Belgium: Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

Belgium is famous for its chocolate tradition, which dates back to the 17th Century. Of course, they import their cocoa beans, but chocolates are a big, big part of their culture and economy, and the quality standards for chocolate production are higher than in the rest of Europe.

In Belgium there’s a chocolate shop in every corner, and although I’d have loved to try them all, I had to settle for window shopping and trying just a few of them. Here’s a list of the ones I liked the most.

In Brussels

Neuhaus

Address: 25 Galerie de la Reine, 1000 Bruxelles

Neuhaus is one of the most important chocolate shops in Belgium, not only because it’s one of the oldest, but also because it’s where the Belgian praline was born in 1912.

The first one I saw was inside the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, which is full of different chocolate shops.

Pierre Marcolini

Address: 5 Galerie du Roi, 1000 Bruxelles

Here’s where I found out that chocolates can totally be sold as if they were jewelry. Its boutiques are well lit and spacious, the chocolates are well protected behind glass and presented in pretty boxes that resemble accessories or makeup boxes.

La Belgique Gourmande

Address: 17 Galerie de la Reine, 1000 Brussels

La Belgique Gourmande has some sort of carnivalesque thing going on. It is completely decorated with masks, colorful rings and harlequins hanging from the walls. I didn’t buy anything there, but just looking at the windows was quite fun.

Galler

Address: 44 rue au Beurre, 1000 Bruxelles

The cool thing about Galler is that they have a lot of beautifully colored chocolate eggs and chocolate bars, all with different flavors and presentations. Their orange chocolate bags and boxes reminded me of Hermès, and I’m guessing they chose that color palette on purpose to make it look fancier.

Elisabeth

Address: 43 rue au Beurre 1000 Bruxelles

There were about four different Elisabeth Chocolatiers in different streets and each one of them had different sweets. While some had huge meringues, others had biscuits or chocolates on display, and they all looked gorgeous. Here’s where I discovered that happiness has a name: Mellow Cake.

Mellow cake is a super soft, super spongy marshmallow on a cookie covered with dark chocolate. I have tried other versions of chocolate marshmallow before, but never like this. This is a whole different kind of mellow cake. The first day I bought one just to try it; the next day I returned for a box.

In Brugges

In Brugges, I visited the Choco-Story Museum, a building from 1480 that originally was a wine tavern.

Address: 2 Wijnzakstraat, 8000 Bruges

A big section of the museum is dedicated to the origin and history of chocolate, which is nothing new for those of us who come from the same part of the world as cocoa beans. However, it is a quick and fun museum. The coolest part were the trash bins, which are shaped like cocoa fruits.

Besides the history of Belgian chocolate, the museum includes a little geography and botany, plus some recipes and even a presentation where they show you how they make pralines.

And they have a giant chocolate egg at the entrance.

Le Comptoir de Mathilde

The last chocolate shop I went to is where I tried hot choco-spoons for the first time.

A hot choco-spoon is basically a cube of chocolate on a wooden spoon that you put into a glass of hot milk. There were over twenty different flavors and it took me about five minutes to choose.

I chose dark chocolate with chili.

The trip was short. I would have loved to stay a few more days to see more, but still, I did a bit of everything. There were museums, galleries, books and lots of chocolate. Especially because, besides the box of mellow cakes, I bought a giant marshmallow covered with chocolate and walnuts. But whenever I feel like I’ve eaten too much chocolate, I remember German chemist Justus von Liebig’s words of wisdom:

Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power… it is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.

Edinburgh: Eat, Drink, Read

Good morning, my dearest readers!

How are you today? How was your weekend? So I’m home for the semester holidays, which means I’ve been busy eating tacos and getting in touch with old friends. However, I’m not quite done with university stuff; I still have to write a term paper and I still need to study for an exam, but for now, I’ll just enjoy my ‘free time’. Besides, it’s time for Chiles en Nogada here in Mexico, and it’s pretty much the second best time of the year (after Christmas, of course).

Speaking of food, let me tell you about the many merry places where you can mix it with books and literature.

Eating and Drinking

If there’s something the Scotts like, it’s their bars and cafés with literary names. Here are some of the ones I saw while I was walking:

Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland Alice Through the Looking Glass) was not Scottish, but I did come across his name several times: coffees, postcards, home accessories, etc. The Mad Hatter restaurant can be found at 4/8 Torphichen Place, Edinburgh EH3 8DU.

Many coffee shops claim to be the place where J.K. Rowling wrote her famous novels, but the one we’re sure of is the Black Medicine Coffee, which belonged to her brother-in-law. Nowadays it belongs to someone else, and they say the new owner doesn’t like Harry Potter at all. Address: 2 Nicholson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DH.

The Kenilworth shares its name with one of Sir Walter Scott’s most famous novels, Kenilworth. References to the author are all over Edinburgh, but I will tell you about them in a few days. This pub is located at 152-154 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 3JD; a charming little street with very particular flower pots.

The street was not my favorite, but it’s great looking at the people standing in front of the pots, trying to read the quotes.

Drinking and Reading

One of my favorite places was just across university, which allowed me to go a couple of times to buy a coffee and admire the books.

Looking Glass Books (Lewis Carroll, anyone?) is a book-shop-café located at 36 Simpson Loan, Edinburgh EH3 9GG.

The coffee is great and the desserts are awesome, but what I loved most was the fact that one can sit and enjoy the food while surrounded by books.

I would’ve loved to show you the tables and the chairs, but when I asked permission they told me not to take photos of the clients. That proved to be hard, since there was a client on every single chair, but I hope you can get a nice idea of what the place looks like.

Reading and Reading

The last place I want to talk to you about was the place where I felt like staying forever.

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Happiness is found behind a blue door at 53-62 South Bridge, Edinburgh. Blackwell’s, with its walls, tables and corners full of books, and with its wonderful classic collection, was the place where I spent the first 20 seconds of my visit just looking around and flapping my hands like a crazy woman.

The best part about going to a book shop with other philology students is that one can stay as long as one likes, knowing that the others won’t get bored. As soon as we got inside, we went separate ways and did not see each other until it was time to go. Afterwards, we compared the books we had bought and happily went home.

I bought Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë; The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling; Dracula, by Bram Stoker; and The Life of a Stupid Man, by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.