Subject: Belgium and The Netherlands
Hi Elaine

I am not sure what you mean by having never been to The Netherlands before as Amsterdam is in The Netherlands. Anyways, suggestions for places to go. There are so many nice towns it is hard to know where to start but I would strongly recommend Antwerp and Ghent in Belgium (Antwerp is far nicer than Brussels in my opinion). Ghent is very pretty and touristy, but not quite as twee as Brugge/Bruges. Leuven/Louvain is also worth a visit. This is a real student town, but small and relatively peaceful. Erasmus was based here, and the local museum has excellent exhibits on the history of learning. (This is much more interesting than it may sound!). The town is also home to Belgium's main brewery!

In The Netherlands, I like Rotterdam, although it is not everyone's thing. It is great if you like modern architecture (make sure you check out the cube houses), modern art (several top museums), or harbour trips (Rotterdam is Europe's biggest seaport). Delft is quite touristy, but pleasant to potter round in (prize for spotting the deliberate pun). The Hague is underrated I think but, as the capital, has some good museums and a nice atmosphere. It is also near Scheveningen (sp?) - a coastal resort town on the dunes, which is different from almost anything else you will see in the country.

Utrecht is a big city, but a lively canal scene makes for great strolling/eating/drinking opportunities.

Finally, Maastricht may be out of your way but if you get the chance it is definitely worth a visit. There are loads of things to explore: casemates (underground network of caves), churches, the river and so on.

I hope this is of some help, let me know if you want more info. on any of these places. I visit both countries fairly often.

Jonathan Turton London/Duesseldorf