For serious gastronomes headed to Paris, taking in some chocolatey highlights is a must. Check out these must-see attractions for chocolate-loving Francophiles
If being pampered is a top priority, then pay a visit to the Four Seasons Hotel George V Spa, Paris, to try the calorie-free All About Chocolate Package. For two and a half hours you can quite simply immerse yourself in the dark stuff! The treatment room will be awash with the delicious chocolatey smell of the products used and you can sit back and enjoy a chocolate scrub, wrap and massage, finishing with a chocolate tasting!
Caught on camera
Jump on the TGV and pay a visit to the mediaeval village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in nearby Burgundy. This town is famous for being the back drop for the film Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. The film tells the story of a new arrival in the village who plans to open a chocolaterie, with Sunday opening hours to the horror of the local church. If you squint your eyes enough, that young man in the local patisserie could almost be Mr Depp!
If an annual chocolate-fest is a dream come true, visit Paris in October, when Le Salon du Chocolat takes place. The convention centre beneath the Louvre hosts a plethora of goodies – from tastings and chef demonstrations to exhibitions and a chocoland for children. The next Salon du Chocolat takes place from 14 to 18 October 2009.
Ice is nice
Take a short break from sightseeing - and where better than the Berthillon Ice Cream shop in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Located on rue Saint-Louis-en-l’ile, it won’t be hard to spot, as chances are there’ll be a long line of eager customers. Berthillon’s fame lies in part with its use of natural ingredients. I can highly recommend the chocolat noir flavour, which is a real treat for chocolate-starved tastebuds.
Next up is a trip to the chocolatier of Le Mans (just an hour from Paris) to see his divine sculptures, which are all carved from big slabs of the sweet stuff. Jacques Bellanger is the artist behind Chocolaterie Beline and he has official recognition as one of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France – an award for the finest artisans in France.
Get your hands dirty and learn how to make fine chocolates courtesy of a cookery class at the famed Ritz-Escoffier school - but book early as these classes are seriously popular. Led by a Ritz chef and with the help of a translator, you can learn the art of the chocolatiers. The Art of French Pastry course includes a whole week devoted to our favourite subject and includes five practical classes and two hours of theory where you will learn professional techniques.
Browse the beans
You’ll be hard pushed to find a chocolate as delicious as those on sale at La Maison du Chocolat. Robert Linxe is the chocolate master here and with the opening of his first boutique, he put France firmly on the map when it comes to chocolate. I suggest you take time to do some serious browsing here with the odd taster too, before selecting something to take home to impress your friends.
What a treat
You’ll have to be patient if you want to take a trip around the historic Menier chocolate factory – it only opens to the public one day a year on Heritage Day (journée du patrimoine) in September. It’s now a listed monument and the headquarters for Nestlé. There are 11 factory buildings on the site and the colourful ceramics of the Moulin Saulnier are one of the highlights.
Relax and revive
After all that exercise, there’s only one thing left to do: regain your strength with one of Paris’ finest hot chocolates. No one else does hot chocolate with quite the same style as the French. People in the know head straight for Chez Angelina on rue de Rivoli. This grand Viennese café serves up reassuringly thick, sweet hot chocolate with cream on the side and served on a dainty silver tray. You might have to wait to be served but you won’t be disappointed.