feelings about the RLD are conflated. Even just putting the human body on par with a product (even cannabis…) is problematic.

In ‘Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment in Legalized Prostitution,’ Sullivan asserts the liberal feminist stance that sex work has the capacity of reducing women’s bodies to a basic commodity, and unconsciously aids in the institutionalising of the rights of men as purchasers of these bodies. Its normalisation has the potential to gravely undermine the workplace equality many women have strived for, and I can totally see this.

On the other hand, I think we have had more than enough of society policing what women do with their bodies. Here in the UK, Nadine Dorries is pushing for abstinence education for girls only (ugh) in schools, and abortion rights are under attack yet again (there is a pro-choice demo this Saturday though). If you want to make prostitution your chosen career, I don’t see why the hell you shouldn’t.

It is all too common for the media to dehumanise and attack sex workers. Do we all remember that vile Richard Littlejohn piece from way back, on the murder of the five Ipswich women? He argued that in their field of work – their work as“disgusting, drug-addled street whores” – “death by strangulation is an occupational hazard” and “in the scheme of things the deaths of these five women is no great loss.”

That the lives of these women were so one-dimensionally dismissed disgusts me to this day, and it is disgusting, disturbed men like Littlejohn that are the real issue surrounding the sex trade. The problem comes from dehumanising and oppressive societal attitudes and the relentless focus on these women’s trade which dismantles their worth as human beings.

It’s a tricky issue, but Amsterdam and the RLD seem to have prostitution spot on if it’s going to be done at all. Sex workers have their own union, access to police protection, and there is a significantly reduced threat of violence and sexually transmitted diseases.

I don’t think I’ll ever reach a concrete conclusion myself, but Feministissues.com has created a handy chart to show the spectrum of feminist reaction to the sex trade. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts too.

Amsterdaaaayum, gurl!

30 Jun
If you ever watched Neighbours a few years back, you will remember Sky Mangel, and you will remember that she was awesome. Sky determined that the Secret of Happiness™ was a combination of at least two of the following three things:

1.  Being content in your career
2.  Being content in your love life
3.  Having something to look forward to

As we know, all things in soap operas are true; one of the twins is always evil, and you always drive off a cliff on your wedding night. So it should stand to reason that Sky’s formula for happiness holds too, right?

Basically, this is all a round about way of saying that I am going to Amsterdam tomorrow. That’s nice enough on its own, but the fact that I’m flying to the Never Say Netherlands with the girls from the bookshop is even more exciting, especially as our camping trip last year looked like this:

I’m going to try to continue to update while I’m over there. However, I’ve heard that the cafés there sell some kind of magic cake that makes you dance better so I might be too tired from throwin’ shapes or something.