Thursday, March 31, 2016

Central Africa in Mexico City

Unless you're planning a visit to the Musée du quai Branly in paris in the near future, and you are in Mexico City, head to the Museo Nacional de Antropología right now (or anytime between immediately and Sunday April 3rd) for this amazing exhibition on Central African art: "Río Congo". 

Honestly, chances are you'll never have the chance of seeing something similar in Mexico again in the near future. The exhibition is huge. It's got gorgeous masks, statues, musical instruments, weapons... Though by now i wouldn't expect anyone to still cling to the racist and ignorant idea that all African cultures are similar, being able to see this sample of just a section of the continent is a fantastic reminder of the richness and diversity present.

Plus, once you enjoy this outstanding exhibition (and really, I guarantee you'll find plenty of pieces among the 300+ there that you'll irremediably fall in love with)... 

... you can head for the nearby Restaurante Tamayo and have not just great food, but a Mexican oak aged bourbon stout! Wow! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

a touch of Seoul in the gay district

I know, I've mentioned Coffine Gurunaru before already. But really, it's so interesting to have a place that actually has Korean staff and serves stuff that you would find in Seoul, right? Like a super creamy espresso con panna, or the super popular (in Seoul) "bread" - a sort of slightly toasted huge box bread with sauce (in this case, raspberry) and a huge scoop of something on top (whipped cream - or butter?).

Anyhow. If you can't make it to Seoul and want Korean food AND desserts, the gay district (Zona Rosa) of Mexico city seems the place to go, eh?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


If you were to see one queer film this year, this should be it. Transwomen, sex workers, Armenian immigrants, pretty-faced drug dealers, the most boring side of LA you could ever see and fantastic filming and acting make this a must.

Plus, notice how I caught by chance someone holding a smartphone right where the hand of the main character would be? LOL

Saturday, March 26, 2016

sweet, gay A'dam

Finally, about my last 12 hours in Amsterdam. I realize now I've been following a rather boring chronological order for these posts. Maybe it's because works leaves me little time to get creative, or maybe the nature of the trip made the chronological approach more practical. Hopefully I can improve in the future!

So. My last night I met this really nice guy, a theatre director from A'dam itself! First, he took me to Bar Prik. A nice, local, relaxed mostly gay bar that lesbians (and I assume other queer people) patronize too. Since my stay in A'dam was coming to an end, I went for the Dutchest I could with a Grolsch beer and bitterballen (a fried snack made with ground meat, butter, flour, spices...). I actually like Grolsch. And the bitterballen were good. But the best and most incredibly delicious part was the mustard to eat the bitterballen with! Whoa! The best mustard I have ever tried! So tasty! And so perfect for the bitterballen!

From there we walked to our next stop, Café the Queen's Head. Another relaxed mostly gay bar, right by a canal! Really nice. And there I got to try a witbier, which translates as wheat beer (though some people also call them white beers). Pretty good, though the conversation I had with this guy was even better! Talking about identity, queer rights, the consequences of progress in gay rights, complex and multinational family origins... Really cool.

Before we parted ways, we came across this shop that sold all sorts of bongs. I know quite a few people that would have loved such a gift, but a) the shop was closed, and b) how annoying to carry that back home! LOL

My last morning I had two missions left to accomplish before sitting on the train to Schiphol airport – getting my hands on a herring sandwich from a famous vendor on a bridge nearby, and having poffertjes (tiny, dense Dutch pancakes) with a colleague I was in Malawi with and who happened to live in A'dam.

So, early in the rainy morning, I headed straight for my broodje haring to Stubbe’s Haring, on a bridge over Singel Canal. Only to find it closed! No! One of my two very simple yet very Dutch goals! And it didn't look like there were going to open anytime soon that rainy Sunday morning. So, I went for a walk – I had time to spare before breakfast with my colleague...

At least the reflections of the buildings on that rainy grey day were pretty. Plus I found a cat sleeping the most comfortable of naps in what must have been a nice and warm café!

When it was time, I headed over to the Pancake Bakery, one of the more famous places for pancakes and poffertjes! Once my colleague got there – so nice to be able to talk and chat with her outside work! – we got what we were there for: a nice plate of traditional poffertjes. My friend from last night recommended I go for the simple, sugar and maple syrup ones, since I should start with the true and traditional version. Well, those little fellas were amazing! But so dense! I thought maybe I could have ordered more to try them with some other topping, like cream and cherries, but I was so incredibly full!

At least I got one of my two missions accomplished, right? 

Fantastic layover in A'dam. Eye-opening comparison with Lilongwe. Met nice people. And remembered I should re-visit these places with the habibi someday.

Friday, March 25, 2016

contemporary, artsy A'dam

So, remember I had (sacrilegiously?) chosen the Stedelijk over both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum? Well, this turned out to be the right decision for me. First, the museum from the outside was pretty curious! Some people make fun of it saying it's just a bathtub. But I liked its simple lines and white colour, actually.

Once inside, what was the first thing I saw? A wall painted by Karel Appel! The first time I saw this Dutch artist was in Montreal (I wrote about it in my post 40 à Montréal - l'art), and I had really liked the one painting of him I saw there. And now I had the chance to see this, the moment I walked in!

Plus a few other art pieces by him, like these. What is it about him that I like, I can't explain. But I really do.

And then, another surprise, a jar by Picasso! I had never seen one! Very nice.

Another interesting Dutch artist I saw was Matthijs Maris, who used to paint in several layers, with loose paint, so the final piece would have a misty, ethereal quality to it. Beautiful.

Of course, there had to be a visual-aural installation too, right? "And You Were Wonderful, On Stage", by Cally Spooner. It's a bit complex to describe. There were some 5-6 big screens in this room, and you are shown what is a mix between a promo, a musical, a rehearsal... from many different angles, at the same time, sometimes focusing on single details, sometimes with the source of sound (say, an opera singer) being heard but not shown due to the angle shot. Very interesting. And you sat on these stools with wheels, so you could move around and focus on whatever screen you wanted. Very curious indeed. Enough for me to sit a whole performance!

Finally, a special exhibition of Isa Genzken's art: "Mach dich Hübsch!" A pretty big exhibit, a a long retrospective of this German artist. And what a rich retrospective! This woman tried so many things, so many materials and styles! I loved it just for the obvious happy abandon she must have had to produce such diverse art work.

By then, I was starving, so I went for the typical Dutch sandwiches. When in Rome...

Before I left, I visited another wing and another exhibit, "My gallery is the world now". An interesting collection of clothes, headdresses, books... but I was already too tired to appreciate it. But the electric stairs back up were encased in this long, white tube, and that was a nice ride. 

So, like I said, glad I chose the Stedelijk! 

Just one more post and I'm done with this Malawi-Netherlands series!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

sunny, museumy A'dam

Remember the weather on my first day in A'dam? Cold, rainy, sleety, snowy? Well, my second day was the complete opposite! It was sunny! I looked out the window and couldn't believe what a gorgeous day it was! I had the same feeling like back in Toronto when spring was finally there and you could enjoy some sun! 

A Barcelona guy I had met the day before had invited me for breakfast, so I hurried out - sans scarf, sans gloves! hurray! - to meet him, stopping a few times on the way to take pictures of reflections of buildings on the water and of people playing a public piano at the train station, and to simply bask a bit in the sunshine!

Breakfast was very... European. Just a double espresso. But it was nice. We sat outside, enjoying the sun, drinking coffee, watching the water...

Fortunately, this guy wanted to show me a couple of places that gave me really nice views of the city. It was so pretty! Oh, and please note photo number 4 down here, with contemporary architecture, old Dutch architecture, and Chinese architecture (a floating restaurant in the middle)!

My bud was in film school, and had to leave for a shoot. I had decided I had to visit at least one museum, and decided on the Stedelijk Museum to see some contemporary and modern art. I know that most people will think my first choice should have been the Rijksmuseum, or the Van Gogh Museum. But I wasn't quite in the mood for those.

Anyhow, the walk across town, in this stunning weather, was simply amazing. I can't believe how picturesque this city is!

I finally made it to the Museumplein, a public square that holds the three museums I mentioned, plus the Concertgebouw. Below you can the the Rijksmuseum (with a sculpture in front that reads "I amsterdam") and the Van Gogh Museum. What you can't see are the huge line-ups for the Vang Gogh one! 

And the Stedelijk? Well, that's my next post.