When embarking on an international chocolate adventure across the Americas, what better place to start than Chocolateria Isla Bella, or The Chocolate Kitchen, situated on 5th Avenue, on the stunning island of Cozumel, Mexico?
This is the story of two women’s journey to preserve the ancient cacao of Mexico and bring it to the fore in the Yucatan, Quintana Roo peninsula of Mexico; from the bean, to the bar – hand tempering every batch they make!
Well, Taverna el Remer had certainly left its mark on me, in the form of one hell of a hangover! I mean, as I mentioned previously, the blues band was amazing and the drinks (extra strong and expertly crafted) went down all too quickly, to the point where I recall little of the night before – but my phone has managed to help me out; apparently on the way back we came across a variety of little glass sculptures which I’m sure you’ll agree are beautiful!
August Bank Holiday weekend saw the boy whisk me off to Venice for a belated birthday surprise! Arriving close to midnight, we stayed in the San Sebastiano Garden Hotel; a little out of the centre, but easy walking distance to the action.
Like most trips, I like to research the destination as much as I can, and create a little map with timings and things to do at each location. Very geeky, I know, but it means that if time and/or funds are not on your side, you can still let the place get under your skin, just about.
Whilst my trip to Nicaragua was predominantly based around cacao research, I did take some time to explore my surroundings, absorbing the beauty and culture this amazing country had to offer at every opportunity. Morning tortillas made by the roadside, hummingbirds in the city parks, and some really stunning churches!
After a chocolate-fueled adventurous morning it was now time to explore what Reykjavik had to offer. But first a quick pit stop in Bajarni Fel sports bar to warm up wit ha glass of Viking beer while I waited for the rest of the crew.
Great taste in music, a quirky sense of humour, chocolate to die for and some of the world’s best scenery – Iceland really does tick all the boxes.
Even those of you more partial to a bikini-toting, pinacolada-sipping beachside holiday can still find some solace (and outstanding chocolate) in this magical land of elf rocks, blizzards and thermal spas.
*Edited 2018 to reflect on the devastating news that Stace Bancroft – yogi, resident of Christiania and inspiration to the world – past away February 16th 2018. You were and still are an inspiration. Stace, this story is for you. RIP. Gone, but never forgotten.*
After a 4am start in London, to catch an 8am flight from Luton airport, the last thing you want is to be stuck in an epic rainstorm without a brolly. Luckily, Copenhagen is full of delightful little districts and boutique food halls where you can shelter from the onslaught, and where I discovered Groed – just off Torvehallerne, Israels Plads – a small cafe specialising in porridge so good Goldie Locks would have been proud.
Next morning it was an early start as we set off for Tallinn, in Estonia, a 3.5 hour ferry ride away. Now Estonia is a fascinating country, as are many of the far Eastern European countries. Filled with culture, myths and history, often with a fine selection of well-preserved medieval walled towns. Tallinn is one such town, dating back to the 13th Century it’s earliest name was in Russian, but in 1219, after the Danish conquest it became known in German, Danish and Swedish languages as ‘Reval’.
Now for a little history of Northland. The nearest harbour to Ngataki – Houhora Harbour was home to whalers and Dalmatian Gum Diggers (no, not the dogs, but people from the balkan area now known as Croatia, but this is also where dalmatian dogs are from). The old Post Office and Dance Hall next to Houhora Tavern date back to these pioneering days when the Dalmatian Gum Diggers were digging their fortunes of kauri gum burried below the surface of surrounding areas such as Waiharara, where the Gum Diggers Park sits now.
Next morning, after a much-needed lie-in, we were off on a (very bumpy) ferry ride to Urupukapuka Island. We were warned when we arrived on the island and before we left Russell that due to there being no natural predators or pests on the island could we please help keep the island pest-free by checking our bags for rats, mice, stoats and seeds before disembarking along the litchen covered weather worn pontoon to the shore.