A visit to the Netherlands is a foray into a friendly, cultured and artistic land. This low lying country is shored up from the sea and rivers with great escarpments of dykes. Charming windmills dot the landscape, as do the greenhouses and fields of colour that host thousands of tulips. The Netherlands is not short on culture and can claim Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh, Mondriaan and Escher among its noted artists. Much of their work can be seen in the wonderful art galleries of the capital, Amsterdam. The city is also the location of the Anne Frank Museum, set in the house where the girl wrote her diary while in hiding during Nazi occupation.
Famed for chocolate, beer and chips, what is there not to love about Belgium? Aficionados would add art, lace and mussels to the list, all of which are definitely worth trying in this small, friendly country. The bi-lingual capital, Brussels, plays host to the European Union and NATO which sit comfortably alongside sights such as the impressive Grand Place and famed bronze statue, Manneken Pis. No visit to Belgium would be complete without a trip to Bruges. Often hailed the Venice of the north thanks to its stunning architecture and maze of canals, this medieval city is one of Europe's real treasures.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
The Emerald Isle must surely be one of the most beautiful and friendly places on earth. Outside of the cities, tiny country lanes wind their way through lush green fields and pass through idyllic villages built around their pubs and churches. In Dublin, Ireland's capital, you can wander through elegant Georgian squares and terraces, stroll along the banks of the Liffey or pop into a pub for an impromptu singalong. Everywhere you go, you'll be welcomed by the Irish people, whose warm hospitality is legendary. Must sees outside Dublin include the Glendalough ruins, Waterford Crystal Factory, Bunratty Castle, Blarney and the breathtaking Wicklow Mountains, enjoy this magnificent country with a cruise from Southampton.