Ever since I saw the movie Chocolat with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche I have loved it. I love it for its magic and its bewitchment as much as I love it for its celebration of chocolate. For many years I did not eat chocolate. I would react quite heavily to caffeine so anything with caffeine in it was off limits. I started eating it again some time ago but even now I have to be careful. Too much of the cheap stuff and I end up with terrible eczema. But let me tell you, once you have eaten the good stuff - the really really good stuff - you will never look at a Snickers the same way again.
Whenever I would watch the movie Chocolat I would dream of finding a shop like Vianne's. I would still love to have a place to go that is full of the kind of passion and friendship and feminine closeness of that fictional shop. There doesn't seem to be room for that kind of place in a world where McDonalds and huge box stores are king.
Last autumn, Mark and I went to Edinburgh to visit our friends Sean and Mike. It's a remarkable city. It's full of magic and ghosts and oozes history from every cobble. We spent a lovely few hours walking up a street called the Royal Mile. It stretches from the Palace of Holyrood House at the bottom of a hill, to Edinburgh Castle at the top. Along the way there are a number of quaint and unusual shops nestled beside each other. We had Scotch bottled for us from a cask, saw new-fangled leather kilts, and generally had a wonderful time.
Ready for a refreshment, we tried to find somewhere special. One shop was closed but referred us to its sister shop that was back down the street a few doors. (HOW could I have MISSED it the first time?!?!?!) It was called, Plaisir du Chocolat. Mark looked at me as we went in and said, "Oh, Meg, you aren't going to like this at all!" There it was in front of me - Vianne's shop. Decorated in sumptuous Art Deco style, with swirls and chandeliers, in shades of green and soft beige, it was mouth-wateringly beautiful. After lingering at the counter to decide upon a delicacy, we were taken to our seats and given the extensive tea and coffee and hot chocolate menu. I had "Green Tea Memory" that tasted like cherry blossoms smell. With my simple chocolate tart, I was in complete chocolate heaven!
Sean and Mark both decided that as they were probably never going to be back in this 'tea salon,' they would indulge. They ordered huge pieces of cheesecake and chocolate cake. Sipping tea and eating so much sweetness soon took its toll and the three of us were soon chocolate-drunk! Nibbling and giggling soon turned into full blown tear-spilling laughter as we finished our treats. Before we left I couldn't resist buying a few beautiful chocolates for Mike. It was truly an afternoon to remember.
So now, whenever I think of proper chocolate I think of it as an experience - a morsel to be savoured. I remember how beautiful the surroundings were. I remember how truly special it all seemed. I remember being high on cocoa, laughing with people I loved, and enjoying the whole experience. Chocolate will never be the same again.