Of Chocolate and Cravings

“Touched by her fingers, the two surviving chocolate people copulate desperately, losing themselves in a melting frenzy of lust, spending the last of their brief borrowed lives in a spasm of raspberry cream and fear.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman

I’m sitting in my newest discovery in Luxembourg… The Chocolate House… appropriately named since it’s chocolate, chocolate and some more chocolate! But, sweet tooth, cravings, choco-lust, can’t stop…could all have been as appropriate as names!

Seeing as it faces the palace in Luxembourg though, ‘The Chocolate House’ might have been the safest choice! 🙂

A friend back home in Delhi told me about the place just last evening and although she said only a few words about it… she had me at ‘chocolate art’. So I finished up French class today and immediately walked the short distance to the Grand Ducal Palace facing which is this cafe. I walked in expecting nothing in particular but what I imagined was a quaint bakery or chocolate shop. I’ve seen many of those recently between Luxembourg and our visits to Belgium and Germany and that was my reference point.

The Chocolate House is definitely a chocolate shop! but its also so much more interesting and creative! Firstly, I walked in to find this wall covered top to bottom with tiny packets of what look like wooden spoons with Chocolate on the ends. In fact, that’s exactly what they are. As I described to my younger brother a while ago… “long wooden spoons kind of stuck into cubes of chocolate of every flavor you can think of”. And here I am not exaggerating at all… ginger chocolate, almond raspberry (this is what I tried), Pear Cinnamon (wow!), Honey Salt, Oreo, hazelnut, flavors just for kids, almond, a dozen peanut flavor combinations…the list is endless! I could try a flavor a day till Christmas and not get through even half the options here.

A Million Hot Chocolate Flavor Options

Flavors of Hot Chocolate

With this wall of chocolate in front of me, it was no surprise that I was a little lost! I guess I looked sufficiently like a babe in the woods because the lady behind the counter very kindly explained to me that I needed to pick a flavor :p Yep! that’s where the explanation kind of ended… so I picked a flavor, she was delighted and sent me on my way upstairs… to do what exactly?? I wondered… I came in to get a hot chocolate and all I had was a delicious looking chocolate cube on a stick.

So I walked up the narrow circular staircase and the first floor did not disappoint either! Stone walls, big glass windows through which you can see the Ducal Palace and beautiful raw wooden chairs and tables add to the quaint-ness of the place. Huge completely out-of-place chandeliers make the place almost quirky and add to this… my favorite part… on the walls are huge brightly colored paintings of Bob Marley, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and even The Monalisa (still smiling but far more colorful than was the style back then!). These are for sale and whether anyone shops here or not, the cafe would not be the same without them. This absolute visual mish-mash combined with the sound of Bob Marley’s ‘Don’t Worry’ makes for a very welcoming space on a day with -3 degree temperature outside!

The Cafe Seating Area at Chocolate House

After a few repeat performances of my lost look, an unsure stand-still on the first floor, some climbing up and down the stairs a few times and basically feeling like a complete fool, I finally met another kind soul who immediately told me she could tell I’m completely lost (yes, travel is humbling if nothing else!!). Now that I’m one delicious hot chocolate smarter, let me explain what she did… you pick your flavor of chocolate on a stick and then they give you a big mug of steaming hot milk. You need to immerse this stick in the milk and then just kind of sit there swirling it about while you chat/read/look around. The chocolate slowly melts off the stick and mixes into the milk, making it the smoothest yummiest most satisfying hot chocolate you made yourself! What could be better. You top this brilliant cup with some marshmallow and cream and Voila! you have yourself an authentic Chocolate House delight.

If the chocolate wasn’t enough, I added a slice of brilliant marble cake-like pie to my table.

I’m still struggling to finish it so am going to get back to it, but the next time you’re in the neighborhood and craving some warmth chocolate, this is definitely the place to go.

 

Advertisements

Gluhed

Gluhed: The Urban Dictionary defines this as: The process of imbibing vast quantities of Gluhwein, a German spiced wine served around Christmas, preferably straight from the bottle, until such time as you are totally saturated within from the spiced wine.

Example: “Hey do you remember that party last night?” “No man, I was completely Gluhed out, its all a blur.”

This concept and conversation becomes rather easy to imagine if you walk into the Place D’Armes area in Luxembourg, around this time in November!

To give you some context… Luxembourg on any regular day is peaceful and beautiful in every way. It’s clean with fabulous infrastructure, well-mannered and quiet people, nobody creates a ruckus, people don’t shout or talk loudly and even the pubs late at night are active but hardly crowded with 20-25 people being a busy night. When we initially moved here we even worried about HOW we were going to survive the ‘quiet’ of it. I mean, we did come here from India after all and finding quiet means a road trip to the hills there! 25-30 people is house party with close friends and we all know how wild even those can get!

It’s been exactly one month since moved here to Luxembourg and THIS is the Luxembourg we have gotten used to and learned to like a lot.

Incidentally its also exactly one month to Christmas today and so we’ve been waiting to go see the Christmas market we’ve heard so much about. There are apparently several that happen around the city but we wanted to see the one in the city center area since we love that place. Turns out we were more impatient that we thought! So much so that we ended up going a day too early this week and nothing was open. The preparations we saw there only added to our excitement though… it was clear that the city took its Christmas market very seriously!

This is just one of the many many stalls in an otherwise empty city square and you can tell just by looking at it, how much work must go into setting these up. After this early visit we were even more excited to see it.

Last evening we finally finished work for the day to go check it out and even after we had already seen the work-in-progress, the end result made us stare in awe!

This installation was the highlight of the area and its easy to see why! I was reading up on it and this is the second year they have installed this ‘Blue Tree’ or “l’Arbre bleu de Pierre Bardet” as part of the Christmas celebrations in the city.

This was amazing but it didn’t stop here…they hadn’t just lit up the city square, they had completely transformed it!! I mean they had an ICE SKATING RING in the middle of it all… where there was previously nothing! It was absolutely magical – with huge Christmas decorations hanging overhead, people skating under the lights, drinks and food next to the ring and fantastic retro music in English! Songs like Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden, All about that base by Meghan Trainor and even some Britney Spears!

It couldn’t have been more fun!

The other AMAZING thing was that it was crowded!! even by our Delhi standards…there were people everywhere.. with kids, dogs, cycles, crazy Santa hats and anything else you can think of. They were eating and drinking, some were dancing around the place with bottles and glasses in their hands, they were talking loudly (!!) and having an absolute ball. Groups of friends around a heater laughing, parents teaching kids to skate, men walking around singing along with the music, some foot stomping and there was even a live band in the other square! This was the most ‘crowded and active’ we had seen any place in Luxembourg since we arrived here and it was awesome.

We tried some Christmas beer and then walked around to try some of the Gluhwein we had been waiting to get our hands on. It was delicious of course and we tried the three flavors they had between us – Rouge, Amaretto and Rhum. Overall, it was a really fun night even though not nearly long enough and we were so taken by the sights and sounds, we didn’t end up eating anything there! So we’re heading back there again tonight to get a taste of the fabulous soups, pastas, spaghetti and cheese we spotted while walking around yesterday.

Au re-voir!

P.S: Am also dying to bring one of these home with me!

Et Toi?

After 2.5 hours of my first French class, I am now the proud (NOT!) speaker of ONE word of French… or a phrase, if you’re feeling generous… ‘Et Toi?’ meaning ‘how about you?’.

I mean I can’t be counting words like ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci’ if I am to be taken seriously regarding my latest adventure – ‘a 3-week intense course in French, level A1′.

(On an unrelated topic, the Google suggestion for ‘Bonjour’ is ‘Bourbon’. Figures! I reckon I’ll be needing a lot more of that at this rate.)

So, I woke up this morning, after 3 weeks of being in this new country and ran, through rain and cold, for my first French class. Very very exciting! As anyone who ever went to a new school of any kind would know, there is a certain special species of butterflies that only show up when you’re in for facing a classroom. The thought of a room full of strangers ready to size you up is quite an unnerving breakfast and not for the faint hearted OR those with stage fright (I often suffer a severe case of the latter).

Having made it there with enough time, I walked in and grabbed the seat closest to the door (in-case things got crazy and I needed a quick exit…kidding!). Next to me sat a pretty woman in a leather skirt (no, not the short risky type but the long conservative yet fashionable sort) and next to her was a broad muscular guy with a constantly amused expression. Good neighbors to have sat down next to. Across from us sat a tall slim young French woman who looked very confident, a shorter more shy looking girl, a lady from Ibiza and a girl from Kyrgyzstan. Quite an interesting bunch of people overall.

Then the class began and within 10 minutes it became quite clear that this was not going to be anything short of absolutely hilarious.

Firstly, there was a constant babble of at least 5 different languages at any point in the room. If not languages, at least five different styles of pronunciation, which meant every phrase we were taught was attempted, tested, teased out and completely butchered by 7 people from 7 different backgrounds! The result was chaotic and my notebook pages are great testaments to this utter confusion.

Secondly, nobody warned me that a language class for French could be taught partly in French! I mean something about that makes no sense, right? Our teacher, while absolutely great with people, was clearly French and this meant she constantly went right back to her native language when she gave us instructions. I found myself feeling like I was back in Chemistry class at school (H2SO what?!) and my classmates must have noticed it because I was given loads of help in Italian, Spanish, Russian and of course more French!

Thirdly, while French uses the same Latin base as English and hence the same script (A,B,C,D…and so on) the pronunciation is about as different as it gets! For example, why is R pronounced as ‘er’, H as ‘ash’ but Y as ‘e-ghrek’?! Who could imagine spelling out your name at my age could be as embarrassing as that!

Finally, when your teacher, like you, realizes that she has multiple nationalities and languages in the same room, she resorts to a form of theater which is a crude mix of stand up comedy, miming and clowning around. I had heard the comedy festival was on in town but I didn’t realize I bought tickets. There was hooting, clapping, making throaty gurgling noises, cooing like a bird, laying like a table, barking and even some flapping of the arms!

Have to hand it to the teacher… I wish classes in school had been this engaging, exciting and crazy all at once! Phew! It was just day 1 and it was one helluva show I tell you.

Thankfully, I know I’ll get through the next hundred classes just fine because it turns out that my classmates all have ready smiles, seem like they’re lovely people and appreciate a quick coffee with new classmates on a rainy day, just as much as I do.

What’s your favourite classroom story? everyone has a few! share one or more in the comments below if you’d like to…I would love to read them!