We all know about wine tasting breaks and many of us brag about travelling the Loire Valley or Tuscany, trying the fine wines at the selection of vineyards but a recent survey on trends in food and food related holidays shows a rise in interest in ‘chocolate holidays’.
The focus is in two areas; growing and production. The adventurous may want to take a holiday to Sierra Leone or to Ecuador (the latter is probably safer!) and see how the cocoa is produced. If your budget is tight or you worry about safety then you can see the same plants growing in the UK at Kew Gardens in London or at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The latter even has a guided tour explaining the journey from plant to naughty chocolate bar!
More refined but not necessarily expensive is to visit the homes of the major quality chocolate manufacturers. Depending on what you call ‘good chocolate’ you could consider a quite expensive trip to Cadbury World in the Midlands where, in a theme park style experience, you’ll learn not only of the history of chocolate production but how it impacted on the social development of the people of the Midlands.
The alternative is a weekend break or longer to some of Europe’s finest chocolate producing nations. The big two are Belgium
Belgium has the world’s best praline chocolates, especially those made by Guylian in Sint-Niklaas near Antwerp
. Most travellers assume that Bruges is the home of Belgian chocolate but the many shops there are either independent producers or outlets for the bigger companies. You’ll certainly get a great chocolate experience but perhaps hiring a car and touring the small country is a better way of getting the full story. Try the country’s top manufacturers; Neuhaus in Brussels
, Leonidas in Ghent or Guylian in Sint-Niklaas.
Switzerland would take issue with Belgium stealing the chocolate crown and with good reason. With Tobler, Lindt and Suchard, some of the biggest names in great chocolate today, a visit to their factories in Bern
and Serrieres respectively will see you leave with armfuls of samples for you to enjoy later! If you’ve got time you could extend your trip to a Europe wide tour taking in Kakao in Berlin, Bonnat in France, Valor Spanish chocolate and Venchi Italian chocolate.
Chocolate has been regularly touted as having health giving properties as well as having the feel good factor when you let a chunk melt in your mouth and now you can use it as an excuse to visit some of the most beautiful cities in Europe.