Monthly Archives: November 2013

Best Vacations for Chocolate Lovers

As a chocolate lover this article drew me in immediately. All rights belong to Fodor’s. To view the original article click here. I’ve only been to one of the places listed below and that is Angelina. I’ve also done a chocolate tour in Seattle, which I’m surprised wasn’t on the list.

Best vacations for chocolate lovers


By Dana McMahan November 26, 2013 8:19 PM
Photo by Elina Manninen/

Vacations are a chance to indulge—and what better way to truly treat yourself than with chocolate? You can even plan an entire trip around pure, cacao-infused bliss. Whether it’s hot chocolate worthy of an overnight flight, edible chocolate museum tickets, or the chance to immerse yourself in a chocolate-centric hotel, there’s a world of chocolate delights waiting, and we’ve got 10 sweet places you shouldn’t miss.

Florence, Italy

What’s better than Italy? How about an Italian Chocolate Valley? This area of northern Tuscany is known for its dedication to pure chocolate (no added vegetable oils). For a taste of paradise in Florence, visit the tiny Vestri boutique for some of the finest chocolate imaginable. And strongly consider the dark chocolate and Sicilian orange gelato.

Expect crowds, but the luxurious Turin chocolates at Venchi are worth the wait. And if hitting the shops isn’t enough, plan a visit for next spring’s handmade chocolate fair for tastings, workshops, and lots more.

Where to Stay: Calling the historical Golden Tower homes comes with a nice perk: an on-site Chocolate Bar serving up more than two dozen varieties of chocolate.

Photo by summer park

Paris, France

You’ll never look at hot chocolate the same after you partake of the impossibly thick chocolat chaud at this opulent Angelina on Rue Rivoli. Your pitcher is served with a side of freshly whipped cream. Ceremoniously pour the molten chocolate into your little cup and raise a toast to Paris—and chocolate.

If you prefer your chocolate in bite-sized quantities, head to the laboratory of Jacques Jenin where shopping for chocolate is akin to buying jewelry. Select each piece from the display case and have it be oh-so-carefully removed by white-gloved staff.

Where to Stay: Ensconce yourself at the decadent Mandarin Oriental, where you’ll also find the Cake Shop, home to executive pastry chef Thierry Mathieu’s chocolate treats.

Photo Courtesy of Maison Cailler Elina Manninen/

Montreux and Broc, Switzerland

For an experience as magical as visiting Willy Wonka’s factory, visit Montreux and board the Swiss Chocolate Train, a 1915 “Belle Epoque” Pullman car, for a round trip journey to Nestlé’s Maison Cailler factory in Broc, where you’ll take a tour and taste the creamy milk chocolate. Bonus: you’ll also visit the Gruyères cheese factory. Or develop your chocolate tasting skills with the tour at Confiserie Poyet in Vevey.

Where to Stay: Sleep where milk chocolate was born, in Vevey. And do it in grand style at the Grand Hotel du Lac.

Photo by

Barcelona, Spain

Your tickets are edible. Need we say more? The Museu de la Xocolata will educate you about how Spanish conquerors brought chocolate to Europe from South America—and its inevitable spread. Imagine—what if nobody ever thought to add sugar to cocoa? Take part in one of nearly 20 of the museum’s activities, many of which are family friendly. Revel in the delicious chocolate tastings, sample wine and chocolate pairings, or even paint with chocolate! Ready to swap hot chocolate for haute chocolat? Try one of bubo’s fanciful creations. Or go old school at Pasteleria Escribawhere word hasit Ferran Adrià’s favorite chocolate croissants can be found.

Where to StayHotel Principal can guide chocolate-lovers to a cornucopia of chocolate shops.

Photo by Alexi Ueltzen

New York City

Sourcing their cacao from small farms in Ecuador, Madagascar, and Venezuela, Mast Brothers Chocolate creates delicious chocolate confections from scratch at their Brooklyn artisanal chocolate factory. And it’s all chocolate all the time at Jacques Torres’ (also known as Mr. Chocolate) stores. Chocolate in every expression your heart desires can be yours thanks to this French chocolatier. For chocolate lovers who also enjoy macarons, check out Richart Design et Chocolat. The luxurious shop has married the two with the devilishly tempting chocomacs.

Where to Stay: Walking distance from Richart in the heart of Times Square is the Muse Hotel.

Photo by Julien Millet

Paris, France

Any excuse will do to visit Paris, but the annual chocolate extravaganza, Le Salon Du Chocolat, the world’s largest show dedicated to chocolate, is as good as it gets. All under one roof, you can inundate your senses with all things chocolate—plus meet some of the world’s top chocolatiers and sample their wares. For a more intimate experience, join the small group (and surprisingly affordable!) visit to Gerard Mulot’s workshop with Meeting the French or splurge on a private, docent-led chocolate walk with Context.

Where to Stay: The Cadran Hotel aims to please “chocolate addicts” with its in-house chocolate bar.

Photo by Borya/Flickr

Brussels, Belgium

Boutiques ringing the lovely Place du Grand Sablon and its side streets lie in wait for the traveler in need of a chocolate fix. Here in the heart of chocolate nirvana, Belgium, pick from among the likes of WittamerPierre Marcolini and Frederic Blondeel and create your own chocolate-tasting tour—just be sure to try the pralines as well.Choco-nerds can geek out with the history and exhibits at the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat while home cooks will want to try their hand making pralines at the Planète Chocolat workshops. And if you just can’t get enough join this weeklong chocolate tour of Belgium.

Where to Stay: Plant yourself in the midst of “chocolate heaven” as fans have dubbed the square, and make NH Hotel du Grand Sablon your home base.

See all of Fodor’s 10 vacations for the chocolate lovers

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Porcelain Box from Aruba

This box is from one of many trips to Aruba. There are a lot of styles to choose from. I bought this one for $7.50. You can buy them in Oranjestad or at the giant gift shop in the Holiday Inn. I’m sure there are other spots as well. This box is of Delft clogs. The trinket inside is a mini pair of clogs.





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How a 25 Minute Subway Ride Wound Up Taking 2 Hours

A group of us were headed to the MET for a scavenger hunt we were hosting. We had to go from Fulton St to 86th on the 4 or 5 train. We needed to be at the MET at 2:45pm so we left at 2pm to get up there. Under normal circumstances that should be more than enough time. That would give us 45 minutes when the train ride was only 25 minutes.

We got on the first train and only went one stop. They then told us the train was going to run local all the way up to 86 street. So Kyla said let’s get off and catch the next train which will run express. So we got off and waited and waited and waited. The next train finally pulled in and the conductor told everyone to get off the train. The platform was now packed because two trains had gotten out. We waited for another train to pull in and nothing was coming. There were no announcements and they turned off the board that shows when the next train is coming. We started to tease that the real scavenger hunt was just getting to the MET. While we were teasing about this a student came over to us and asked us, “are you going to the MET?” Our group of five now became a group of six. We decided that somebody needed to get on the next train going uptown because everyone would be waiting for us and we wouldn’t be there. We decided Kyla should be the one to get on the train because she’s thin and didn’t have any bags with her. A train finally pulled in but unfortunately Kyla could not shove her way on. Finally a train pulled in and Kyla was able to get on. The rest of us didn’t know what to do it was already an hour past the time we needed to be there and we had not moved. We decided to take a different train which would require us leaving the train station and walking to another one. I started to get worried that the lack of information meant that there was a terrorist threat. After all it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy. We left the train station and immediately saw news trucks, ambulances and lots of police officers. We all went on our phones to figure out what was going on. We couldn’t find any information so we kept walking to the train station. The boys decided to take the N and the R train uptown and see if they could beat us there. We got on the 2 and the 3 train a couple blocks away. We teased that the student aide who was leaving at 3 PM would probably beat us up to the museum.

We took the 2 train all the way up to 42nd St. and then caught the shuttle. The platform for the 4/5/6 was packed and there was no way we were getting on the train. However we were determined. It had already been an hour and a half since we started traveling. A train came and somehow Jessica was able to shove herself on. Rachel I could not get on and didn’t know what to do. We decided to walk all the way to the end of the platform and hoped that train car would wind up being empty. The next train pulled in and sure enough the train car wasn’t packed. Rachel got on first and then I tried to get on and a woman with a stroller ran into me. People kept trying to get into the car and she kept screaming I have a stroller I have a stroller. The train finally pulled out and it was extremely packed. When we finally got to 86th street it was almost 4 o’clock. Nobody was moving on the platform and it turned out two boys were having a fight on the staircase. We seriously couldn’t catch a break. As we were leaving the platform we spotted one of our student aides. She was the one that left at 3 PM. We got out of the station we thought we would bump into her but she disappeared. My cell phone was going crazy with people asking me where I was. We finally got to the museum and it was 4 o’clock. The whole adventure took two hours. Kyla had arrived 30 minutes before us. Jessica had arrived 10 minutes before us. The boys still weren’t there yet so I guess we won that bet. The boys showed up 10 minutes later. The student aide who was on the platform with us arrived 10 minutes later as well. The scavenger hunt hadn’t even started yet and we were already tired. We teased that we wanted a T-shirt that said I survived the MET scavenger hunt.

So why did it take us two hours to get to the MET well unfortunately two people died that day. One man got decapitated in the Bronx earlier that day. Another man got hit by a train right around the time we were leaving. It was very sad for us all to find out that two men had lost their lives that day.


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Scavenger Hunt at the MET

I hosted a scavenger hunt at the MET this past Friday. The MET is probably my favorite museum in the world. I have spent countless hours there and though I think I have seen it all I always stumble upon something new. After years of searching I finally found Michelangelo’s the Young Archer. They always change its location. I just randomly stumbled upon it. I have never been around Christmas so that was cool. I also had a n Egyptology lecture in the G level which was nice. I did two of the new exhibits one consisted of beautiful jewelry (no pics allowed) and the other one was on Hinduism and allowed me to enter the Jain Meeting Hall (one of my favorites). Some pictures from Friday are below:





























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Porcelain Box from Baltimore

This box is from one of my many trips to Baltimore, Maryland. They have several different boxes to choose from. Baltimore is known for its crabs hence this box. I bought by the harbor for $7.99. The trinket inside is a mini crab.




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Broadway Bites

I’ve been wanting to check out Broadway Bites for a while. I had a long list of foods I wanted to try. I wanted a deep fried rice ball ($5), Dutch pancakes (15 for $5), stuffed bagel bite ($1.5 each), pretzel ($4), a grilled cheese ($7), cannolis (6 for $10), and mini doughnuts. I got a pesto and cheese rice ball, an everything bagel ball stuffed with veggie cream cheese, a truffle cheddar pretzel, Dutch pancakes, an egg nog cannoli, an original cannoli, a pumpkin cannoli, two cookie dough cannolis, and my mom got a pistachio one. Everything was beyond yummy!

















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Porcelain Box from London

The box is of Big Ben from London. I went there in 2000 so to be honest I have no idea how much it was or how many of them were around. I should be heading back there in a year so I guess I’ll find out then. There was no trinket inside. Would have liked a mini Queen or something. 🙂


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Postcards from Spain

My dad’s co-worker just came back from Spain and brought me back some postcards for my collection. I’ve been planning a trip to Spain for a long time so these postcards really made me want to go even more. The postcards are from Madrid and Barcelona.





Here’s some more postcards from places I’ve never been/postcards from friends:

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Porcelain Box from Paris

This one is from Paris and is of the Eiffel Tower. This one was about $11. The box has a trinket inside, which is a mini champagne bottle. Limoges boxes were very hard to find in Paris stores. Ignore my Louvre pen, I was just using it to prop up the box.




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The Archie Afternoon-Comic Con Day 3 Continued

10/12/13 Continued

After the Once Upon a Time panel I immediately had the Archie panel. The Archie panel was located several hallways over, which meant I had at least a 10 minute walk or a 5 minute dash ahead of me if no one was around. Add thousands of people and I was attempting the insane. I pushed, shoved, and ran. I made it to the line and was completely out of breath. I texted Cesar to let him know my current location and proceeded to wait. I didn’t have to wait long before some rude Comic Con staff member informed everyone around me that there was no shot we were getting in. This caused a lot of people to leave the line, but I stayed. Several other staff members came by to the say the same thing, but I was determined to get in. People were trying to sneak into the panel room, but they got caught. The issue was the panel was extremely popular, but they gave the panel one of the smallest rooms in the convention center. Not good planning. They let a chunk of the line is and told the rest of us to leave. Wasn’t happening. I’m stubborn. An Archie hotshot comes down and apologized to us about not being able to let us in, but the room was just too small. He was upset. He got a roll of tickets and gave everyone still on line a ticket. The ticket would be good for a $100 Archie swag bag. Sweet!! They told us we had to redeem them in exactly 1hr at the Archie booth. I planned on getting there early.

Next on my list was to meet Raphael Sbarge. He plays Dr. Archie Hopper on Once Upon a Time. There was a very small line. The girl behind me in line was dressed as Regina aka the Evil Queen. She looked great. When I saw her it dawned on me that I easily could have dressed up as her as well. O well, too late now. I turned around and was face to face with an older gentleman. I knew I knew him from somewhere and then it dawned on me that he was Stan Lee. I was too stunned to take a picture and then I remembered as he walked away from me. I decided to get an autograph and a picture of Raphael. All the money would go to charity. It cost me $40 total. Raphael was super nice to everyone. I had him sign a picture of me in Steveston outside of his character’s office. He loved the picture and asked me about my time in Steveston. He also asked me how the Once Upon a Time panel was. He wrote me such a sweet note about missing me at his office. We went to pose for our picture and the woman who took it got really close to us. I was also very stupid and pushed my hair to the back. I HATE WHEN I DO THAT. When I do that I look like I have no hair. Grrr.

I headed up to the show floor to head to the Archie booth. I texted Cesar to meet me there. I explored the other booths as I headed to the Archie booth. There was already a line and it was still really early so I got on line. After a short wait they had us come up one by one and gave us each a bag. The bag was so heavy. They weren’t kidding about the $100 worth of swag. I was super excited. I went to another booth and got a free Marvel poster. Cesar met up with me at that point and we hit all the booths that I knew had free swag. We picked up free 50 Shades of Grey buttons, Marvel comics and pins, a signed Superman poster and postcard, a Lemony Snicket t-shirt, and I grabbed a tote bag. I was so happy for the tote bag because my arms were breaking with all the separate things I had. Cesar bought an Adventure Time book and it came with a free medal. We wandered around the show floor taking it all in. Cesar bought some bacon lollipops. We passed insane bathroom lines. There were even lines for the Men’s room! We passed a cart selling super yummy grilled cheese sandwiches. They were about $6, but in the end I decided not to get one. 😦 They looked so good though.

We headed to Artist Alley next. I wanted to get my Thor magazine signed by the two people who drew it. I couldn’t find the first guy even though it said he was there. At that point we were both exhausted so we took a break. I used the restroom which was the first one without a line all day! Then we sat and munched on snacks we had brought. Cesar fiddled around with the instruments he had bought. We discussed teaching and observed all the different costumes. We headed back to the autograph area to wait on line for Cesar’s Adventure Time autograph session. The line was insane and wrapped around two corners. It was probably going to be at least an hour wait. I was willing to wait with Cesar, but he said no. Back to Artist Alley.

This time we were determined to find the other artist (Michael Mckone) who worked on the cover of my Thor magazine. It didn’t take that long before we found him. When we got to his booth there was a fan there discussing big money items so we patiently waited until they were done. I didn’t want to interrupt a big sale with my free autograph. While we waited we listened to the guy next to the artist make reservations at an Italian place on 37th and 9th ave. We listened to the guy go on and on about it. We even heard the name the reservation was going to be made under. Cesar and I teased about showing up to the restaurant at the time and joining them for dinner. Michael eventually finished talking and I asked him to sign my magazine. I was nervous that he would say no since I wasn’t buying anything. However, he was super nice and even offered to personalize it for me. He said he was surprised no one else had asked. The guy sitting next to him then picked up one of the magazines and asked him to sign it. Cesar and I then started to wander through the aisles. Cesar told me he had spent too much money and not to allow him to spend anymore. It didn’t take long before he had his hand back in his wallet.

We stumbled upon an artist neither one of us had heard of. His name is Daxiong Guo. We didn’t know it while we were speaking to him, but he’s led an incredible life. The short version includes him being arrested in 2008 and was sent to a prison in China because his art offended the Chinese Communist Party. In prison he was tortured for about two months, but was then rescued by friends in the U.S. His work was so beautiful that we couldn’t help but stop and admire. He was so talented. Cesar decided to look through a book of the artist’s work and he made a comment under his breath about the artist being talented. Daxiong went, “Thanks, I know.” This of course cracked us up. We loved all his work. While Cesar was going through the book he stumbled upon an Egyptian themed one. It was awesome! They decided to cut Cesar a deal so he bought several prints, including the Egyptian one for me. 🙂 Here’s some of his work below:

After that we decided to purchase plastic holders for the prints and we pooped out on the stairs. We were way too tired to move. A girl on the steps admired our prints and asked me for more info on the one Cesar had bought me. It was my first time really examining it and I noticed the cartouche on the man’s clothes indicated that he was King Tut. I also noticed Abu Simbel, the pyramids of Giza, the Nile, papyrus, and Kheper Ra. After chatting for a bit on the steps and discussing the metal hair clips Cesar bought for the girls in his family we decided it was finally time to get up and go home. We were wiped. As we left Artist Alley we walked behind Snow White and Captain Hook. On our way back to Madison Sq. Garden aka the train station, we looked up at one point and there was a nice looking Italian restaurant. My mind flashed to the guy and his reservation so I looked up at the street signs and sure enough it was the place. Too funny. We teased about crashing the reservation. Then I remembered the special code words to say to the Marvel booth for special free stuff. Too late now. After 3 days at Comic Con I was exhausted. I had no idea how Cesar was going to do another day. Turns out he decided not to. My first Comic Con was a success. Here’s to next year…

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