My Chocolate Tourism Bucket List

Do you love your chocolate? Me too! And other than combining chocolate with a good book, I can’t think of too much better than pairing chocolate with visiting a new place of interest.

While writing my latest novel, The Chocolate Promise (also called The Chocolate Apothecary in the UK), researching and taste-testing chocolate pretty much took over my life—and my dress size! And my palette for chocolate has changed. Only the finest will do these days. So now, I’ve begun writing myself a ‘Chocolate Tourism Bucket List’, to continue my love affair with this heavenly food.

Here are my current Top 5 locations:

  1. Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. This is the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily. Let’s just consider that for a moment: chocolate + Sicily. It’s a no brainer, right? Top of my list.
  2. Puyricard. This French chocolate artisan store is located just outside of Aix-en-Provence in the south232323232fp93232>uqcshlukaxroqdfv67-35;5=3427986;494<24-ot1lsi of France, which is where the main character of The Chocolate Promise spends time with a master chocolatier, roams the beautiful countryside and encounters unexpected romance. I soaked up the research for this part of the novel and am positively salivating to go there in person and enjoy the delights of Provence, including this chocolate store.
  3. Chocolate Walking Tour of Melbourne. A little closer to home for me, this would be a delightful weekend treat. Melbourne is known by many to be the food capital of Australia and I’ve no doubt the chocolate on this tour would leave a lasting impression. I only hear good things about this one. Definitely a To-Do, sooner, rather than later, I think. (At least the plane flight would be a quick one!)
  4. Rococo. I certainly couldn’t comprise this list without including a visit to Rococo in London. You’ll find an acknowledgement to Chantal Coady (founder of Rococo) for her inspiration that influenced The Chocolate Promise and for good reason. I pored over her book, Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate, as research for my novel. I even imported some of her creations. (The milk rose is my favourite.) I think I’d like to rent a flat just around the corner and simply hang out there every day, breathing it all in.
  5. Cailler. I’ve been to Switzerland but only once and I would love to go back there. (I’ve even been trying to work in some sort of Swiss plot into a novel so I can have a tax-deductible reason to go.) And this factory has some pretty great architecture to go with the experience.

So there’s my shortlist to get me (and maybe you) started. I’m sure there are dozens of amazing places around the world that would keep me entertained on my chocolate tours. I’d love to hear your recommendations if you have any?

p.s. Here’s a recipe from Chantal Coady for Chocolate Ganache Teacups, which fortuitously combines two of my favourite foods: chocolate and tea!

A Pot of Tea as Meditation Time

Tea for time out
Tea for time out

You know the drill: every day we’re told we should be exercising, eating five vegetables, meditating, taking vitamins, taking ‘time out’, ticking off our To Do list, strengthening social bonds, making time for our husbands, making time for our children (‘Don’t miss a single moment of these precious years!’), decluttering, detoxing, doing our pelvic floor exercises, investing sensibly, planning for holidays, working hard at our jobs, and getting at least eight hours of good quality sleep. Probably, most of us are lucky to achieve a couple of these things a day.

I used to be a meditator, back when I was single and childless and sharing a house with other people. I could lock myself away with a guided meditation CD, candles, incense and whole hours of time to devote to me. I enjoyed meditation, but I was also always a fan of moving meditation, those activities that can give you the same sense of peace, insights and altered time as more formal meditation. Riding my horse was always a huge moving meditation for me. Nothing like sitting on top of a half-tonne animal, clopping quietly down a street, listening to the birds and the rhythm of the squeak of a saddle in the sunshine to bring you firmly into the moment. Walking, yoga, gardening and swimming have also been sources of moving meditation.

And now, with an eight-month-old baby, renovating a house, writing a new book and all that jazz mothers do, I’ve become a fan of momentary meditation. Delightfully, I’ve realised more than ever that I can relish momentary meditation with a pot of tea.

Unlike throwing a teabag in a mug and covering with water, making a pot of tea takes just that tiny bit more time and thoughtfulness. You need a few extra bits, like a pot and a strainer. It takes a few moments more. You need to count out the scoops of tea for the pot (counting, also a form of mindfulness… or OCD depending on your personality). And then you need to pour it carefully into your (hopefully) lovely china cup.

It does take more time and a tiny bit more effort than the teabag option. But it’s a wonderful moment just to be present and breathe and relax. A teeny weeny meditation before returning to the chaos.