It's back to porridge today after a fantastic weekend in Germany & Holland. The adventure started on Saturday morning at 4am when Callum and I headed off in the darkness for a 6.45am flight to Amsterdam. A train from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf had us reunited with my friend and her family by lunchtime and the fun began with the kids leaping into the local outdoor 'freibad' and Cora and I heading for a sneaky 'alt bier' at a pub in the nearby village (wearing pretty much what I said I would wear on my last post - except the trainers came instead of the brogues)
The next day, there was a rugby tournament and Callum was thrilled to hear that he was eligible to play with the U10's. He was a useful addition to the team, scoring 11 tries in the 4 matches, which went a good way towards helping the team win the tournament. Afterwards, while the kids hit the pool again with Cora's husband, we cycled a 14 mile round trip into the city centre of Dusseldorf along beautiful tree-lined avenues and wide cycle and pedestrian friendly paths, along the River Rhine. I borrowed Cora's Scholl sandals as I hadn't quite broken in my Boden sandals after lots of walking the day before and her jacket, as the mac isn't very bike friendly.
White Top - DeJa Vu
Jeans - Maison Scotch c/o Feather & Stitch
We had a sneaky glass of the local liqueur, Killepitsch...not the best idea when in charge of a bike in a foreign country I will admit!
Monday saw us take the tram into the city again for a bit more sightseeing & shopping - with the kids.
Bird Print Trousers - Zara (SS13)
Denim Jacket - M&S (SS12)
Cream Cowl Neck Top - Austin Reed from DeJa Vu
Blue Sandals & Cross Body - Boden (SS13)
Necklace - School Gate Style Shop
So I'm sure you can take a guess at how shopping with two 10-year olds went?! I did however manage to pick up some man repelling Birkenstocks at the Birkenstock shop. It was pretty amazing being in the actual shop - the selection was incredible!
I'd already decided that I either wanted the double strap Arizona or the toe post Gizeh. What I discovered in-store is that you can buy most of the best selling Birks in leather or textile upper - a consideration if you're comparing prices. I didn't like the textile, though it felt lovely and soft, it's not going to be as hardwearing and the price difference wasn't significant enough. You can also opt for a hard or soft footbed in some of the styles, but I didn't find a huge difference between these.
After trying on many pairs - so many, that Callum actually fell asleep on the couch in the shop - I ruled out the Gizeh but I couldn't decide which colour to get in the Arizona. The white was too much, the black was quite heavy looking and the navy wasn't available in my size. Then the shop assistant brought out the basalt colour - a dark grey nubuck leather and I was sold!
And yes, they are a bit cheaper in Germany. I paid €54.95 for them and they retail at £64.95 on the Birkenstock UK site. But as with most things, a bit of googling and ebaying may get you a pair cheaper. Size wise, I am usually either a 39 or 40 in sandals but in the Birks I was definitely a 39.
Shopping wise, I didn't get anything else in Germany apart from presents for the kids. School items like stationery, are gorgeous over there so I was able to pick up lots of nice practical bits for the girls, like gym-kit bags and pencil cases. Generally speaking, the Germans spend more money on quality items. They had a range of school bags in the department store we visited and I honestly think they would last the full 7 years in primary school - they were strong, waterproof, practical and €100! And that same trend was visible in home wares and shoe shops. Though having said all that, Primark just opened in the city and it was mobbed on the first day. I had a quick look in a few other shops and I found Zara cheaper - most of the GBP prices were in EUR which equates to about a 15% difference. If it wasn't for Easyjet and Ryanair's extortionate luggage prices, we'd all shop more abroad I reckon....a blessing in disguise perhaps?!
Our last day abroad started with an early train trip back to Amsterdam, which left us with 5 hours to spend in the city. It was the perfect length of time and I managed to steer my 10 year old clear of most of the adult themes of this city...though I did get asked about a Hello Kitty t-shirt that on closer observation (thinking of it for his sisters) turned out to be Hello something completely different that rhymes with Kitties. I wore a similar outfit to what I wore on my last post, with the layered denim jacket (it was cool in Amsterdam!) and substituting my breton top for the white boho style top I picked up in DeJa Vu (new favourite shop!)
We stayed mostly to the west of the city where there are lots of pretty canals and bridges and after a boat trip and a long walk around that area, we finished up with a pre-booked visit to the Anne Frank house and museum. Even on a Tuesday afternoon, there was a queue of about 100 people who hadn't pre-booked so we were glad we'd planned ahead. We were brought past all the crowds and went in a separate door to start our tour exactly at the time we'd booked it. Instead of finding it depressing (which is why I'd never visited on either of my two previous trips to the city), I found the Anne Frank museum moving and inspiring. It's of course sad, especially watching the videos of her friend and her father (who survived) but overall, it's an immensely powerful place and seeing the throngs of young people there, I was struck by the legacy this brave young woman left behind her.
Back to the airport for our flight to Belfast and by 9.30pm last night, we were home again. I wore a pedometer while we were away and on average each day, we walked 14,000 steps so it's fair to say we slept well last night in our own beds!
I've load of posts to catch up on this week so I'll be back tomorrow with a fab breton striped jacket!