It’s a nice feeling, knowing you are not alone in your chocoholic tendencies. Out there in the big wide world there are chocolate body art specialists, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory dreamers and bizarre flavour conjurors.
Christmas is also on the horizon so you should be sourcing a supply of chocolate gold coins for the kids’ stockings, grandma’s favourite truffles and a couple of tins of cocoa that the whole family can enjoy around the fire. And let’s not forget, Christmas is a time of indulgence so be sure to get some action yourself! Here are seven spots where it would be a sin not to indulge in some chocolate scoffing…
In October, mouths start to water in expectation for the Salon du Chocolat, the biggest chocolate festival in the world! Over 400 choco know-it-alls and over 100,000 wanna-to-scoff-it-alls (aka, tourists) descend on Paris for the five-day feast. The event opens with the Chocolate Awards including categories such as the ‘Best Chocolate Travel Cake’ and ‘Best International Cocoa’. Keep your eyes peeled for the Chocolate Sculpture Contest while the Chocolate Fashion Show promises edible –but totally impractical for summer - designs. Stay at cheap and chic Paris hotels close and have more money to spend on chocs!
Under Spanish rule, Sicilians and particularly inhabitants of the Baroque town of Modica in the south, were well acquainted with the foodstuffs brought back by their Spanish conquistadors from the New World. This included the tradition of drinking bitter chocolate, in a similar fashion to the Emperor of Cortes in Mexico, Montezuma, who is recorded to have sweetened the drink with vanilla. Antica Dolceria Bonajuto (Corso Umberto 159) is one of the much coveted temples of chocolate making. A family enterprise, they purchase the unprocessed chocolate and, as the cocoa butter slowly melts the basic ingredient is worked in to the mixture. This is anything from chilli or salt, almond or coffee. The shop dons traditional wooden panelling and a healthy assortment of samples are generously piled up along the counter. You can even try 90% chocolate! Another speciality here includes mpanatigghi, pastries stuffed with minced meat and chocolate. Down the road at Fattoria delle Torri, you can even indulge in u lebbru ‘nciucculatu, rabbit cooked in chocolate.
The Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt is a great hands-on choice for kids. Follow the trail to educate yourself with the history and manufacturing process. You could even request a custom-made chocolate from one of the chocolatiers on the ground floor! Then it’s time for kids to roll up their sleeves and get their fingers dirty with some interactive chocolate making stations while parents can sit back with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Book into one of the many cheap Berlin hotels with Hostelbookers for a bumper chocolatey Easter break.
Work up an appetite on a picturesque stroll along the Rhine promenade, past numerous museums until you reach the striking Cologne Chocolate Museum (admission €7.50), built to resemble a ship on the Rheinau harbour peninsula. There are three exhibition levels taking you through 3,000 years of the good stuff’s history. But the Lindt chocolate fountain, with dunkable wafer bits, is the biggest draw and located on the third floor – a nice reward at the end of your visit.
Sorry to burst the bubble but the Chocolate Train is in fact not made of chocolate at all. Its name is derived from its destination, Cailler chocolate factory. Choose your wagon: either the vintage Belle Epoque Pullman cars from 1915, or the modern carriages which offer stunning panorama vistas of the surrounding vineyards. The train departs Montreux and the first stop is the village of Gruyère where passengers can hop off and explore the famous cheese factory. It’s then on to Broc to indulge in chocolate tasting and getting the low down on some of the finest chocolate recipes in the world from the Atelier de Chocolat studio. (Admission: CHF 10)-
Bruges was once a trading post for the brown stuff so it is no wonder it is something of a chocolate hotspot all-rounder. The pretty cobbled streets in Bruges’ historic centre are lined with decadent chocolatiers with extravagant window displays. In fact I’ve spotted everything from giant chocolate gorillas to intricate gingerbread houses. In wintry months, dive inside to warm those toes and finger tips with a mug of hot chocolate. For something a bit different, try The Chocolate Line (Simon Stevin Square). Anyone for Chilli con carne truffles? Garlic confit in olive oil with Mexican coffee? These are just a few of the bonkers flavours the legendary shock-o-latier Dominique Persoone puts in his recipes. He even dabbles in Choc-tails, chocolate lipsticks (dap on your lips then polish off a bowl of ice cream) and Chocolate Shooters (a sort of chocolate snuff machine created for a Rolling Stones dinner party) There is also a Choco-Story Chocolate Museum (€7) housed in a pretty 15th century building.
If you don’t want to lug your chocolate loot far, try central Bruges for your stay.
Sun, sea, sand and chocolate…Villajoyosa is a seaside town near Alicante that might just have it all. It’s claim to fame is that it was one of the first places the Spanish landed their treasures of cacao brought back from the New World. Factories sprung up although today, on two, including Chocolate Peres, are still in existence. At Chocolate Peres the old chocolate machines are still in use and the family company prides itself on traditional methods seeing the whole process through from bean to bar. There are factory tours, unfortunately only in Spanish, but it is still fascinating to see the ‘old school’ equipment. In their shop you can pick up a packet of their chocolate a la Taza, a thick drinking chocolate that the Spanish love to dunk churros in for breakfast – give it a go.
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