So no this time I wasn't in Amsterdam, although the windmill and the canals were enough to think that I was.
I am just back from 5 days in Belgium for work and a little leisure - visiting Brussels and Bruges.
I have worked in the Policy and Europe team for 13 years and yet this was my first work related visit to the home of the European Union in Brussels. It was an interesting visit, attending an EU awareness session, a conference to launch the Smart Cities agenda and the networking forum to search for potential project partners for European funded initiatives - all in all an interesting 3 days in Brussels.
On Wednesday afternoon I headed to Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) for another meeting and some me time.
Bruges is a beautiful small city about an hour by train from Brussels whose medieval centre is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a range of architecture and most of it's medieval centre intact, winding canals and chocolate shops galore it's hardly surprising that it's a bit of a tourist mecca - it did at times feel a little like a medieval Disneyland, complete with "It's a Small World" boats plying the canals.
Life revolves around the many squares that dominate the city centre, with restaurants and bars with summer time tables outside.
However, perhaps the best bar is Staminee de Garre, which is not to be found in one of the squares, but up a narrow alleyway, hidden from sight. On two floors (I wouldn't like to be descending from the upper floor after too many beers) the bar is tiny, with only about 40 seats but sells perhaps the largest range of Belgian beer (127 to chose from) and jenever (Flemish gin). They also brew their own beer - and each drink is served with a little plate of cheese - very tasty!
My meeting was Wednesday evening (which included dinner in the town hall, being entertained by medieval style court jesters, musicians and magicians) and Thursday morning so I had Thursday afternoon and until about 2pm on Friday to wander Bruges, drink beer, eat moules frites and buy chocolates.
Bruges is a great place to spend a couple of days......