Category: Spain


The best thing about my job as the author of Chocolatour is that I get to eat an abundance of tremendously wonderful chocolate and that I get to meet a lot of amazing chocolate masters who are generous with their chocolates. That is also the worst thing about my job. Once that chocolate is in my possession it is quickly eaten unless I give it away. But I can’t give it away and still get to eat it (and test it, savour it, review it, write about it.) So there is a bit of a dilemma I have to deal with, in addition to the expanding reach of my waistline. Believe me. I share as much of the chocolate I am exposed to as I can, but for the most part, the tasting, comparing, analyzing and appreciating is mine to do.

It’s wonderful when the chocolate has a shelf-life of at least a few weeks. That gives me time to taste and share while the chocolate is still at full quality. But that’s not always the case.

Some freshly-made chocolates, like the truffles of Paul A. Young of London only have a shelf-life of one week. It is not the kind of chocolate that you can take home and savour for awhile. It pretty much needs to be eaten within a few days of leaving the shop for optimum flavour. And it cannot be frozen and should not be refrigerated. But it’s still worth a trip to one of Paul’s intoxicating London locations, as there are other options that have a slightly longer shelf life and will better survive a journey.

Paul A. Young will be launching his recipe book in New York on November 11/11

Just walking into his shop is worth the visit. You are nearly bowled over by the potent smell of fresh chocolate. All the chocolate sold in the shop is made on site. I mean it when I use the word “intoxicating” to describe Paul’s chocolate — and his brownies! Those brownies are a hybrid that marries deep rich chocolate with salted caramel and pecans. There is absolutely nothing better in my opinion than Paul’s soft, moist dark chocolate brownies. They are individually wrapped and come in squares large enough to satisfy the chocolate cravings of any die-hard chocolaholic.

Every one of Paul’s staff is highly knowledgeable and passionate about chocolate. They are there to help you find the right chocolate creations that are just right for you. And Paul’s chocolate shops are unique in that many of the chocolates are unwrapped and unadulterated.

a visit to a Paul A. Young chocolate shop is truly a captivating experience

They are displayed openly, for you to smell and admire, making the chocolate shopping experience more enriching, personal and satisfying. It truly is intoxicating, and a chocolate experience that no chocolate loving chocolatourist  in London should miss.

I also really loved the chocolate of William Curley. William originally hails from Scotland, and his wife, Suzue, from Japan. This cross-cultural heritage not only makes for an interesting marriage, but an amazing collaborative process in the chocolate lab. You’ll find chocolate with a strong Asian influence, with sake, sesame seeds and mustard providing subtle enhancements to the chocolate.

William’s shop is elegant and inviting. You can linger inside at a few tables, or outside at tables in front of the Belgravia (Westminster District) shop.

I adored the Sea Salt Caramel Mou — dark chocolate covering soft caramel enhanced with a taste of sea salt from Brittany. Absolutely astounding, and not too sweet at all. The chocolate is wonderful, and the caramel, a perfect blend of sweet and salty. All that quality, and a shelf-life of four months makes this a terrific take-home souvenir of your Chocolatour.

William Curley's marzipan mushrooms (on left) are truly divine

Another really unique offering from William Curley are the dark chocolate marzipan mushrooms! They look like exotic mushrooms and are filled with tasty marzipan. William was originally trained as a pastry chef and continues to offer an amazing array of exquisite pastries in addition to his enticing chocolates.

I’ll have more to say about the amazing chocolate revolution that has changed the face of chocolate in London and area in the next post, which you’ll find here during the week of July 4th. Until then, please enjoy surfing the sites of Paul A. Young and William Curley and you’ll see why these are my two favourite men of chocolate in the UK.

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OK. Several of  you have been asking me when I’m going to get to the chocolate! I can assure you … Barcelona is an important stop on any chocolate lover’s quest. I met an incredible chocolate maker who will be profiled in detail in my upcoming book, Chocolatour. (Stay tuned to this blog for more info on that.)

But what I would like to focus on for this final post on Barcelona is the amazing chocolate museum you will find in this city of senses. The Museu de la X0colata is a must for any chocolate lover. You will learn about the history of chocolate, see an extensive assortment of equipment used for chocolate making, and be enticed and entertained by a broad assortment of chocolate creations. And yes … you can taste, buy, and even learn how to make chocolate on site.

You can taste, buy, and create chocolate at the Chocolate Museum

Spain plays a very important role in the history of chocolate

I’ve been to several chocolate museums around the world. Each has its own personality, just as every culture — and its chocolate — has its own unique personality.  What’s special about Barcelona’s Chocolate Museum is that it showcases life-like, and in some cases, life-sized chocolate creations that really show you how chocolate masters are using our favourite confection to entertain, inspire, and entice us with chocolate-based art. Here’s a look at some of the examples you will see!

chocolate gaucho and bull

global pop culture in chocolate

We didn’t have time to take a class at the museum (they hold chocolate making classes, and also special chocolate tasting and celebratory functions here.) But if you plan your visit ahead, you can do just that. Spend some time perusing their website to learn more.

Indeed, Barcelona is a city that will satisfy every one of your senses. I learned that one of my favourite celebratory libations, Freixenet, is made in the Catalan region of Penedés, just south of Barcelona! What goes better with decadent dark chocolate truffles than a glass (or two!) of dry sparkling wine? And Freixenet is the world’s number one sparkling wine! Learn how to pronounce Freixenet here.

Enjoy all of the pleasures of Barcelona, and be sure to visit this blog again during the week of December 20th (leading up to Christmas) when we’ll continue our chocolate quest with a visit to Torino, Italy.

I’ve had the privilege of exploring many of the world’s greatest museums and art galleries. But I confess. My time in Barcelona was not spent in any art galleries or museums (other than the Chocolate Museum) and yet I enjoyed a tremendous amount of amazing art. How, you ask?

Just walking or driving around the streets of Barcelona exposes you to an awesome array of street art. Incredible sculptures, as well as architecture that, in itself, is a work of art. At every turn we happened upon a colourful, entertaining, outrageous or thought-provoking sculpture. Here’s a look at just a few!

this whimsical street art made me smile everytime we passed it

There’s even art at the beach! This sculpture called L’Estel Ferit in catalan (meaning “The Wounded Star,” ) is by Rebecca Horn and is an homage to Barcelneta Beach.

this beautiful sculpture is at the beach near the W Hotel

the streets of Barcelona are lined with contemporary art

And then there’s the architecture! Contemporary buildings are colourful and interesting for the most part. Historic buildings are adorned with beautiful traditional statues and sculptures. Some cities are famous for abundance of eye candy as you walk down the streets. Barcelona is definitely one of them. And the nice thing is that people are out there enjoying them. Walking down the two-level boardwalk along the beach is terrific for people watching, inhaling the fresh sea air, and being in awe of the fabulous sculptures and architecture you pass along the way.

how can you not enjoy a city like Barcelona?

And there’s the Gaudi influence. I’d grown up using the word “gaudy” for describing something excessively bright, showy, tasteless or over the top. BB (before Barcelona,) I had always equated the word gaudy with the architect, Gaudi, as I had it ingrained in my mind that Gaudi’s architecture was considered by many as being gaudy. It is only today as I am writing this blog and referred to my trusty Canadian Oxford dictionary, that I see the origin of the word gaudy is a late 15th century word with Latin origins, existing long before Antoni Gaudi y Cornet (1852-1926.)

Surprisingly, I didn’t find Gaudi’s work to be gaudy. It is unusual, striking, inventive, and yes … “over the top” in many ways, but certainly not distasteful. What really impressed me about Gaudi’s work is that he is the instrument behind the infamous Sagrada Familia, a magnificent church that has been under construction for well over 100 years (the first stone was laid in 1882 and it is expected to be completed by 2030) yet, some of his work is quite modernistic in appearance (the apartment complex, La Pedrera for example.) Here’s a look at Gaudi old and new. What do you think?

the main entrance to Sagrada Familia

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia has been under construction for nearly 130 years and is expected to take another 20 years to complete

La Pedrera , completed in 1910, is one of Gaudi’s masterpieces and houses a museum in his honour

Locals don’t know what you’re talking about when you  mention the W. They know this magnificent sail-shaped hotel as the Hotel Vela (vela means sail in Spanish.) But it’s not hard to get the message across. The hotel towers above Barcelona’s shoreline and can be seen sparkling in the sunlight from most points near the beach.

the magnificent W Barcelona (Hotel Vela)

I generally don’t write a blog post exclusively about a hotel property, but this one deserves a place in the sun. It is truly awesome, and had me repeatedly screaming, “I’m not leaving” as Virginia and I made our way back down the beach to the hotel after a night out celebrating with the locals. We’d been fortunate enough to have been in Barcelona for the Festes de la Mercè, a week-long celebration in honour of La Mercè, the female 17th century patron saint of Barcelona.

dancing in the streets of Barcelona during the Festes de la Merce

the decorated streets of Barcelona during the festival were awesome

The city was rocking! There was free entertainment everywhere in the streets! People dancing and singing, colourful decorations, and some of the best fireworks I have ever seen.

the fireworks were some of the best I have ever seen

How fortunate we were to have timed our visit to experience this excitement. I knew I’d love Barcelona, but being in the city during festival time and staying at the W Hotel made this three days among the most memorable of my life.

I’ll blog more about Barcelona in 2 weeks (look for it during the week of November 23rd.) But for now, here are a few images to entice you.

If you go to Barcelona, I’d highly recommend getting a copy of Eyewitness Travel’s Top 10 Barcelona, a handy guidebook that is comprehensive, yet light enough to throw in your purse or backpack. More on Barcelona can be found on the site of Barcelona Tourism.

view of Barcelona's Sant Sebastia Beach from the W Hotel

And if you want to have a truly amazing time in this must-see city, do give the W Barcelona a try (or at least drop in for a drink!) It will cost you a few Euros more than most upper-end hotels, but the view, the ambiance, the food, drinks, service and accommodations are well worth it. As Arnold says, “I’ll be back!”

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