Indulge Yourself and Splurge in Brussels!
If you have a sweet tooth then Brussels is the top city to go to, with their beautiful French language combined with chocolate delights, it really is a treat for all the senses. It offers us the cultural thrill of feeding the chocolate addiction, elevating into an art form not to be missed. Temptation reaches out and grabs you at every turn in this city and those with big waistlines really need to watch out!
This is where it all began in 1912 when Jean Neuhaus had the brilliant idea of filling delectable chocolate shells with sweet, fondant fillings to create the praline delight sweet. His wife dressed it up in a decorative box called the Balloting, which helped to sell hundreds of millions of these branded sweets. Jean Neuhaus, launched his chocolate emporium from Brussels and it spread across Belgium rapidly, gaining the country an international reputation within the confectionary markets.
There is a huge disparity in quality, variety and cost of chocolate but national chains like Corné Port Royal and Neuhaus offer good quality sweets at affordable and reasonable prices – which is not good for that expanding waistline. However, for the very authentic treat look out for boutique chocolatiers like Planete Chocolat in Brussels and Del Rey in Antwerp. Here you will find delectable and individually crafted chocolates making them an unforgettable gourmet gift for those back home, that’s if they are not eaten on the way. No visit to Belgium is complete without a cruise around Bruges where there is a temple to the humble African cocoa bean – the Chocó-Story – a museum dedicated to the world’s finest addictive and mood enhancing sweet.
The standard of chocolate served throughout the country is the best. Chocolateries sell light, dark or white chocolate with every conceivable variation in between and are a delightful place to visit. Individual pieces of chocolate can be wrapped, coated or patterned with, a huge array of exquisite and surprising fillings. As well as the ever-present pralines, you will find sculptures and artistic creations using chocolate showing off the chocolatier’s skill to the best. On my visit to one of the shops, I was unable to resist leaving without buying a chocolate swan. On cracking open the bird to eat, what could be better than having a mouthful of praline come oozing out, and if that wasn’t a moment of perfect happiness then I don’t know what is. Buying chocolate is held in great reverence and one needs to spend a lot of time in choosing if you are going to do justice to the selection you make.
The atmosphere in any high quality chocolateries is one of quiet reverence, dedication and only for the serious addict; the attention span needs to be very high. The temperatures in the chocolate factories are cool, and the mood in the queue tends to be one of gentle anticipated pleasure with a close eye on the ever-shrinking wallet. The choice can be bewildering, but staff are trained to dealing with such dilemmas. Some sampling is allowed on the shop floor for the serious buyer. Once you select your chocolates they will be lovingly wrapped, and presented, and at-times at eye-watering prices, determined by weight of the amount (the chocolate, not yours) is revealed. Then you are out the door, with a credit- card much heavier but heart fluttering, eyes scanning the horizon for a secluded spot to sit and enjoy your chocolates.