Posts Tagged With: Chocolate

Jerusalem to Tel Aviv

Jan 11 2009

Our last morning in Israel! We had breakfast, loaded the bus, and checked out. It was a pain in the butt to get the luggage down to the lobby, but we all managed. I think we were all glad to be done with Shalom Jerusalem’s horrible tiny elevators.

We drove to an environmental place in Jerusalem to listen to a PowerPoint. It wasn’t working and we were all dead tired and not in the mood. Eventually the lady just gave up with the computer and spoke to us. I don’t think anyone was listening.

We boarded the bus and were off to Tel Aviv. Our first stop was Rabin Square, named for the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which included a visit to the Rabin Memorial. Shabat spoke to us for a bit.

Then we went to Independence Hall, site of David Ben Gurion’s proclamation of the State of Israel in May 1948. We listened to a film and a guide talked to us. When we were standing outside the museum for a bit we were shooed a way because it was dangerous. We walked back to the bus and headed to the Carmel Market.

At the Carmel Market we were given free time to explore and get lunch. I skipped most of the market and explored the side streets. In the first store I went to I picked up some Tel Aviv postcards. I got a Jaffa one for Ms. Jaffe. After that I found some Sephardic bakeries where of course I bought my lunch. I met up with Deb and we browsed a bunch of stores. We bought some stuff to take home. In particular, I got more pop rock chocolate. Then we met up with Nora and Maddy in this park. They had made some new friends so we all chatted for a while. I left them after a bit to buy more Sephardic food to bring back to the states for my mom. I found Ali in the ice cream place where we used the restroom.

Our next stop was old Jaffa. We had time to explore the flea market. Shabat gave the group a challenge, which was to find the most unique/unusual item at the flea market and buy it. I decided not to participate as did most people. I went with Ali, Lior, and Jen exploring. I bought a necklace for my grandma and a shirt for my dad. After that we got bored and kept walking. Suddenly, the neighborhood started to get really shady. We decided to turn around. As we were walking back I saw a guy behind us move closer to us and signal to a guy across the street. I watched both of them get closer, just as I was about to get Lior’s attention the two guys saw Lior. In particular, his gun. Suddenly, they both stopped and turned around. Oy that was close. After that incident we still had more time in Old Jaffa. So a bunch of us sat by the clock tower bored out of our minds. Little did we know that our trip mates were at the beach watching the sun go down.

Eventually we all met up and Shabat warned us it would be a while until the next bathroom. Ali and I went to a coffee shop and paid to use the restroom. Some of the other girls did the same thing. Shabat had us walk through some winding back streets to this area that had all the zodiac symbols. There was even a bridge with the symbols. The bridge was called the Wishing Bridge. We were supposed to touch our zodiac symbol and make a wish while looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. By the way, my wish came true.

After that we got back on the bus. The people who bought stuff for the contest showed off what they got. Then Shabat showed us what he got. It was this blue insect thing on a stick. He won. Then he told us one of his infamous jokes.

Then we drove to a farm to eat dinner. We were all a little worried and confused by this piece of information. We ate in an indoor tent. The food was actually very good. My table went around and said what we’ll remember about each other. Our table consisted of Jen, Lindsey, Ali, Kevin, Alan, and myself.

After that we drove to a school. We created a yarn web by taking turns throwing a ball of yarn and saying what we liked about each other. Sarah Dickey picked me and said how sweet I was. I picked Ali. Then we cut our individual strands so we could wear them as bracelets. Staci and Anna handed out our group pictures and t-shirts. A bunch of us used the bathroom which was super gross and sketchy.

Back on the bus we packed up our cell phones so we could give them back. Some how we got on the fact that we sucked at the bus countdown. So we started to challenge ourselves by counting down in 30 seconds then 15 seconds then 13 seconds. We also did our countdown backwards. We had a lot of fun!

We watched Tel Aviv slip away as we drove to the airport. Shabat started to give away things on the bus, such as our signs and our map. I wanted the map, but Zac got it. When we got to the airport Shabat left us. We all thanked him and he gave us his card. Anna went and joined another trip. Shabat will meet another tour tomorrow. I don’t know how he isn’t exhausted. We all were beyond exhausted and 75% of our group had colds.

We got on a super long line to check our bags and get our tickets. I was little bummed that I didn’t get an aisle seat. We went through security and had time to kill before our flight. I walked around looking for a place to spend my leftover coins. I bought a bottle of water and a huge thing of Baklava for my mom. We hung out in the waiting area for a bit. Everyone was comparing seat numbers to figure out who was sitting next to whom. I was getting very tired. It was almost midnight so it had been a long day. Not to mention a long 11 days. We finally got the signal to board and we were ready.

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Categories: Asia, Food, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Masada in the Morning

Jan 8 2009
The lights in the tent turned on and I heard movement. Wake up time. It was extremely early and still pitch black outside. I got dressed and ate some of the crackers they put out for us. We boarded the bus and waited. It turned out that Jordi was sick. We waited for her for a bit. Finally, we learned that we’ll have to leave her behind with Anna. Staci boards the bus and immediately gives us a lecture about staying hydrated. We each purchased a bottle of water from the bus driver.

We reach Masada National Park and Shabat and Staci rush us up the Roman Path. We can’t miss the sunrise! The Roman Path is the easier path, but a lot of us were having a hard time breathing. This was probably because it was steep, early in the morning, change in altitude, and we were rushing. Not to mention my 9/11 weird asthma thing didn’t help matters. Eventually we got to the top! All of us thought we missed the sunrise because the sky was light, but we were wrong. Shabat had us sit on the mountain and wait. We sat watching another mountain. Slowly, the sky went from red to yellow to orange. Then we slowly started to see the sun peek out from the mountain in front of us. We kept watching as it rose. It was magical!

Then Shabat made us sit in a circle and told us the story about Masada. All the Jews living on Masada killed themselves instead of letting the Romans take them. It was a very sad story and it impacted all of us. Next he took us over to the side of the mountain where we could hear an echo. We screamed a bunch of phrases and heard them come back to us.

We looked at some of the ruins including a synagogue and then we used the restroom. After that we started our long trek down the Snake Path. Where do I even begin with the Snake Path? It was super scary and super long! There were no handles most of the way, so if you slipped you could pretty much fall off the mountain. The walk down was narrow and took forever. Morgan slipped and hurt her ankle. When we got to the bottom I wanted to jump for joy!

We walked to an area with tables and we were given a boxed breakfast. I only ate the chocolate and the bread. I gave my food to whoever wanted it. Then we were given some time to shop in the gift shop. I bought a pair of earrings and some postcards. Then I spent a while debating about which expensive necklace to buy for my mom. I finally decided on a blue and white star. Alan bought a really cool shirt about climbing and conquering Masada.

While we were leaving Masada we found out that the northern part of Israel (where we were yesterday morning and the last time we had cellphone reception) had been hit with a missile. Pretty much none of us had spoken to our parents in 24 hrs and the last they knew we were in northern Israel. Needless to say a bunch of us called home.

We drove to the Ein Gedi Spa where we would spend some time by the Dead Sea. We each got a towel and we had to share lockers. I changed into my bathing suit. We had to wait and catch a shuttle to take us from the spa to the Dead Sea. This is because the Dead Sea has dried up and is no longer right next to the hotels and spas.

When we finally got to the Dead Sea, Lindsey, Jen, and I put our stuff on lounge chairs at the farthest end of the “beach” area. Then we all headed over to the mud pit. Everyone (but me) covered themselves in the mud. Ricky even swam in it. Since I didn’t go in the mud, I took all the pictures. I put a bit of mud on my screwed up thumb and that was it. A family even approached me to take pictures of them. Everyone’s pictures were hilarious.

Afterwards, we all went into the Dead Sea. I was a little scared since I hate water and swimming. It felt extremely strange to just lay back and float. The entire bottom of the sea was covered in hard sharp salt. I cut my toe open and the salt water burned so badly. After I got out of the water I felt nasty. The salt residue was gross. Before we went back to the hotel the girls took a group shot. Then we boarded the shuttle.

Back at the hotel some of the people went into the mineral pool, but I didn’t feel like smelling like sulfur. I already smelled like camel and salt. I went to the showers and rinsed the salt off. After that I walked around the shop for a bit. I got a couple of free samples for my mom.

When everyone was ready we headed to lunch. We each got a ticket that was good for certain items. We had to wait on a really long line for food. We were able to get a drink, desert, bread, and one item. I got baklava, a roll, and yummy french fries. The place was packed and it took us a while to find a table. Unfortunately, we were rushed through lunch because of our tight schedule.

We then drove to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. I immediately spotted a press a penny machine and got a penny. Yeah! So did Alan. We walked through the reserve and there were so many animals. They got so close to us, which was freaky at times. Shabat had us sit down and talked to us about some of the animals. He had Noah taste poop. He also had Ricky, Zac, and Roi act out a mating ritual for us. It was hilarious.


We stopped at some waterfalls and some of the group went swimming. I spoke to Dror for a bit about his upcoming trip to the USA. The reserve was absolutely beautiful and very calming!
We drove to Jerusalem and dropped Guy off. Then we went back to the Shalom Jerusalem Hotel with its horrible elevators. Rachel, Sarah, and I got a room in the middle of the hallway. We were directly across from Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room. Sarah took the cot. Our shower didn’t flood this time, which made us all happy. However, our toilet wasn’t acting right. We all put our clothes on the shower rod to dry and went down to leave for dinner.

We drove to Ben Yehuda St. for shopping and food. I walked in and out of shops with Jen and Lior. It was a little unsettling to see signs thanking the brave tourists for shopping. Someone, maybe Lior, told me that the street had been attacked before. I ate a bagel for dinner. I found a Sephardic bakery and loaded up on goodies. The bakery was on a small side street so I was so glad I found it. I bought a shirt, some postcards, and an evil eye bracelet. I didn’t want to buy too much because everything was a bit over priced. Josh got a shofar and kept blowing it. Ali and I went to McDonald’s to use the restroom before we boarded the bus again.

I went back to the hotel and immediately took a nice long hot shower. Bye bye camel salt sand smell. After I showered I hung out with a bunch of people in Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room.

Categories: Asia, Food, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Times in Israel

Jan 6 2009
I woke up at the usual time for breakfast. I toasted and ate the bagel I bought yesterday in Tzefat with Jen. It was amazing. Since a lot of people chose to skip breakfast and sleep in, I went back to the room for awhile. We got on the bus and were left off in what seemed to be the middle of no where.

There was no bathroom and a lot of people had to use the restroom. Shabat suggested the bushes. Um no. We were asked to break up into groups and get into a jeep for a tour. Lindsey, Michelle, Ali, Ben, Jen, Ricky, and I picked the closed green one. Staci joined us and sat in the front. We had so much fun! It was so bumpy and we were falling all over each other. We saw lots of cows, ruins, mine sites, fields, etc. Our jeep driver was really funny! We passed a lot of signs that said, “Danger Mines!” The driver said that in Hebrew and in English it says danger mines, but in Arabic it says picnic area. Later on he said, “If we bust a tire the stronger sex will have to get out and push, while the men stay inside.” Ricky said something about male chauvinism and the driver told him it wasn’t chauvinism, it was the truth. He heard us talking about Will and Grace and asked us if we were all gays and lesbians. Ricky answered that we were a mix. The driver went on to say he didn’t care and that it is a free world and we can be whatever we want. We all thought that was really cool.

We stopped in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. We listened to some guy talk to us about Syria and point things out in the valley below. The view was beautiful. We took some photos and in one of them another jeep driver made us all stick out our middle fingers. I took two rocks that looked volcanic and were really cool. When we were driving back down a branch fell and was in the way of our jeep. The driver took out a big knife and just hacked it. We all thought that was kind of cool.

We got back on our bus and drove to a shoe factory Kibbutz. We had to listen to a whole long speech before we were allowed to use the bathroom. The bathrooms were nasty because they were flooded and there were only two stalls. The line was extremely long! A bunch of people bought ice cream and shoes. I just wanted to get out of there because the place gave me a horror film creepy vibe.

We then went back on the bus and drove to Mt. Avital-Mt. Bental Nature Reserve. The mountain hangs over Syria. Shabat brought us to the very tip/edge of the mountain to talk to us. It was FREEZING! There was a great view and the stories were interesting. There were black cut out people that everyone was taking pictures with, in particular Roi. The soldiers explained that the black cut outs were used to fool the enemy.

Then we went down into a bunker and I had to use my flashlight. The stairs were narrow. The passageways were very small narrow as well. We were able to congregate in a small room with walls covered in graffiti and messages. My name was written on the wall twice. Ali took one picture of me next to it. After we got out of the bunker Shabat said we were headed straight to the bus. We didn’t have time to go to the coffee shop nor were we able to stop at the shop. The bathroom was locked, which sucked. A bunch of us took pics with the big metal dinosaur.
Afterwards we drove to what Shabat called a mall. I definitely wouldn’t call it a mall. It was a grocery store, a couple of bad stores, and a food court. I went to the grocery store and bought some chocolate and cinnamon buns. The cinnamon buns were the best I have ever had!!!! I met everyone else in the food court. The Pardos had some awesome looking calzone that I had a small piece of. It had a strange taste. Jacob had some jamming fries. They were nice and crispy. After that Ali and I went to the bathroom.

We then all split into 3 groups: the political discussion group, the hike, and the circus group. Anna and Staci joined our group, which was the circus group. They had us line up by our numbers just for the fun of it. We were informed that the circus wouldn’t start for a while, so we would go to a winery first.

The winery was across the street from the mall, so we walked there. We were taken into an auditorium that was lined with wine bottles. There was a mosaic lamp in the middle of the room that looked like Aladdin’s lamp. A guy came in and introduced himself and started the movie. The movie was hosted by a genie from the lamp. The movie was educational, but it was also really interesting. It was sort of 3D and reminded me of the videos they play with movie themed rides at amusement parks. After the movie they took us to where they store the wine while it ages. It was very humid and all the barrels were red. He told us it takes 3 years to make the special barrels. Next we moved to the tasting room. We were each given a glass that I really liked. We tasted 3 wines. I tasted a sip of the first and the third. The second one smelled way too strong for me. I gave all the wine I didn’t drink to Jen, Sarah, and Hilla. The pretzels they gave us were really good. Our guide said we could keep our glass, which I was so happy about. Then we went to the gift shop and I really wanted to buy Gayla a shirt that had a big G on it. However, they only had one left and it was the wrong size. We all used the bathroom and boarded the bus.

On the bus I sat across from Hilla and Ali. Hilla bought wine for her boyfriend and Sarah bought dessert wine. They both said the wine was very cheap. It was interesting to talk to Hilla. We discussed G-d, her military service, Gaza, and her boyfriend. She said that she’s very proud to be an Israeli and to fight for her country. She said we would want to fight too if someone was always trying to take away our land. We then talked about music. She played for us a song she wrote and sang. It was really good despite the fact Ali and I didn’t know what she was saying. I played Fountains of Wayne for her. She seemed to like it, but didn’t understand what they were saying. Ali explained the lyrics to her and then we all cracked up. We were driving for a long time and Hilla really had to pee. She was really funny about it. She was cursing and bouncing in her seat. We felt like we were driving for forever. We didn’t know where the circus was located. Then Hilla pointed out that we were driving towards Haifa, which is far away from the Golan Heights. We wound up going to a place in Shorashim, which Hilla said wasn’t too far away from where she lives.

They had us listen to some really boring lecture. I didn’t pay attention to it. Ali, Hilla, and I talked for a while in the back of the room. She showed us pictures on her phone. When the lecture was over we used the bathroom, and boarded the bus.

We then drove 10 minutes away to a school. We were going to watch a group of school children who were half Arab and half Israeli perform. It wasn’t the circus we were expecting. However, it was still entertaining. Afterwards they gave us time to try some stuff out. I wanted to, but I was afraid of getting hurt. I watched Sarah on the trapeze for a while. Ali and I went in search of the bathroom because we knew we had a very long drive back. The fist bathroom was flooded, but luckily we found another one. We boarded the bus and left. I sat behind a girl who was on the phone for the whole ride complaining that she didn’t want to go to the bar later that night. She said she would have them call a doctor for her so she wouldn’t have to go. I didn’t want to go either, but I wasn’t causing a scene.

When we got back to the hotel it was really late. I realized I had the key and probably locked Rachel out this whole time. I did, but the hotel let her into the room. When I walked into my room there were so many people in it! They were all getting ready for the night. They were deciding on clothes, doing their make-up, and straightening their hair. Then they all went down to dinner, but I decided to stay in the room. I ate my cereal, tried on my clothes, got my stuff ready for the next day, and packed. I knew I wouldn’t want to pack when we got home from the bar.

After dinner the crowd came back to my room to finish getting ready. Ricky served as the fashion consultant for all the girls. I really didn’t want to go to the bar. I much rather have slept. I was exhausted! When we got to the lobby they announced that there was now an option to stay in the hotel. I wanted to take them up on it, but I didn’t want to be the only one staying behind. Josh was also thinking about staying, but the group convinced him to go. The bar wasn’t too far from the hotel so we walked there.

I spent the night dancing with Lindsey, Ben, Sara, Maddy, Emily, Deb, etc. A lot of couples were created that night. The only American song that they played was Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold. They kept playing Geo Da Silva’s Do It Like a Truck. So of course for the rest of the trip we all had that song stuck in our heads. Before we left I meant to get a picture of Ben by the Big Ben Bar sign but I forgot. I remembered on our walk back to the hotel. I said, “o well next year” and he added “in Jerusalem,” which was the common phrase during our trip: “next year in Jerusalem.” So we all cracked up.

When we got back to the hotel, Rachel and I changed and finished packing. She climbed into bed and I was just about to do the same when Sarah and Ricky came into the room. We talked for about two hours. Then Ricky said he was tired and left. I finally climbed into bed at 2am. Sarah went in and out of the room for a while after that. So much for my much needed sleep!

Categories: Asia, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4,000 Years of Awesome Energy in Tzefat

Jan 5 2009
The alarm went off at 6:15am even though our wake up calls were for 6:30am and 6:45am. I wanted my 15 minutes of sleep back! The breakfast was good. I loaded up on chocolate croissants and pound cake. I didn’t really like the bagel I got from Bonkers Bagels so Kevin ate it.

We drove to Tzefat (Zefat). While we were waiting to go to our first place, Sarah D. got sick. She continued to be sick and was taken back to the hotel. We continued to this area where we sat with the other buses and listened to this hip Rabbi talk about Tzefat and describe what we were going to do. He had people come and play music for us. People danced around them. Then our group got our community service assignment, which was to help an after school community center. We drove to the center and were divided into 3 groups based on the image that was in the bag Staci and Anna gave us.

My group was sent to the kitchen. We had to put on rubber gloves and plastic aprons. We were given boxes of bread, tubs of chocolate frosting/paste, knives, plastic baggies, plastic bags, and boxes. We had to cut the bread, spread chocolate on the bread, put it in a baggie, close it, put 10 baggies in a big plastic bag, and then put those bags in boxes. We had so much fun!!!!!! Our team consisted of Alan (bagger), Kevin (counter), Ben (bag holder), Deb (bagger), Ricky (spreader), Karen (cutter), Dror (cutter), Jen (spreader), Lindsey (spreader), Marc (cutter), Margaret (bagger), and me (spreader). The sandwiches looked so good. We worked hard and fast. We cracked a lot of jokes and sang the most inappropriate songs including La Vie Boheme. Ricky stuffed his sandwiches with lots of chocolate and we teased him about that. He said the kids would love him more. We made 260 sandwiches. Afterwards we went outside where Lior was making coffee and the other group was planting flowers.

We drove to a small street to have lunch. Jen and I got toasted bagels. Then we walked around the street, which was boring. I bought a marzipan challah for my mom. Then Guy told us to buy the giant creme balls, which were great. We met the rest of the group at the top of the street.
Shabat sat us down and gave us a history lesson. I actually knew some of the answers because they were about Kaballah and Sephardim. We visited a synagogue that is no longer in use. It had a hole in the bema from where an explosive hit it. We then went to a candle factory. Shabat showed us how to make candles. He gave Chloe the one he made. The candles were beautiful but were very expensive, so I didn’t buy any. Then we went shopping on this tiny street outside of the factory. Everything was really reasonable. I bought a necklace for $20. The bathroom lady made us pay to use it even though I had my own paper.We then went to a beautiful Sephardic Synagogue. It was blue and white. This one is still in use. I bought two red strings. I wish I had more change on me because I would have bought more. It was 2 for 5 Sheklim.

Then Shabat gave us time in the Artists’ Quarter to go shopping. I didn’t buy anything. I walked around with Ricky. Then Ricky ordered some strange bread wrap thing. We watched the guy make it. He asked us where we were from and we told him. He told us that we were wrong and that we were from Israel. I thought that really cool.

I thought we were going back to the bus to leave, but Shabat said we had to go to an art gallery. We were all pissed. We had enough art and walking around. In the end I’m glad Shabat forced us to go. It was so much fun because the guy was hilarious. He was originally from America and he was definitely high on something. He belonged in the 1960’s. He kept saying the word awesome, but he dragged it out. So it was like awwweeesommee. He also kept repeating 4,000 years of energy. His art was strange, but cool. His bathroom was super tiny and he had pink toilet paper.

We went back to the hotel and hung out in Jacob’s room before dinner. We watched Thriller on Jacob’s laptop and some little kids’ show. Guy and Roi joined us. Dinner was awful again so I ate my own food. After dinner we went to the basement and we each picked someone to talk to. I was with Idan, but then we joined Marc, Noah, Ricky, and Guy. We discussed marriage and religion. The discussion was interesting.

Next Shabat brought us to the building next door for a lecture. It was sooooooo boring! I was actually falling asleep. I have never done that before. We all felt like we were being tortured. We got back to the room and I organized my stuff. I went to bed at 12:15am.

 

 

 

Categories: Asia, Food, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Fodor's

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

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.

VESTRI
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

ANGELINA
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/Dreamstime.com

SWISS CHOCOLATE TRAIN
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 Oh-Barcelona.com

MUSEU DE LA XOCOLATA
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

MAST BROTHERS CHOCOLATE
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

LE SALON DU CHOCOLAT
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

PLACE DU GRAND SABLON
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

Categories: Food, Mish Mash, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Learning How to Make Paper Out of Papyrus

8/4/11

Our next stop was going to be the papyrus museum on the East Bank. We passed Carter’s house and the Temple of Luxor. Everyone was running short on cash and we all owed Sherif money for our optionals. So we were going to drive to an ATM and pick up the twins. On our drive we find out that now Janelle is sick and they are calling a doctor for her. So we won’t be picking up the girls. We stop at the ATM and I tease with Sherif that it is the oldest ATM because everything else we have stopped at has been the oldest or the first of something. I pay Sherif what I owe him while I wait for everyone to use the ATM. Paul pays me back for his Valley of the Kings tickets.

Sherif drops us off at the papyrus museum. He then heads back to the boat to pick up the twins. We walk around the museum, which is really just a store, for a minute or two before we are led to the back. I immediately saw the papyrus painting I wanted. It was of Isis leading Nefertari through the afterlife. Our demonstration was in the back of the museum/store. I found the guy super fascinating and funny. I never knew how they turned the plant into paper. I filmed the whole thing. See below. The guy liked me because I knew the answers to his questions. He asked if Josh was my boyfriend and if I hit him over the head with a rolling pin. He had me explain the famous Osiris judgement scene.

Then we broke into pairs. One sales person per Contiki person. The guy from the demonstration shooed my sales person away because he wanted to personally wait on me. I showed him the picture I wanted and that the picture seemed to have two prices. He gave it to me for the lower price and I had my name added to it. You can see the one I purchased in this picture (it is the one in the blue frame). The twins arrived. Meg looked better and Janelle looked awful. Janelle got a seat and had the garbage can with her. Meg ran around to pick out pictures. We all attempted to get the free wifi, but it didn’t work. We used the bathroom and we were off.

Before we left Luxor Sherif had us stop at a grocery store. They had everything and were so cheap!! I bought water, M&M’s, Twix, and a Kit Kat. Now we were officially off to Hurghada. Janelle decided to lay down on the floor. Most people slept or listened to their headphones. I listened to music and watched the scenery. I took lots of pictures of people sleeping and all the narrow roads we were on. We eventually stopped to use the restroom. We paid and entered into a huge clean restroom. It was awesome! We even took a picture. The bathroom guards asked us where we were from. The Aussies said Australia so I just went with it. Australians are preferred over Americans.

When we got to Safaga we were able to see the Red Sea. It looked beautiful. We arrived at the Safir Hotel. We were supposed to be staying at the Triton Empire Hotel. We got our room numbers and realized we were all in different parts of the building. I was alone on the main floor. I struggled to get my door to lock, but eventually succeeded. The room wasn’t much, but it was only one night. I had a view of the pool. I took pictures of the group in the pool and set about settling into the room. I started not to feel well and decided I should lie down.  However, it was about time to meet Sherif in the lobby for dinner. Dinner and shopping was the last thing on my mind. Josh was the only one in the lobby when I arrived. I tried to kill time by looking at the gift shop, but it was closed. I gave up and I told Josh to tell Sherif I wasn’t going to dinner.

I went back to the room and collapsed on my bed. Next thing I knew it was a couple hours later. I got up, changed, got my stuff ready for the next day, put stuff in the fridge, read a bit, and then went back to bed.

Categories: Africa, Egypt, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gifts from Holland, Belgium, and Colorado

I have two friends that just got back from their vacations. One friend came back from abroad. He brought me back chocolate, postcards (yeah for adding to my collection) and a delft windmill. I have a lot of delft items from Aruba. It was nice to add something from Holland to the collection. I had some of the chocolate with my ABP crew and we all thought it was amazing. It was so light and creamy. I also love the bag it came in. I love gifts from abroad!

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The other friend got back from Boulder and took a tour of the Celestial Seasonings Factory. I got tea and a pen.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Europe, From Friends, Gifts and Souvenirs, Mish Mash, Postcards, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Losing my Luggage in Amsterdam

7/30/11
We land in Amsterdam. A woman waits for the 8 of us heading to Cairo. She takes us to our next gate where we are instructed to throw out our water bottles. BOO! When I ask the woman about my bag I get a rude answer. Then at the gate, I ask again and they tell me that they do not know anything about it. When the woman goes to check me in she tells me that my reservation doesn’t exist and I can’t board the plane. After me arguing with her she makes a phone call and magically I turn up in the system. After getting groped by the gate agent for security, I finally board the plane. We are delayed, which is a mixed blessing. My luggage now has 1 hour to make the plane. New question/worry: will my Contiki rep wait for me? I’m in the 2nd row of the plane next to some British guy.

They serve my meal and I have no idea what it is. It looks disgusting! I eat the 3 spoonfuls of white rice and a piece of bread. The bread tastes like sawdust. I’m given one Belgian chocolate and I put on the movie Sucker Punch. About 15 mins in and I feel ill. I feel like I am running a fever, have chills, and am extremely nauseous. I am informed that there are no pillows or blankets on the plane. Not even for first class. What the hell? I turn off the movie and put on Glee, but even that doesn’t help. I try to review some hieroglyphics, which helps for a while. I try to sleep, but cannot. I can’t stop thinking about my suitcase. The stewardess comes around and offers each of us a blue delft house, which was the best part of the flight. Then I’m given a waffle, which looks and smells amazing. However, I am too sick to eat it.

We land in Egypt and take a shuttle to the airport. I see a Contiki sign and I couldn’t be happier! Yeah Muhammad did wait for me! He points me to the passport line. However, I decide to use my first Egyptian toilet before dealing with the passport line. Not bad. The passport thing was easy since I already had my visa. Next it was time for luggage. I stood there praying that I would see a hint of lime green, which would indicate my bag was coming. The crowd started to get thinner and thinner. The 8 of us were standing there and no one had their bag. Now what? Muhammad and I go to file a claim as he explains to them we leave Cairo tomorrow. He asks me if I have any other clothes and I reply that I do not. I’m praying Janelle, Megan, Lexi, and Sonja will take pity on me. I exchange $220 American and check out the only shop in hopes of deodorant. No luck.

We drive through Cairo in the Spring Tours van. The roads are smooth at first and I read my hieroglyphics book. Then we encounter Cairo traffic. There are absolutely no rules! From the time I landed it takes 2 hrs to get to the hotel. I pick up my room key and am shown to my room. The room looks just like the pictures on the web. Within minutes I have a mosquito bite on my ear. I check the bed for bed bugs and then dump my stuff on the floor. I take inventory of what I have and don’t have. Thank goodness for first class amenity kits. I now have 2 pairs of airplane socks, ear plugs, toothbrushes, tooth paste, and scented cream (to act as deodorant for now).

I go downstairs for the meeting and I don’t see anyone, but then I hear someone call my name. Turns out Sonja and Lexi were in the bar. I fill them in and am introduced to some of the guys. Next I run into the twins. It’s so crazy to finally meet all the girls after talking for months. We sit down in the lounge and Sherif comes in. What a relief to see him! After all the Contiki research I had done, I felt like I knew him. He explained the trip and then I explained my suitcase situation to him. He told me not to worry and that it happens all the time.

The hotel informed us that fighting was going on outside so we convinced the boys to join us in a walk to the gas station for stuff. I desperately wanted water, food, and deodorant. Luckily I found all 3. I debated about buying flip flops, but they were expensive (16LE) and I hoped my suitcase would just be a day late. Besides the lack of traffic lights, it wasn’t so bad outside. I’m glad we didn’t see the fighting that was happening nearby.

After the gas station we went back to the restaurant in the hotel. Everyone got food, but me. Found out Mike is Greek, Alli had a strange situation with a guy from the previous Contiki tour, and that the special price for Contiki guests was actually more expensive then the menu prices. I ate the chocolate I bought in the gas station while everyone else ate food from the restaurant. My goal is to barely put any Egyptian food in my mouth while here.

I borrowed a night shirt from Janelle and turned my jacket into a skirt. That will have to do as PJ’s. I killed the mosquito and used my headphones from Delta with my earplugs to drown out the traffic noises.

Categories: Africa, Amsterdam, Egypt, Europe, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where are the Oompa Loompas?

6/13/13

I woke up not feeling well. So we got a later start then I would have liked. We had to catch a bus and head to Fremont for our chocolate tour. We walked to the bus stop and waited a good 30 minutes for the bus to arrive. There were a lot of homeless, crazies, and pot smokers around. It was not pleasant.

The bus left us off in Fremont and we walked a couple blocks to Theo’s. We went to the tour entrance first. I paid for the tour, which we had reserved 3 weeks in advance since they fill up. I wanted to use the restroom but didn’t see one. I should have asked because there wound up being one nearby. We went to the gift shop in search of a restroom but didn’t find one there either. It wound up being behind a door that said staff only. My mom sampled all the free chocolate in the shop. I was too nauseous to eat. We went back to the tour area. We had to put on hair nets. The men had to also put on beard nets. They were funny. We were taken into a room where a woman explained the process of making chocolate and gave out samples. Again I didn’t eat any. Instead I put my samples in a napkin for later.

Next we headed into a quiet room within the factory. We could witness the process of making the chocolate. The tour guide gave people chocolate nibs to taste. I wanted the tour to end because I was ill. Then we headed into the factory. It was like 100 degrees which didn’t help my nausea. We saw all the machines and people working them. Then we headed to a room where they mold the chocolate. We got more samples. After that it was back out to the hot factory. Everyone was enjoying themselves and I probably would have as well if I wasn’t sick.

We used the restroom and stopped to buy chocolate at the gift shop. My mom got more samples and I added mine to my napkin. I took some medicine and prayed that I would feel better soon.

After that it was time for Fremont’s public art. First up was the rocket. Then we went to see Stalin. After that was the Center of the Universe sign and the shoes belonging to the Wicked Witch. We then headed to the Fremont Troll. I loved him! He was crushing a car and looked totally cool. He seemed like he would be friendly if he was alive.

Center of the Universe

Wicked Witch Shoes

We stopped at two thrift stores where I picked up a pair of shorts for $1 which wound up not fitting. 😦 My mom got a skirt for $5. I believe it was called Atlas.

We saw two final pieces of public art. One was the statue of the people waiting for the interurban and the other was Rapunzel. The statue of the people waiting was cool because they were dressed in real clothes.

Waiting for the Interurban

We crossed the bridge and headed to the bus stop. However we couldn’t figure out where it was. We wandered for a bit. We finally found a stop. It wasn’t for the bus we originally intended to get on. We waited about 15 minutes and the bus came.

The bus let us off by Pike Place Market. I decided to pick up a piroshky for dinner. I waited on a long line and bought a potato, cheese, and onion piroshky. Everyone around me was buying multiple items. The guy ahead of me bought a dozen. I immediately ate my piroshky because it was still hot. It was so good!

We walked around the market for a bit and I picked up some more postcards and I got a space needle press a penny. The original plan was then to go to the Seattle Art Museum. However, it wasn’t on the top of my list nor was I feeling up to it. So instead we headed back to the hotel. My mom went out wandering while I stayed in and watched some TV.

When my mom came back we headed to the Regency Club for dinner. They didn’t have any chocolate chip cookies this time. 😦 They had sushi, cheese, and some crackers. My mom had the sushi and I had the cheese and crackers. My mom had their dessert which was some kind of peanut butter cake.

We were bored so we headed out for a walk. We went to the mall that was near the hotel. It was awful. Next we headed into Nordstrom. Also awful. We then headed down the block to Hyatt Olive 8 to check it out. However, there wasn’t anything to see. We then went back to the hotel and packed.

Categories: Family Vacation, Food, Seattle, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boston for my Birthday

April 28 2013

Today is my birthday! So I decided I wanted to stay local and do a bunch of historical sites. I picked many of the sites on the Freedom Trail.

Our first stop was an army store where we bought my dad a Boston shirt. Then we took pictures outside the Old South Meeting House. We passed the location of the old Borders that has a soft spot in my heart because they revived my friend Kathleen and I years ago when we were beyond cold, tired, and hungry. We passed the 7-11 we frequented during my Boston trip with my college. We went into Potbelly Sandwiches looking for the chocolate brownie cookie a friend recommended to me, but they didn’t have it.

We continued on to the Old State House. I’ve always wanted to go inside. We caught a tour of the museum. The tour was informative and it was interesting to hear about the many uses of the building. We then caught the Boston Massacre tour. I learned a couple new things on the tour. I gave all the right answers to the tour guide’s questions so I couldn’t help but be proud of my memory. 🙂 My mom and I went into the gift shop. I bought some postcards. I really wanted to a join or die snake shirt, but didn’t feel like spending $16.

We left and then went to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. I went looking for the restaurant my college friends and I ate at. However, it was no longer there. I wanted to go to get the name. We walked through the food area. My mom and I got some free samples. The Greek food looked so good but it was expensive. I really wanted some Mac n cheese from the mac n cheese vendor. There was an entire store for One Direction, which I thought was hilarious. So many of the girls were walking around with life size one direction cut outs. I took a picture in the center of the market to commemorate the stranger that came up to Kathleen and I and said beam me up Scotty. We stopped at the gift shop, but I didn’t buy anything. We left the gift shop and caught the bus to Bunker Hill.

I was really excited to finally do the Bunker Hill Monument (even though it’s really Breed’s Hill). I’ve done the real Bunker Hill before. We got off the bus and walked through a cute quiet neighborhood. The monument looks exactly like the Washington Monument. Unfortunately, the bottom is graffitied. We decided not to walk up. We crossed the street and went to the museum. The museum is two floors and the better part is on the 2nd floor. They have artifacts from the Battle of Bunker Hill and from the Boston Massacre. There’s a button in the back that tells you about the Battle of Bunker Hill. We used the restroom in the basement, bought a postcard, and left.

We decided we were going to walk to Paul Revere’s House. We were going to make sure that on our way we passed the Old North Church. As we crossed the bridge you could see the church sticking out. If the modern buildings weren’t around you easily could have seen lanterns hanging in the church on that famous night. On our way to the sites we passed a bakery that’s open 24/7 everything looked absolutely amazing, but we didn’t have a fridge in our hotel. So we bought cookies. I got chocolate rugelach and it was incredible. We walked down the street to the church. There was a gift shop across the street that was cheap so we got some things in there. We took pictures of the outside of the church. I didn’t pay to go in because I’ve done it before. We went to the official gift shop where I got a pillbox to add to my collection.

We took what was supposed to be a connecting alleyway to Paul Revere’s House. It wasn’t direct. We passed a printer’s press shop. I took a free postcard from there. We finally found Revere’s house. We paid and went right in since there’s no official tour. You only see 4 rooms: the kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms. You have to read the signs to feel like you are on a tour. It was just ok, but my mom liked it. The admission price was super cheap so it was worth seeing.

After that we headed back to the bakery we were at before. I got more rugelach but the woman gave me pieces without much chocolate and were very small. The bag wound up ripping outside of the bakery and they all fell all the floor. The bakery was nice enough to replace them free of charge. We walked down Hanover St. And saw all the famous bakeries with their lines out the door. We walked back to Quincy Market and I bought one oft bosses a pen. We continued on and walked to the Omni Parker Hotel.

The Omni Parker is beautiful and immediately transports you to another time. We went to Parker’s bar. We took a lovely table for two that faced Old City Hall. We ordered the plain pizza and shared it. It was enough for the two of us. It was pricey, but hey it was my birthday and it was good. However, the main reason we came here was for the famous Boston Cream Pie. It was small, but beautiful. It tasted great! The bathroom was huge!!!! 20 stalls. The floor with the bathroom felt haunted. Overall, it was a beautiful yummy historic birthday dinner.

I convince my mom to go with me to Make Way for Ducklings. I loved it when I was a little girl and wanted a picture there on my birthday. Someone had made hats for the ducks. They were so cute!!! We picked up some whoopie pies from 7-11 and went back to our hotel. I don’t want to leave!!!

Categories: Boston, Family Vacation, Food, History, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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