There are a couple of travel souvenirs which I have a tendency to buy more often than not, when I travel to someplace new. Years ago I collected coffee mugs from everywhere I traveled but the collection was getting to be too large and I moved too often to keep lugging all those ceramic mugs around with me. Goodwill inherited my souvenir coffee mug collection several years ago. While backpacking in Asia I began to collect handmade earrings as my souvenir and gift item for friends & family.
The other thing that I have a tendency to buy is chocolate. I love dark chocolate. I buy dark, delicious chocolate both as a souvenir for myself and occasionally, if I have the will power to resist keeping it all to myself, as a treat for friends.
Did you know that dark chocolate releases the same endorphins in the brain as when one is in love? That is why I refer to chocolate as my boyfriend. Every day around mid-afternoon I select a square of dark chocolate to be consumed with either a cup of aromatic chai tea or a demitasse espresso. Endorphins dance in my brain.
I prefer chocolate with at least 80 percent cacao but that is not always available so I will settle for 60 percent or better.
While on a day trip from Barcelona to do some hiking at Montserrat I rewarded myself for the hours of hiking with a couple of big bars of 70 percent chocolate, purchased from one of the shops on the mountain. No I did not eat the while bar all at once, I stuck with my one square of chocolate per day habit.
On my first visit to my father’s hometown of Ottawa Ontario I found a wonderful shop called Thyme & Again in Wellington West neighborhood that carried a variety of chocolate bars from Hummingbird Chocolate Maker, in Almonte, Ontario. I loved their label design. Delicious chocolate! Handcrafted in the Ottawa Valley, Canada. These single origin organic cacao dark chocolate bars would make a great gift for chocolate loving friends. Evidently I am a greedy dark chocolate hoarder, for I kept these all to myself! I did bring back several boxes of Canadian maple sugar candies as souvenirs for friends and clients.
The inner side of the label from Hummingbird Chocolate Maker explains the process of making chocolate directly from the cacao beans. Note the ingredients list consists of only three items: cacao, organic cane sugar, and cocoa butter.
Last year I opted to spend Thanksgiving in Mexico City and I loved it! It is a huge city but there are so many neighborhoods that are walkable. The metro system in Mexico City is the cheapest I have ever seen – about 38 cents per trip. The abundance of amazing art museums will lure me back again. Be sure to go to Frida Kahlo Museum and Museo de Bellas Artes when you visit Mexico City!
While enjoying my first night in La Condesa neighborhood I was longing for a chocolate treat after my dinner of spicy Asian cuisine. I was surprised at how many Asian restaurants I saw in La Condesa. After a dinner of spicy shrimp and a couple of beers I was walking off my dinner and getting acquainted with my new neighborhood. Exploring La Condesa via the oval-shaped Avenida Amsterdam I made mental notes of buildings I wanted to photograph during daylight hours, but my mind was still thinking about chocolate.
A small miracle appeared along Avenida Amsterdam – Tout Chocolat was still open! I purchased a dozen single chocolates – the spicy one was my favorite – I devoured the whole lot while strolling around La Condesa. I bought a couple of dark chocolate bars for souvenirs.
Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote of the miracle of ice in his novel 100 Years of Solitude. Long before the miracle that is ice, the extraordinary magic of chocolate was revealed by the people of Mesoamerica (central Mexico to Central America). The word chocolate is derived from the Aztec language – xocolātl was the word for their cacao drink.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dark chocolate may help reduce the risk factors associated with heart disease. An article appearing on the Cleveland Clinic lists the health benefits of chocolate, including antioxidants and flavonoids.
Not only do I receive the endorphin effect from eating dark chocolate every day, turns out it is good for me too!