My Brussels Chocolate Tour

Hello. My name is Nicole. And I am a Chocoholic. With no intention to ever become unchocoholized. I can start to get into just how much of a chocoholic I am, but this post is already going to be long enough. So just imagine me - a mega-chocolate addict.

So when I found a guided tour all about chocolate, in Brussels???? I knew it was something I had to do. So the three of us (me, my BFF, and her hubby) set off early morning for the train for Brussels, about 55km from where they live.

We had just enough time to stop for a quick breakfast....and what would be better to fuel a day of chocolate-touring than a chocolate dipped pain au chocolat??
By the time daylight broke, I was counting down the minutes until the tour started....
...at the world's first Godiva shop.


This was the first Godiva shop and it opened in 1926.


Apparently, it's named after Lady Godiva. Legend has it that like, I don't know, a million years ago, Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband's oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva begged and pleaded with her hubby, who refused to change the tolls. Finally, after she nagged him enough, he got super annoyed and said, "Look, I'll grant your request if you ride through the town naked on a horse, and no one even looks at you." Lady Godiva was one hot babe, so her hubby thought he had a foolproof plan. Lady Godiva took the bet, BUT, ran into town and told everyone and everyone in the village that they should stay indoors and shut their windows the next day. The next day, she rode into town. It totally worked, no one looked, and Godiva's husband keeps his word and abolishes the onerous taxes. Happy Ending.
There was a nice box of chocolates that I thought about buying as a souvenir....but then I realized, I would just be buying an expensive box of chocolates that I'd eat on the train ride home...so, here's a picture of the box that I wanted to buy.
We passed by the Belgian Lady Luck on our way to the next chocolate stop. Legend has it (duh) that you rub her and make a wish and your wish will come true (I wished to make it through this next rotation. It's year-end and AND it's eight weeks long). Next, we passed by Manneken Pis, a famous Brussels landmark (???). It literally means: little man pee, in Marols, a dialect spoken in Brussels. There are five or six legends of why this statue is so famous, but the one I remember most is about a wealthy merchant visited Brussels with this family and somehow lost his son. The merchant freaked out, arranged a search party, and everyone looked all around the city for hours and hours. They finally found the little boy, who was happily peeing in a small garden. The merchant, as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search, had the fountain built. The town of Brussels now dresses this statue up in different costumes on various holidays, like at Christmas, they made him a little Santa costume. Kind of weird if you ask me? (Since this is a PG rated blog, there will be no close ups of the little peeing boy.) Our guide was really knowledgeable and knew a lot of interesting history, but I can't even count the number of times that I thought.... "Lady, less talking, more chocolate eating, please...." Couldn't we learn about the history of chocolate while eating chocolate?
The next stop on the tour was Wittamers.


Originally, Wittamers was a successful bakery, but then (like in the war, I think??) rations came into effect and each family was only allowed one loaf of bread per week. Obviously, this was very bad for his business, so the owner, Harri Whittamer started making fancy patries - which don't qualify under rations. So the rich people could still afford his patries. His wife was educated in design but wanted to contribute, so she joined in and started making elaborate cakes. Wittamers now caters cakes to the Royal Family. I was so inspired by this story, that I had to buy five or six chocolates....
...that lasted a total of five or six minutes....I think.


We walked briefly through Galerie de la Reine, Europe's first covered open shopping gallery. I got pretty cold, but the thought of more chocolate kept me perservering. Also keeping me warm were the fancy boots my pals bought me for Christmas. They rocked!!!Next on the chocolate tour was La Belgique Gourmande. I was instantly annoyed at this place. First, the store was really cluttered and they had like bulk bins (SO not sanitary!!!!), but most importantly, THEY GAVE US MARZIPAN FOR OUR TASTING!!!! Did I miss the part where I signed up for the Marzipan tasting tour?? Marzipan is not chocolate. Goodbye La Belgique Gourmande!!
After a few minutes of waiting around at the Marzipan-selling store, we went onto the next stop. We passed by the remenants of the wall that used to border the city, built in....well, I can't remember when it was built. 11th century maybe? I was still too upset that someone tried to feed me marzipan on a chocolate tour..... And now, the city wall borders the city bowling alley. That's all I can remember about the wall. I'm sure there is an interesting story about it, but it doesn't involve chocolate....so all was forgotten.
Next stop was PURE. We watched a movie about how the make chocolate from picking the pod things off of the trees to making actual edible chocolate. It was pretty interesting, actually! Made me think a lot more about the "fair trade" chocolate that I see becoming more popular.
Did they really think this little window of glass could keep me out?
Don't worry, I behaved....

....Cause next up, was Chocopolis. Where we would be playing with and making our own chocolate. My official dream come true. First we met the Master Chocolatier..... (I have yet to research what exactly is a "Master Chocolatier" and what educational requirements are needed. Like, is this just a guy that plays with chocolate? Or is he like, really a big deal? Maybe I am a Master Chocolatier because I can eat so much chocolate??)
... And then we learned how important it was to temper the chocolate. They thought they could give me access to melted chocolate??!?! Without me tasting....a little bit of it???!?I took this part very seriously.....
We made both solid and filled chocolates.
Unfortunatly, I didn't have the nerve to pour this into my mouth. It may be my only true regret in life.
Next up, filling the chocolates....with what else?!?! More chocolate, of course...Time for a little quality assurance...
A few minutes after the chocolates have chilled in the fridge, they are popped out of the mold, and voila!!! We each got to take home our handmade chocolates. I'm planning on giving one of the bags to Sergio as a gift. This will be quite the challenge....even though I think I ate at least a kilo of chocolate while "making" the chocolates....


Next stop was Neuhaus Chocolate Shop. The original owner was a pharmacist, who came up with the idea to coat his medication in chocolate in order to make it taste better. It was a hit and his shop became extremely successful. He passed the shop onto his son, who wasn't a pharmacist and had more of a creative flair, and thus the beginning of the famous Neuhaus Chocolate shop. Neuhaus holds the largest market share in the praline section in both Brussels and Luxembourg. I liked this story too, but didn't buy any chocolate here either. I kept thinking of people I could give a nice box of chocolates to as a gift, and then I kept thinking about how long I could hold out being around a box of chocolates and not eating them.....and decided, that it would just be better if I slowly backed out of the store. Withough making any purchases....
We happened to walk past Jeanneken Pis, the female equivalent to the little peeing boy. No one could really tell us why this statue was erected...or why it was here....but here's a picture. It's become so popular, that it's actually behind bars to protect it. ?????
Not sure what's with the city of Belgium and their fascination of statues of peeing children??? Maybe I could understand it if they were made of chocolate?
Our very last stop on the tour was at Pierre Ledent.
He is a "Master Chocolatier", famous in Japan, mainly because of his philosophy that chocolates should resemble jewels. I tasted a couple of his chocolates...but the tour was behind schedule, and I wasn't into his frou-frou shop, all fancy and decorated like a high end jewelry store, and I'm not a jewelry kind-a-gal, so we cut the tour early and didn't hear the history of this guy.
And thus ends the tour.

I actually spent a full day, in BELGIUM, learning about chocolate, making chocolate, and EATING CHOCOLATE. Ahhhhhhhhhh......
If I'm totally honest....I kind of imagined that the chocolate tour would be like this one episode of the Simpsons. Where Homer visits the land of chocolate? And EVERYTHING is made from chocolate - dogs, people, lamp posts, cars - and he runs around eating all of it. So I guess there was a very, very small peice of me that was dissapointed. But apart from the fact that I didn't get to run around in a cartoon land ACTUALLY made of chocolate? This tour rocked my world. At one point, I actually said, The next time I'm having a tough day/week/month in Madagascar, I have to remember this day. It was just that good.
Unfortunately....the only souvenir that I truly brought home from this trip to the land of chocolate....are the extra four pounds that are probably somewhere around my stomach/hip region.
Ahhhhh.... but it was worth it.

2 comments:

  1. Nicole looks like it was a great time!
    As far as the chocolatier thing...seems they just get really good at working with chocolate...here is a course if you want to attend....lol

    love, mom

    http://www.ecolechocolat.com/programs.php

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  2. I'm sorry to have to tell you that the "Belgian lady luck" is not a lady at all but a GENTLEMAN! (T'Serclaes)

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