In the middle of my trip to Brussels, I ran off to Bruges. It's a delightful little town, touristy to an astounding degree, but perhaps rightly so. It is a medieval place, the old buildings snug between the canals, faces made of stone grinning or grimacing in every alley.
One of the first things I did was climb the clock tower in the main square. The place was the old seat of government, and the doors to the town records were guarded by nine locks, and the nine town magistrates each guarded their own of the nine keys. Thus decisions could only be made, certain documents and riches could only be viewed, with the consent of all of them. After a great deal of climbing, I found massive bells, a nice view, and best of all by far, active clockwork. At set times a given gear set to spinning, seemingly far too quickly, in a sort of freefall. I stood there admiring the device for long enough that I got to watch several groups of tourists jump at the sudden noise, believing that they'd somehow broken something. After a time the spinning set off the chimes, like the mechanisms of a gigantic music box. And always there was the soft grind of gears, a gentle ticking away of time.
It was in Bruges that I found and left my favourite bar in all the world. It was an old place, built in the 1600s. The walls were dark wood, and the ceilings were white and crossed with ceiling-beams, black and thick. They played nothing but Mozart there. I was not the only patron alone and reading, although I was consistently the youngest. As in the rest of Belgium, beer was always served with something small to eat, some interesting crackers or a small plate of cheese, so you could drink what you liked without getting drunk. This was good, as the beer list was so long that, in order to be effectively navigated, it had to be organised by alphabetical order; there were many hundreds of choices. Faced with so many options, and a place that I liked so much, it seemed perfectly normal that on most days I began drinking around one o'clock in the afternoon, if not ever so slightly earlier. I'd spend my pleasantly lazy days in Bruges wandering about the town, finding the faces of the doors, watching the ducks in the canals, and returning to the bar from time to time to sit, and drink, and watch people, and read. It was exceptionally pleasant.