Choco-dar first erupted on our multi-country circuit of Europe in a VW van. That adult onset, self-diagnosed radar for chocolate experiences led us serendipitously to many wonderful chocolate discoveries and surprises. In the process I learned some chocolate travel tips. Chocolate travel generated the book and the website that I came to call On the Chocolate Trail. It all started with travel. Chocolate is a migrant food and the first Jews in the business were refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. Consider building your travels to places where there are particularly interesting Jewish chocolate stories, such as Bayonne (France), Israel, Liege (Belgium), and Courtelary, (Switzerland).
So here are a few delicious tips for fun chocolate exploration, I encourage you to exercise your own choco-dar as you forge your own chocolate trail.
Tip #1: Plan
Plan your adventures before departure. Check On the Chocolate Trail for a list of worldwide chocolate festivals, museums and tours. Do an online search for chocolate in the towns, countries, and regions where you will be traveling. If possible head to chocolate centers. We aimed for chocolate hubs such as Belgium, France, Mexico, Spain, and Switzerland.
Tip #2: Stock Up
Items for storing your chocolate purchases and samples may be packed ahead or picked up at your destination. Carry an insulated bag or two, especially in hot climates. Keep a supply of small plastic bags to protect each find separately and a marking pen to identify. Alternatively, take a photo to provide a visual record, with date/time/location stamp.
Tip #3: Practice Choco-dar
While on the road, stay alert to chocolate events, treats, information, and more as you wander and enjoy. It was choco-dar that led us to a local chocolate festival in Turin, Italy. Choco-dar raised my head from my reading just in time to notice the international headquarters of Valhrona Chocolate as we drove through the small town of Tain L’Hermitage, France. While crossing the Alps into Italy, my choco-dar found the factory store for Venchi Chocolate.
Tip #4: Inquire
Search out local specialties as you explore. Also, it is worth asking the chocolate shop staff for their favorites and whether samples are available. I learned about the mendiants and chocolate fish of France this way.
Tip #5: Buy Local
Check out local groceries in addition to specialty chocolate stores. Some chocolates will be less expensive in local markets.
Tip #6: Record
Keep a journal of what you have tasted, where, your experiences, and what you thought of it.
Tip #7: Collect
Collect pretty wrappers as souvenirs of your trip.
Most of all, enjoy!