Mechellen is small city in Flanders, the north region of Belgium. This is not a turistic place with lots of attractions. It is ideal for us, coming from Canada, to learn how people live in Europe. We would bike to do groceries, take the bus and lots of trains to explore the area. Here you deal with the locals and not with workers of the turists industry.
Mechellen itself has a charming city center where you can enjoy a beer or have dinner, and admire the old cathedral with its massive tower. But the real hidden treasure is the region: Flanders. You can spend weeks visiting cities with lots to offer. You are just minutes away from Brussels and Antwerp (people commute there from Mechellen), both with truly exceptional sites that reflect the rich history and cultural wealth of Flanders. I was very surprised at the low profile of these cities, specially Brussels that should rate high among the European destinations. I have travelled extensively the world, yet walking in Brussels old center, and enjoying a meal in its Grand Place rates really high. We went hunting for chocolate around the many great chocolateries of the area.
Then, there is the proximity to other incredible places to visit. With one train change, and a total of 2 hours ride, we were in Amsterdam, Luxembourg or Paris. Mechellen is so close to them all... it makes for an excellent base to visit western Europe.
Peter and Petra make for the best hosts you can ask for. Always ready to answer any question and take care of you before, during and after the exchange. Great communication makes all the difference. We could also leverage Peter and Petra's friends and neighbours to help us out, for example, for babysitting. This was so much better than arriving to a hotel and not knowing anyone. Instead, we arrived as if we were some distant relatives :)
The house itself is spacious and nice. Don't expect luxury or every gadget (get ready to wash the dishes by hand), but everything you need is there and you'll be very comfortable staying in their house. The house is also very much ready for visitors, with lots of tags to indicate where things are. The place was immaculate clean and very tidy.
Last but not least, the garden. It is big, and kids love it. Lots of paths to explore, birds singing and a few animals to take care of.
All in all, I highly recommend exchanging with this family. Excellent location to live and explore Europe. Responsible and caring owners. Nice and comfortable house. Cheers!