Category Archive: Uncategorized

Belgium Beers

It wasn’t exactly a “Beer Tour”, but it was fun to try several new (and some familiar) beers that I don’t see much of in the US.


The Trappist Rochefort 10 was probably my favorite. The “10” is the alcohol content, so maybe it’s everyone’s favorite by the time they’re done. But I genuinely enjoyed it from the beginning.  Rochfort-10


And the Westmalle Triple was probably #2. It’s very Belgian, in that it’s much sweeter than typical American beers – or any others that I’m familiar with, for that matter, but it had enough hints of hops that I liked it.Westmalle-triple

This was not so much for the beer – though it was reasonable – but for the drinking partner and the fact that the Delirium has 27 beers on tap upstairs and “3000” different bottled beers downstairs. Articles I’ve read about the place say they maintain at “least one beer for every year in the Christian calendar.” so whether it’s 2014 or 3000, it’s really impressive.

Nonetheless, I ordered their IPA, and it was still Belgian: Sweet, thought it had more hops than anything else I’d tried thus far. Delerium ramee

Stella is a good g0-to pils. I’m familiar with it, and it’s easy, and while it’s light and not hoppy, it’s also much less sweet than typical Belgian beers. Leffe is simlar.

leffe-stella Grimbergen

NOT what I would traditionally call an IPA, but hey, they know beer here, so maybe *I’m* wrong. Prearis-IPA

Farewell Belgium

Farewell Belgium – Lessons Learned

 We have left Brussels now.

Now that we’re warmed up for a couple weeks and know how to live our lives and be comfortable in someone else’s home, we’re ready for the big time. We’re heading to Paris for a few weeks.

Now that it’s been a little while, and we’ve been proving the “Workation” concept – that we really can work from anywhere, I’m reflecting on a couple things that I would consider next time, and pass along as lessons.
We’re working California hours because the fact that we are doing this at all is a privilege. We don’t want to make the people we work with have to adjust for us or be inconvenienced at all. But being 9 hours ahead means we’re working a 6:00pm to 2:00 am shift. That’s fine in itself. We just sleep in, but THAT, in turn means, a couple things to keep in mind…

  1. As much time after work as one might normally spend socializing, or hanging out with the family, or doing whatever tasks and chores one does, is as much time as we have before work to do what we do. The fact that we’re not paying bills, or making home repairs, or other being-at-our-own-home responsibilities provides a little more time, but still, we don’t have full days to do our sight-seeing.
    Therefore, I am grateful that we had over a week in Brussels, and 4 whole weeks in Paris. We’re not getting out of the house until noon or so, and need to be back by 6:00pm. If you ask the kids, 6 hours is more than enough, but when you factor in travel time, and all the “what-exactly-should-we-do-and-how-do-we-get-there” time, it leaves room for about two attractions.

    So lesson 1: Know that you only have a limited time for sight-seeing. Use it wisely.

    We’re going with the front-loading plan and seeing the big stuff early, and then nibble at the rest over the second half of our stay. It worked great in Brussels. We’ll try again in Paris.

  2. Everything above would normally be fine in most places and you just make your adjustments, but there’s a lot of beer here. And I did what I could to try several Belgian beers, but the problem is THEN I’m going to work. While that SOUNDS like a good idea, well…, you understand.

    Lesson 2: Maybe don’t try to work from the road if the road leads you to an endless supply of good beers to drink.

    I don’t know. This one’s thin, at best.

  3. An extension of problem 2 is that we didn’t get out at night in Belgium. I would have liked to spend some time in the city center at night, but that couldn’t happen. We’ll make sure it does in Paris, but it’ll have to be weekends.

    Lesson 3: Make your Weekends count.

    That might translate to real life too, but it’s a challenge for me at home, so this is good practice.



Leaving Marin

The Calders’ Epic 2014 Summer Adventure – Episode 1

We are in France.

As I write this, the four of us are on a train racing south from Paris to Montpelier where we’ll hop onto another train to Sète. I’m really struck by the landscape. Of course I’ve heard of the beautiful French countryside, and I’m seeing a slice of it. And maybe this is what people have been talking about. But specifically, what I’m loving about this are two very specific differences to what I see in the states (or at least my Californian bubble as I drive up highway 5 or something):

farmlandThis is primarily farmland. But the different farms, or plots, or crops, or whatever they are, rather than a nice, even grid of rectangles, are all different shapes separated most of the time by a row of thick, mature trees – like a giant art-decco stained glass window was carved into an old, dense forest.

villageSecondly, they have “villages” here. Real frikin’ villages. Every few miles, popping up within these random polygons of crops is an old church with a blatantly tall spire surrounded by 20 to 100 virtually identical houses tightly gathered around it. I never really knew what a village was. But there they clearly are scattered all over – mostly the first half of this journey – being real villages…I think.

All of this was supposed to happen last night, but we missed tht train. And now I’m kind’a glad we did because I would have missed all these real-life villages in the dark. We flew in from San Francisco yesterday evening, landed at 5:15 or so, and after a very easy stop in customs and an uneventful wait for baggage claim, we caught a taxi to an intimidatingly large train station. We had about 2 hours to accomplish all that, but we fell into “Paris Traffic,” as the driver labeled it. I would have explained that it was very similar to “California Traffic”, but he didn’t speak any English. Come to think of it, he’s the only person we’ve run into over the last 36 hours who we can’t talk to.

Obviously, we got it worked out, but spent the night in Paris last night and caught the train this morning.

Why are we on a high-speed train heading toward the South of France? Because that’s the first (planned) stop in the Calders’ Epic 2014 Summer Adventure. Apparently, Paris was the actual first stop, but whatever. That’s what makes it an adventure.

The plan was set in motion back in February of this year, when we were in Sayulita, Mexico, and decided that we should spend the whole Summer THERE. Actually, the plan was set in motion many years ago when we both starting working from home full-time, and I’ve been whining about the fact that we could live virtually anywhere in the world, yet I’m spending my 44th year in the Bay Area. Vanessa finally pointed out, in Sayulita, why don’t we just start with 2 months instead of actually MOVING? Why not? Turns out Sayulita, Mexico is really, really hot in the Summer though, and really, really humid. And there are bugs the size of antelopes. Or not – depending who you ask. Half the people we talked to who live there year-round said it’d be too hot for us, and the other half smiled and said THEY love it.

So, when we got back home from Sayulita, we created an account on and started poking around. Somehow, we settled on Europe, and one Sunday afternoon, we sent out 127 emails to people all over Europe whose profiles indicated that had some amount of interest in coming to California. Many were only looking for a week or so, or already had plans, or weren’t interested for one reason or another. But, a few people responded favorably, and after a couple weeks and some back and forth emails, we’re set up to swap homes with one family in Belgium and one in Paris. Throw in a week visiting a friend in the South of France and voila! Here we are.

And when you’re doing something like this, friends and family want to know how it works, and what kind of success and complexities we encounter throughout the planning and execution. Because they want to do it too. So, here’s the blog that will hopefully serve as both a communication of our day-to-day experiences in an international home swap, AND, a shared log of our musings of the French culture, wine and beer, fast trains, villages, and who knows what else.

Stay tuned, please.