Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kringloopwinkel: It is alright to shop at Charity Shops in the Netherlands

The popular charity shop in the Netherlands is the Salvation Army (Leger des Heils) but for us locals we call it the ‘Kringloopwinkel’. Every city, town and a big enough village has a kringloopwinkel. In Utrecht there are several kringloopwinkels but perhaps the most famous that gets a lot of popularity mileage is the one at the Oudegracht in the centre of the city. Mainly because of its location.

The Kringloopwinkel in Oudegracht is huge, they are in several buildings on street and wharf levels with each having its own department of specialty items.

The sober mentality of the Dutch

The Netherlands is a country that is sober when it comes to materialism and showing off money and power. From where I come from (Philippines) and I guess from most places outside the Netherlands and moreover outside Europe, people are often critically attached to status and power, and equating one’s worth based on the signature brands they wear, the type of car they drive and how big their house is. It doesn’t matter if everything is on loan and there is no money left in the bank, as long we look good outside huh? I tell you, I am sure I am not the only one who has a massive pet peeve with this kind of silly mentality.

It was quite a breath of fresh air when I moved here in the lowlands more than a decade ago. The Dutch as a whole are the least materially inclined people I have ever known and who abhor the display of status and power like the plague. Just look at the pitiable luxury street we have in Amsterdam, the PC Hooftstraat compared to the rest of the world. It is laughable and does not come close to a 10th even of the luxury shops in Manila.

So in the Netherlands, you don’t want to be caught dead bragging about material, money and power related stuff. It does not only leave a bad taste in the mouth, but it’s seen as bad manners as well, and bad conduct; it is just not done. The Dutch are not impressed with your money, power, your Hermes bag and Porsche Carrera cabriolet, they are more concerned about how you behave. There is a saying here that is taken seriously by everyone, ‘Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg.’ Which means—Just be your normal self because being yourself is already crazy enough.

And the really rich people here? They do not brag, or rather, are afraid to brag lest their heads be cut off by the prevailing mentality of the majority—Behave yourself, be normal.

This mentality has kind of rub me, in a good way though.

Now why I am saying this? Because it means that going shopping in a charity shop does not mean you are destitute in the Netherlands. People with money come here all the time. There’s no stigma attached to it really, although many less privileged ones do come here to buy stuff, of course. As they say, ‘One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.’

Moreover, this is the Netherlands and this is Europe. There are so many old items ranging from furniture, kitchen and home accessories to paintings that just go to the Salvation Army without the inkling that they could be real antiques and could have been worth thousands instead of a meagre 10 euros. It happens all the time.

My sister-in-law who has great taste love kringloopwinkels that she is now visiting every kringloopwinkel in town. I might just go with her, who knows I might just bump into a very cool find!

To find the nearest kringloopwinkel in your town in the Netherlands, go here: Kringloopwinkels in Nederland

You want a cheap second hand bike? Come here.

Oh wow, they even have a design centre for modern, classic and antique furniture! =)

Nicely merchandised as well, don't you agree? Great place to hunt for period furnitures. I actually found a beautiful chair that reminds me of the Napoleon chair in Bilthoven's kringloopwinkel but had to let it go as I did not know where to have it repaired.

This one is the clothes and accessories shop. There are many signature brands and vintage ones as well here that you can find, if you just have the patience (and skill) to rummage through. 

Visit Period: November 2013
Destination: Utrecht Centre (Utrecht), The Netherlands

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Amsterdam: Museum of Purses and Bags and Travel Bags Special Exhibit

Many women are crazy about bags and some would go to great lengths making a personal collection of luxury bags at home. I find this quite preposterous but that is just me. But yeah, whatever rocks our boat right.

I do like having nice, quality and sometimes expensive bags but it’s not something that occupies my mind the whole time. The whole idea behind collecting is just macabre actually. Because this means the person has an object of desire. When someone collects things, there is bound to be an emotional attachment (of course to varying degrees) and a sense of fulfillment in acquiring the object(s) and having these in a safe place. I find it daunting to be chained to this sentimental fascination with a material thing. But I have to admit that it did cross my mind to buy these luxurious babies.

Chanel 2.55 bag and Chanel No. 5 parfum. Coco Chanel was a kept woman, to two rich men who are friends (Balsan, a French ex-military and wealthy socialite and Capel, an English man with noble background), who both financed her business at different stages. It was Capel however who funded her growing business at Rue Cambon.

Museum of Purses and Bags
Website: Tassenmuseum | Museum of Purses and Bags

In April, Blondine, her mom and moi visited this museum in the centre of Amsterdam. Because this is a visit with three intentions, we first did the first two intentions based on accessibility: Barbie's 50th anniversary exhibit on the ground floor and the High Tea in the period room on the first floor. After this, we proceeded to visit the purse museum upstairs. The exhibit is located on the second floor and follows a chronological order, based on time and history. It is very interesting to learn how the purse evolved into the bag of today.

TRIVIA: Did you know that Coco Chanel first introduced the shoulder bag in the 1920s with the Chanel 2.55 bag? Before the introduction of this bag with a gold chain worn over the shoulder, all women carry their bags in their hands or arms. Chanel introduced a much more functional way of carrying a bag which paved way for ideas in design and function.

I learned the shoulder bag history from her biography film though and not from the museum.

A few celebrity and famous people’s bags were on exhibit such as the Philippine’s Imelda Marcos and her bag made from indigenous Filipino materials and Madonna’s green floral textile bag. The museum is not really big and I was expecting to see more bags really. I think the purse museum could make use of bag donations from filthy rich people, world famous celebrities and (luxury) bag designers themselves as well.

 This is a goat's leather belt pouch with iron frame and with 18 pockets some behind secret closures. This bag was worn on a belt. 16th century, France. Can you imagine 18 pockets? You really need to have good memory to remember which pocket you stored a particular coin.

This is the first messenger bag, which is meant to deliver post and whatnots.

Travelling leather bags and luggage. I see the popular doctor's bag in there as well.

These are small purses through history but they keep coming back in our generations today in much more modern designs and hardware. 

Imelda Marcos, the Philippine's First Lady during the Marcos regime. Everyone knows her for her thousands of pairs of shoes. But she was also a bag collector, er I mean hoarder.

Madonna's floral green bag. I tell you, I find this hideous. I hope she did not have matching shoes as well?

The iconic Dior handbag in the 1960s, France.

This is on the second floor of the museum and the staircase. It is a lovely period style house. To see the rest of interior of this museum, please click the Barbie and High Tea link above.

Special Exhibit: Travel Bags

There was also a special exhibition of travel bags and luggage featuring a few items owned by Prince Bernhard, the husband of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands (previously Queen Beatrix who abdicated the throne last year in favour for her eldest son, King Willem-Alexander).

Very funny as well to see how people travel back then with a whole cabinet! Louis Vuitton pioneered the luxury luggage cabinets, and you have the practical Samsonite later on emerging in the travel bags scene, which was really named after the strong man Samson in the Bible =)

TRIVIA: Did you know that back in 1800 only ONE PERCENT of the world population could travel as tourists?

Here are the rest of the FACTS and FIGURES regarding travel:

Farmers feared that the steam train would upset the cows and reduce milk production? OMG, haha! And in the future tourists will travel to outer space and stay in hotels beneath the sea. Well this is already done in our generation. We have had space tourists and hotels under the sea.

A rich man's vanity set luggage.

Some picnic stuff and the cabinet luggage by Louis Vuitton =)

More stuff here from Louis Vuitton.

This is a travel briefcase of Prince Bernhard, and that is him in the picture.

More travel bags from the Dutch royal family. I tell you life back then was so complicated.

Visit Period: April 2014
Destination: Amsterdam Centre (Amsterdam – North Holland), The Netherlands

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

50 Years of Barbie and High Tea at the Museum of Purses and Bags in Amsterdam

Back in April I went out for a high tea meet up with Blondine and her gorgeous mom at the Museum of Purses and Bags. But there is actually more than that and it’s what I call hitting three birds with one stone visit event:

(1) We checked out the museum (which I will have to post separately after this as I took loads of pictures, as usual).

(2) Had (fashion) high tea, which in essence is an afternoon tea but the Dutch love to call anything fancy and tea—High Tea, thus. You can only have high tea or lunch here though if you buy a ticket to the museum. And they really have fashion high tea here which includes Chanel and Dior bags as chocolates in the menu.

(3) And this is a bonus: Saw Barbie celebrating its 50th anniversary at the purse museum this year! Well, this was last spring.

Can you say you just love this period style tea room?

Let’s start with Barbie

I can’t really remember playing with Barbie in the 70’s although my younger sister did in the 80’s. What I can remember though was cutting off my doll’s hairs and dismembering their limbs. I sound like a naughty girl in training for a much devious bigger plan in the future, haha. I really do not know why but I have always thought I would experiment. What the doll would look like without a head, arms and legs. Thankfully I did not turn out a serial killer but a normal person who views the world sometimes with sarcasm.

So yes, when I was a kid I tend to destroy my toys, scribble the walls of the house with chalk and later on with crayons, tore all the pictures I can find, uh can you say, I was not an easy child to handle? I even remember letting my nanny run around in circles many times with a spoon in her hand (I had many who gave up) because I didn’t want to eat. I can also remember how crazy I was with Lego and the Game & Watch series of Nintendo.

Anyway, enough with that, Barbie it is. She just turned 50 but we will always remember her in her prime years when she had (or still has) a waist and limbs as thin as a stick.

Do you have special edition Barbies like these?

Now this style is my style =) although I am not sure about the leopard Russian hat.

Blondine and the mom, and this is the travelling and flight stewardess version of Barbie. It looks like a KLM flight stewardess but it could be Pan Am.

You see Ken lurking behind Barbie =)

The Barbie exhibit was only temporary though. And this is what is running around on the internet, especially in Facebook:

LOL, well what can I say? At least she still wears pink and high heeled shoes.

High Tea at the Period Room 
Website: High Tea at the Period Room of the Museum of Purses and Bags

After the Barbie tour, we went upstairs (first floor) for the high tea, and when we took a peek at the period style tea rooms, we were almost speechless, but we managed to break the silence and blurted out—WOW! You know I do not mind having high tea like this every week, don’t you?

We quickly got cosy in our seats and started the high tea service. Blondine’s mom was giddy, she loved the atmosphere as much as we did and only has praises for the interior. We read about the owner of the mansion, the canalhouse they call it, in the hallway. There was a plaque with the history of the owners, the De Graeff family (who built it) and the De Bosch Kemper family (who later bought it).

The ground floor of the building is the store, coat room, toilet and where the exhibition of Barbie was. The first floor (yes, in Europe, the first floor is technically the second floor) is the museum café and the period rooms for the high tea and lunch. The second and third floors are the actual museum.

Our jaws (well almost) dropped when we saw the period room. Fabulous. Elegant. Historical.

We started with some prosecco bubbles of course while we sort out the tea menu.

The three-tiered tray pastry arrived and met the approval of the two Blondines =)

Some apple and nuts pastry... and madeleines.

More sweet cakes and chocolates.

 Sandwiches are part of the tea menu and Blondine said she wants to pour me a cuppa.

Warm scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream. Little pleasures in life.

Blondine and her gorgeous mom. Like mom, like daughter.

Moi of course. Did you notice the blue wallpaper? Its lovely.

This is the adjacent period room.

Just look at that fabulous ceiling, ahhh the painting.

I am all for enjoying a high tea session in a classical period room like this. Totally worth it.

This is the normal Museum Cafe. You do not need reservations in here though. Cosy is it not?

Next: The Museum of Purses and Bags

Visit Period: April 2014
Destination: Amsterdam Centre (Amsterdam – North Holland), The Netherlands

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