Tag Archive: Florida

This … my chocolate loving friends is the post you’ve been waiting for. As today, I will introduce you to one of the finest masters of chocolate in North America!

Our recent trip to Florida had one major goal. To meet Norman Love. I’d heard of Norman when I was at the World Chocolate Masters Championships and Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2009. He is revered by many experts and chocolate lovers as being the finest chocolate maker in the USA.

So we made our way down to Fort Myers Beach with the kind assistance from the folks at the Lee County Convention & Visitors Bureau. I will be forever grateful to them for introducing me to Mr. Norman Love.

you can’t help but love Norman Love – chocolates

Love is one of those passionate individuals who lives and breathes chocolate. His shop is a mecca for chocolate lovers. I pulled up to the Norman Love Confections shop in Fort Myers, only to find another woman taking a picture of it! I could see myself doing that, for the purposes of Chocolatour, but she was simply a chocolate lover who was documenting her journey to this place of sensual wonders.

some of the captivating chocolate creations of Norman Love

You walk in the door to the small shop and you are blown away by colour. The packaging is so beautiful it’s mouth watering! And the display of chocolates and fresh pastries is so enticing, you’ll probably gain a pound or two before you even walk out the door.

But it wasn’t the fanciful packaging or luscious pastries that won my heart. It was Love’s BLACK Collection. A simple black box containing the most elegant and sensuous chocolate I have ever tasted.

Love is a purist in that he tries to keep flavours recognizable. In the BLACK Collection, you will indulge yourself in single-origin chocolate from five of the finest cocoa producing areas on the planet: the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Madagascar. I have been to the DR, but the remainder of the locations share a place at the top of my wish list.

Eating that box of BLACK was one of the most intoxicating experiences I’ve ever had. In fact, when I was in Fort Myers tasting with Love, I admitted to him that I was getting high. The cocoa is so pure and perfect that someone like me (who has a sensitivity to caffeine) finds herself giddy like a school girl and lost in the love of chocolate. I think you diehards know what I mean.

Let’s just say I loved each and every piece in that box of BLACK. But to give you a brief synopsis, the Madagascar was my favourite. It’s created from 64% cocoa mass produced from trinitario beans (which possess a natural fruity flavour) blended with roasted hazelnuts and a subtle hint of clove and cedar! The Maracaibo Clasificado from Venezuela was my least favourite, but don’t think I didn’t like it. They were all magnificent, and make me wish I lived closer to Fort Myers so that I could be one of the regulars that Love knows by name. With any luck, someday soon …

I’m an island girl. A beach baby. All my favourite places on this planet are surrounded by beach, beautiful vistas and water, so it’s no wonder I love Fort Myers Beach. The white sand beach seems to be never-ending, the ambiance of Fort Myers Beach as a destination or community is unpretentious, and it’s quite accessible to other parts of Florida, being just three hours (less than 200 miles) southwest of central Florida and our previous destination of Orlando.

We were fabulously fortunate to be hosted by the GullWing Beach Resort, located on a wide stretch of Fort Myers Beach. The GullWing is part of the Sunstream family of properties and top-notch in every way. Our expansive suite was so large, we occasionally got lost in it! The spacious screened-in lanai overlooked the beach, and it was just a short walk before we were immersed in the welcoming waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

our beachfront suite at the GullWing had a beautiful lanai

We also enjoyed the pool and the poolside hot tub. There are no restaurants on-site as the GullWing is a condominium property. Each suite is owned by individual owners, so decor varies from unit to unit. I can tell you that Suite 306, decorated throughout in shades of green and blue, was most pleasing to this nature-loving water baby.

Most of the “action” happens at the north end of Fort Myers Beach, just as you come off the  Matanzas Pass Bridge (also known as the “Sky Bridge” because it seems to touch the sky) onto Estero Blvd, the road running from the north end of Fort Myers Beach to the less populated southern end. The GullWing is located more towards the southern end of the strip, but just a short drive to the rest of the action. And we liked it that way. Less traffic, fewer people and more birds.

brown pelican enjoying the sun at the Fort Myers Beach pier

I do love the pier at the northern end of Fort Myers Beach. You see many kids and adults fishing, a few brown pelicans resting peacefully in the sun and a terrific view of the entire beach. And right at the foot of the pier, you’ll find Kilwin’s, who make terrific chocolate goodies. Try the dark chocolate “Sea Foam.” It reminded me of sponge toffee. Now, doesn’t that bring back some warm childhood memories? Kilwin’s is also famous for their fudge and ice cream. But I can only swear by the chocolate, and it was indeed, good.

Yes, you’re right! I hadn’t come to Fort Myers Beach strictly for the beach. (You know me better than that!) I came for the chocolate, as it was the next research stop for Chocolatour. Please join me here the week of April 25th for more on a find that is perhaps the best chocolate that has ever passed these chocolate-loving lips.

In the meantime, please share your thoughts about Fort Myers Beach, your favourite place in Florida, pelicans, sponge toffee, or anything else that makes you smile.

Sorry for the delay in posting. We’ve been having a tremendous discussion about inspiration over on my writer’s blog and I’ve been somewhat distracted.

For this post, I’m bringing you back across the pond and to Florida.  I love Florida! The sun, the surf, the birds.  Have been there many times over the years and have always enjoyed making new discoveries. This trip was no different. We spent a week in Orlando (hadn’t been there in a number of years) and then went on to enjoy 3 days on Fort Meyers Beach. I’ll take you there in the next post. But for now … we’ll focus on Orlando and the highs and lows of our visit.

The lows? The weather was one. Located in Central Florida, Orlando is about 3 hours north of Fort Meyers Beach. So the weather there can be considerably cooler than you’ll encounter in South Florida. And we happened to visit in January, during a cooler and wetter-than-normal week. So as much as it was nice to be away from the cold and snow of Manitoba, the Orlando weather didn’t do it for me.

The other low? The sharks! No, these ones weren’t in the water. They can be found circling unsuspecting visitors at the timeshare property where we were staying.

We loved the Wyndham Cypress Palms. It’s a fantastic resort. But it’s part of the Wyndham Vacation Resorts family of properties. We were there on a “free” certificate we received when buying into the Wyndham Grand Desert in Las Vegas in December, 2009.

The Cypress Palms is newly reburbished. Our king suite was gorgeous, with granite countertops, a jacuzzi tub, screened-in lanai overlooking the man-made lake, and a convenient location in Kissimmee on Highway 192. We had plenty of space and were thrilled to be spending a week there for the price of an expensive dinner.

We were invited to a 45-minute “member services update” by the Wyndham people. I didn’t see any harm in that as I admitted to not fully understanding the timeshare program in which I was an “owner.” Nearly 4 hours later, we were walking out of there having doubled our investment in the program and now owning a share of the Wyndham Cypress Palms.

Why did I do it despite the warning from dear husband, Reg? Because I fell prey to the sharks posing as “member services reps” and believed they were making recommendations based on what was described as “my best interest.” I had been had. Fortunately Visa’s assistance helped me get out of that deal. Contract cancelled. I should get myself a t-shirt saying  “Shark attack survivor.”

Why am I telling you this? To protect you from scammers. Don’t be trusting like me. Keep your guard up. Trust your intuition. If your spidy senses are tingling, they might be trying to tell you something. Walk away before your regret is as big as your bank account is small.

Marketplace had a super show on CBC last night showing just how easily the average Canadian is taken advantage of by the super scam-man. They usually have a friendly face and disposition. They ALWAYS have an offer which is “good for today only” and try to cause you to act before you’ve thoroughly thought things through. These are warning signals that are trying to save you from the aggravation I went through. Don’t ignore them!

Using the Toastmasters sandwich method of evaluations, I’ll close with a positive. I do enjoy Orlando. There are many worldclass attractions to experience, it’s not too difficult to navigate the highways (even for a small-town gal like me) and for the most part, the weather is palatable.

beautiful white heron at Gatorland

We really enjoyed a visit to Medieval Times (jousting, lords and ladies all while you enjoy a knightly feast) and Gatorland (lots of alligators and birds in a pleasing, fairly natural environment.)

A recommended property to stay at is the Peabody Orlando. They have sweet, happy ducks. No sharks.

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