The Grenada Chocolate Festival – a sweet taste of the Caribbean

Calling all chocoholics as our guest author Magdalena Fielden tells us about the Grenada Chocolate Festival that she founded, for a taste of the chocolate created on this Caribbean island with chocolate food and cocktails, visits to the chocolate factory and even chocolate yoga and fashion. All happening in May 2015.

Grenada has a unique chocolate story to tell which I knew could be turned into an interesting and delicious experience. The more I thought about it the more I realised that we had never really worked collectively to promote Grenada’s cocoa history, traditions and the fantastic award winning chocolate that is produced right here on the island.

It was in 2013 that we started to talk about running a chocolate week at True Blue Bay. We had noticed that there was a growing interest in chocolate and workshops to learn how to make chocolate. I wanted to do more than just show people how to make chocolates and so the Grenada Chocolate Festival was born.

Grenada Chocolate Festival

The Grenada Chocolate Company

As my inspiration I looked to the charismatic Mott Green who founded the The Grenada Chocolate Company. It was back in 1999 that Mott helped to organise small-scale local cocoa farmers and workers into a co-operative to produce delicious organic chocolate in a sustainable manner.

I was fascinated by Mott Green and admired his efforts to create chocolate ethically and how he involved the local community. And of course I loved the taste of the chocolate.

Over the years we promoted The Grenada Chocolate Company to our guests, encouraging them to visit the chocolate factory and visit the Belmont Cocoa Plantation to see how cocoa is processed before being turned into chocolate. But it was all very informal with no set itinerary or programme.

A visit to the Grenada Chocolate Company

A visit to the Grenada Chocolate Company

So I set about creating a dedicated chocolate event that would be truly Grenadian, involve as many local artisans and growers as possible and introduce people to different attractions and experiences.

Chocolate making

And so the Chocolate Fest was born. We decided to use chocolate as a loose theme and created a programme that covers everything from art and beauty to fashion and food and encourages people to explore Grenada away from the beaches.

Ingredients for making chocolate at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Ingredients for making chocolate at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

After a trial event in August 2014, we refined and expanded the programme to create the first proper Chocolate Fest that will run from 8 to 17 May 2015.

Learning about chocolate

Our programme includes experiences such as the Cocoa Chocolate Hash – a hike through a cocoa plantation, as well as the chance to be a farmer for a day at the Crayfish Bay Organic Farm learning how to pick the cocoa pods, harvest the beans and prepare them for processing.

A hike through a cocoa plantation at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

A hike through a cocoa plantation at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

We have partnered with a local school to take a field trip with some of the children to learn about the history of cocoa and how the island’s future depends on having a sustainable farming community. We are also holding a fundraising dinner with proceeds being used to build a playground at the Vendome RC School.

Learning about chocolate at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Learning about chocolate at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate yoga

Contrary to popular belief chocolate does not have to be unhealthy. So we are dedicating a day to exploring its health benefits. The day starts with a yoga session at True Blue Bay’s Sankalpa studio and includes a meditation to appreciate the texture, smell and taste of chocolate. The session also includes tasting the local cocoa tea. Then there are hands on workshops about the health benefits of chocolate.

Chocolate Yoga classes at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate Yoga classes at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate beauty

Chocolate is also a great beauty aid which will be demonstrated at a mini spa bazaar featuring local organic beauty products. We even offer chocolate themed treatments at True Blue Bay’s Blue Haven Spa.

Trying chocolate beauty products at the Grenada Chocolat Festival

Trying chocolate beauty products at the Grenada Chocolat Festival

Chocolate as an art medium

Cocoa also inspires local artists so we include a visit to the Art and Soul Gallery, owned by local artist Susan Mains, for the opening of the Cocoa Art Exhibition that features paintings, sculpture and batiks.

Cocoa art exhibition at the Grendada Chocolate Festival

Cocoa art exhibition at the Grendada Chocolate Festival

On another day we are inviting local artisans to display their wares at an arts and crafts bazaar featuring crafts, jewellery, art and chocolate.

Art show at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Art show at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Fashion show

My daughter, Marie will even be organising a fashion show featuring Grenadian inspired fashion created from batiks and soft tropical fabrics.

Grenadian fashion at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Grenadian fashion at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate tasting at the Grenada Chocolate festival

Chocolate tasting at the Grenada Chocolate festival

The best part – tasting!

Of course we haven’t forgotten about chocolate’s greatest attraction – its taste. And there are ample opportunities to sample our delicious local chocolate with chocolate breakfasts, preparing a chocolate inspired lunch under the guidance of our entertaining cooks, Esther and Omega, chocolate themed dinners and parties.

A cookery lesson at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

A cookery lesson at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate treats at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate treats at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate cocktails

We will even offer tastings of chocolate inspired cocktails, chocolate beer brewed at our on site microbrewery, and local chocolate rums. And what better souvenir to take home than a bar of chocolate you have made under the expert guidance of the team at the Diamond Estate Chocolate Factory.

Chocolate cocktails at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Chocolate cocktails at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Learning will be made fun for children with a family fun day at the Belmont Estate where they can take part in activities such as dancing, walking and scooping the cocoa.

Children learn about making chocolate at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

Children learn about making chocolate at the Grenada Chocolate Festival

What more could you ask for from a holiday than combining chocolate with great weather, the warmest of welcomes and the chance to kick back and relax on a beautiful island?

 If you’d like to visit the 2015 Grenada Chocolate Festival

The Chocolate Fest runs from 8 to 17 May 2015. Participation in individual days costs from US$36 for adults and US$20 for children. Some events are free for those staying at True Blue Bay Resort.

Thanks for this article to Magdalena Fielden, organiser of  The Grenada Chocolate Festival who offer a unique visitor experience with their pure and delicious Grenadian organic and sustainable cocoa and chocolate.

Caribtours offers 7 nights at True Blue Bay from £1,221 per person, based on two adults sharing a True Blue Style Room on a bed and breakfast basis, including return scheduled flights from Gatwick and private transfers. A US$300 coupon book offering vouchers for discounts and offers at restaurants, spa, shops and diving at the resort and other outlets nearby. Price based on travel in May 2015.

All Photos by the Grenada Chocolate Festival

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Read about the Grenada chocolate Festival for a sweet taste of the Caribbean

For more chocolate goodness:

In praise of chocolate – in Bristol
Chocolate with sea salt – a taste of West Sweden at Flickorna Kanold in Gothenburg
The fresh taste of Paris – our gourmet tour of Marché d’Aligre

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Hiking the Dry Stone Route in Mallorca Part 2 – from Lluc monastery to Port de Pollença

The first part of our hike on the Dry Stone Route in Mallorca had taken us from the pretty artist’s village of Deia to the busy resort of Port de Soller and up into the Tramuntana mountain range. Read about Part 1 of the walk here. Reaching the Cuber reservoir we took the bus to the monastery at Lluc, since the Refugi de Tossals Verds where we’d hoped to stay was closed for rennovation. After a night in the simple monastery guest accommodation overlooking the front of the church, we decided to attend Sunday mass at 11 o’clock to hear the famous Blauet choir sing, since we would be spending two nights at the monastery and didn’t have to walk on anywhere that day.

Lluc monastery, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View from our bedroom window at Lluc monastery, Mallorca

Mass with El Blauets

The children of the choir school filed out to a packed church, wearing the bright blue robes that give the choir its name. As mass began a painted screen slid back to reveal the small statue of the Madonna known as La Moreneta or little one above the altar, wearing her crown. When mass was finished the screen closed and the statue turned around to face the opposite direction where she could be seen in the prayer chapel which is reached by the stairs running up beside the altar.

It was a lovely service with beautiful singing, only marred by those tourists who could not resist taking constant flash photography and a woman who even walked up and down the central aisle to video everything on her phone. One of the young girls from the choir appeared to be making her confirmation and had not one but two photographers taking photos constantly from every angle, even walking right up behind the altar to take close-ups of the choir. Being a Catholic I was quite horrified by the disrespectful attitude of some visitors who seemed to view the mass like a visit to the zoo and could not believe how patient and good humoured the priest was about it all!

Lluc monastery, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lluc monastery, Mallorca

After mass we set off along the GR221 to follow it in the opposite direction, the path that we would have come down had we stayed at the Refugi Tossal Verdes rather than skipping part of the route by bus. Not far from the monastery gates we picked up the familiar cobbled stone path from which the Dry Stone Route gets its name. There was a water collection point nearby fed by a spring from the mountains, where people were bringing huge plastic containers to fill up for their week’s drinking water.

Walking from Lluc to Pollenca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking from Lluc to Pollenca

Sitges and Ice pits in the woods

Passing through the holm oaks we passed a number of Sitges or circular, stone charcoal burning hearths. Until the 1920s the charcoal burners would live all summer in the woods in simple stone huts with branches and leaves for a roof and we passed quite a few on the walk.  Another feature of the landscape were the deep snow pits lined with stones, which in the days before refrigeration, were filled with blocks of ice from the mountains packed down and covered with leaves to keep them from melting.

Snow pit on the Voltes d'en Galileu in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Snow pit on the Voltes d’en Galileu in Mallorca

Views from the Puig d’en Galileu

We emerged from the woodland onto the side of the Puig d’en Galileu on a cobbled stone path with dry stone retaining walls which ziz zagged at a relatively gentle gradient up to the top of the mountain where there was a plateau just below a rocky crest. From here there were wonderful views across the valley, down towards the monastery at Lluc and across towards the coast and the cleft of the Torrent de Parais, a popular walking route along the gorge.

Walking up to Puig d'en Galileu, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking up to Puig d’en Galileu, Mallorca

We stopped at the crest and sat on a boulder for a picnic lunch but soon the views were hidden by the cloud cover swirling in and covering the rocky peaks where the path would take us up over the pass. We decided that rather than climb further into the cloud, with the risk of losing our way, we would retrace our steps down into the valley again and returned by the way we had come.

The Museum at Lluc Monastery

We arrived back at Lluc monastery around 4pm, just in time to take a look around the interesting museum with old archaeological artefacts, some beautiful Mallorcan costumes and traditional furniture like the carved and canopied bedstead. I particularly enjoyed the exhibition of paintings depicting scenes from Mallorcan life by the impressionistic artist Josep Coll Bardolet, a Spanish painter whose adoptive home was Valdemossa.

Museum at Lluc monastery, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Museum at Lluc monastery, Mallorca

After breakfast the next day we took the opportunity to walk the path with the stations of the rosary within the monastery grounds, which took us up to a rocky pinacle with a huge iron cross overlooking the monastery. The pilgrim’s road took us out of the gates of Lluc monastery, through the fields and up to the Refuge of Son Amer, which like many of the Refugi along the Dry Stone Route, had been recently restored to encourage rural and walking tourism.

The path wound up through pine forest on the slopes of the Puig Ferner and despite the overcast weather this was the best part of the day as we walked amid the pines and past lime kilns and old stone enclosures. The bright green moss made cushions of the rocks and the path was soft with a covering of pine needles which gave off their scent when trodden underfoot. The air was quiet apart from the trill of birdsong and the distant whirr of traffic from the road down below.

Walking from Lluc to Pollenca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking from Lluc to Pollenca

Through the woods to Pollença

The way followed the Cami Vel de Lluc, the old pilgrim’s way which turned for a while into small tarmac road between fields with occasional houses. As we descended towards Pollença, the rain became steady and we entered a thick pine forest which sheltered us from the worst of it. The heavy woodland cover would have been refreshingly cool on a hot summer’s day but felt damp and eerie in the rain. It seemed as if we had entered a scene from the Hobbit, where the trees might come alive and turn on us at any moment.

The final stretch was along a river and then a busy road heading into Pollença, where we missed the smaller paths a few times and ended up walking beside the traffic which was both dangerous and unpleasant. Finally arriving in the central Placa of Pollença, we took shelter in a cafe with the tourists from the nearby beach resort, their sunshine holiday being rather spoiled by the rain.

Hotel Sis Pins, Port de Pollenca, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hotel Sis Pins, Port de Pollenca, Mallorca

Staying at Port de Pollença

In the cafe we received stone-faced glances from the staff and concluded that our boots and dripping rucksacks were not welcome, so after a coffee we took the bus into Port de Pollença where a much warmer welcome awaited us at the seafront hotel of Sis Pins. This was clearly a haven for the mid-life Brit abroad with plenty of older couples, a cheerful English receptionist and kettles in every room.

Port de Pollenca in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Port de Pollenca in Mallorca

We spent the evening exploring the busy resort of Port de Pollença finding a pleasant Italian restaurant for dinner in the main square. Thankfully the sunshine had returned by the next morning and we took the bus back to Palma, leaving our rucksacks in the lockers at the Placa Espanya above the underground coach station.

Sightseeing in Palma

Since our flight was not until the evening, we wandered around the old quarter, looked in the shoe shops and came across an art museum, the Museo Fundacion Juan March. Housed in an elegant 18th century mansion along one of the main shopping street this was a real find, since it was not only free but housed a world class exhibition of modern painting and sculpture that included Picasso, Dali and Miro.

Museo Fundacion Juan March in Palma, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Museo Fundacion Juan March in Palma, Mallorca

Next stop was  La Seu, the cathedral of Santa Maria in Palma, which dominates the view from the sea and is the number one tourist hotspot. Of course we couldn’t miss it but before going in we walked all around the terrace overlooking the lake and seafront, noticing the horse-drawn carriages ready to take you around the town.

By the cathedral at Palma, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

By the cathedral at Palma, Mallorca

The cathedral is a huge and inspiring structure, which although medieval in origin has gorgeous Modernista influences that were added by Antonio Gaudi in the 19th century. I especially loved the more recent side chapel by contemporary Spanish artist, Miquel Barceló where the ceramic surface was covered with fish and other wriggling, writhing creatures.

Cathedral in Palma, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cathedral in Palma, Mallorca

After visiting that cathedral we wandered around the old streets near the cathedral, eating ice cream, photographing the two well-known Modernista houses of Can Rei and L’Aquilla and finally stopping for a drink in a leafy square.

Palma, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Palma, Mallorca

Before long our short sightseeing tour of Palma was up and it was time to return to the Placa Espanya to pick up our bags and return to the airport. Our walking break had taken us from quiet mountain villages to busy coastal resorts, from the views of the Tramuntana mountains to the buzzing town squares packed with bars and restaurants and finally to the sophisticated island capital of Palma. Next time I’d love to go back with for a driving holiday to explore even more of the hidden charms of Mallorca away from the coast. For me those mountain paths and quiet villages feel like the real Mallorca.

Read about the first part of our walk on the Dry Stone Route here

If you’d like to walk the Dry Stone Route

Trekking in Mallorca GR221 guide

Click to buy on Amazon

If you plan to walk the GR221 Dry Stone Route I recommend the guide book that we used Trekking through Mallorca – GR221 The Dry Stone Route by Paddy Dillon published by Cicerone.

To get to Palma airport from the centre of Palma we took the airport bus No 1 which runs every 15 minutes from Placa d’Espana where the train and bus station are located. Cost around €3 one way.

Information on routes, timetables and costs of the excellent regular bus service throughout Mallorca, visit the www.tib.org Mallorca Transport website. We used the bus to get from Palma to Deia, from Cuber to Lluc and from Pollenca to Palma.

You can buy the rather uncomplimentary account of Mallorca “A Winter in Mallorca” written by George Sand about the winter she spent there with her lover, the composer Frederick Chopin.

On this part of the route we stayed at Santuari de Lluc and Hotel Sis Pins in Port de Pollenca

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Sir Francis Drake and the Rembrandt Selfie – at Buckland Abbey in Devon

Sir Francis Drake was born on a farm just a few miles from Buckland Abbey in Devon, a National Trust property that we visited while staying for the weekend at the Moorland Garden Hotel. From modest beginnings, ‘El Draco’ had grown up to become a buccaneer (that’s a polite word for pirate), great Elizabethan naval commander and scourge of the Spanish Empire in Central America where he attacked their ships and stole their gold at every opportunity.

Sir Francis Drake & the Rembrandt Selfie at Buckland Abbey Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sir Francis Drake & the Rembrandt Selfie at Buckland Abbey

Since Queen Elizabeth I was one of his backers, she was thrilled when Drake returned to England in 1580 with his ship, the Golden Hind, laden with Spanish treasure, of which she would take the lion’s share. Drake was knighted as a reward and bought Buckland Abbey with just a small part of his bounty, adopting as his motto ‘Sic Parvis Magna’ – from small beginnings come great things.

Figures of Sir Francis Drake and Queen Elizabeth I at Buckland Abbey Photo: Heatheronhertravels

Figures of Sir Francis Drake and Queen Elizabeth I at Buckland Abbey

Buckland Abbey’s more recent claim to fame is the Rembrandt self-portrait which came to the property in 2010 as a legacy. Until recently the painting was thought to be a portrait of the artist by one of his pupils or a copy of one of his originals. A visit by the Rembrandt expert, Professor Ernst van de Wetering, prompted a reconsideration of the painting and investigations started to see if it could be a genuine self-portrait.

The now confirmed Rembrandt ‘Selfie’ is housed in a ground floor exhibition room at the abbey, with fascinating information about all the detective work that went into establishing that it was the real thing. The portrait has an element of the dressing up box about it, with the artist in a flamboyant cap with ostrich feather, flowing velvet cape and gold chain, using the ‘Tronie’ style of Dutch painting in which people were portrayed as historic or mythological characters.

The Rembrandt self-portrait at Buckland Abbey in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels

The Rembrandt self-portrait at Buckland Abbey in Devon

We watched a video explaining the reasons that the portrait was agreed by art experts to be genuine, such as the fact that the signature had been made when the rest of the paint was still wet, rather than added afterwards. It also appears to have been written rather carelessly, with the artist running out of space so that he left off the D in his name, something you might not dare do if you were a forger.

Xrays and infra-red photography showed how the shape of the figure was blocked out on the canvas, which was a typical technique Rembrandt used and an analysis of the pigments showed they were consistent for the period.

After painstaking research, analysis and cleaning, the self-portrait was found to be genuine and now takes pride of pace in the centre of the exhibition room, where you can see the back with original labels and markings, as well as the front.

View from the Great Barn at Buckland Abbey Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View from the Great Barn at Buckland Abbey

On arrival at Buckland Abbey we walked down into the Ox Yard, where old farm buildings now house craft workshops and a room where you can see a video about Sir Francis Drake. The shop and restaurant are in what was once the old monastic guest house.

Buckland Abbey was, as the name suggests, originally founded in 1273 as a monastery by Amicia, the Countess of Devon, in memory of her son who had been murdered.  She endowed the monastery and large estates in Devon to the Cistercian order who divided their time between spiritual devotions and agricultural labours, especially sheep farming.

The Great Barn, which sits right beside the main house, was built at this time and is one of the largest of the period with oak roof beams arching 60 feet above you as you enter. It was built to store the farm produce, its sheer size indicating the wealth and productivity of the abbey estates and is often used for workshops and events like carol singing at Christmas.

Since we were there in the late autumn, we found that apples from the estate were being pressed to make cider, the group of volunteers only taking up a small space of the huge barn.

Cider making in the Great Barn at Buckland Abbey, Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cider making in the Great Barn at Buckland Abbey, Devon

After King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the abbey buildings and estate were sold to Sir Richard Grenville whose heirs converted the monastic buildings including the church into a private home. Sir Francis Drake moved to Buckland in 1582, the same year he became Mayor of Plymouth aged 39, already famous for his 3 year circumnavigation of the world and his exploits in the New World.

Statue of Sir Francis Drake at Buckland Abbey in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels

Statue of Sir Francis Drake at Buckland Abbey in Devon

We enjoyed a look around the various galleries in the house where portraits and objects from the house’s history are on display. Pride of place in the Treasures Gallery on the first floor is taken by Drake’s Drum, which he took on his naval voyages and is said to sound whenever England is in danger. To the side of this main display room was the oak panelled Drake’s Chamber, filled with oak furniture and portraits of the period, just as it might have looked in Drake’s day.

Drake's Drum at Buckland Abbey, Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Drake’s Drum at Buckland Abbey, Devon

Along the corridor we moved on 200 years as we walked into the Georgian Dining Room, while up the stairs to the top floor was the Long Gallery, dominated by a huge statue of Sir Francis Drake. This long, open space was used in Tudor times for the inhabitants to get some indoor exercise and we found information about life on board the ships that Drake might have sailed and the lives of the Cistercian monks.

Buckland Abbey in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Buckland Abbey in Devon

Back on the ground floor were the Tudor kitchens, laid out with 18th century cooking utensils and foods as if preparing for the dinner party upstairs. The final part of the tour was through the Great Hall, created in 1576 by Sir Richard Grenville when he converted the monastery into a house. Apparently the nave of the old church where the monks were buried sits under the pink and white tiled floor of the Great Hall.

Gardens at Buckland Abbey in Devon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Gardens at Buckland Abbey in Devon

Our tour finished, we came out of the house and back into the beautiful formal gardens, inspired by Tudor knot hedges filled with roses and a small orchard of apple trees. If we’d had more time, we could also have taken a walk around the Buckland Abbey estate through the great deer park and woodland where wild garlic and bluebells bloom in the spring.

If you are on the western edge of Dartmoor visiting Tavistock or Plymouth, do stop in to Buckland Abbey for a big slice of Devon’s history and to find more about Sir Francis Drake and the Rembrandt selfie.

If you go: Buckland Abbey, Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6EY, Tel: 01822 853607
Closed in January, re-opens 14 February 2015. Open daily 11-4 in winter, 10:30-5:30 in spring/summer. Admission Adult £11, Child £5.50. (check website for more details) Follow on Social Media: Twitter @BucklandAbbeyNT | Facebook | Instagram |Thanks to the National Trust who gave Heather and Guy complimentary admission to Buckland Abbey.

Where to stay:

Moorland Garden HotelHeather and Guy stayed at Moorland Garden Hotel which is close by at Yelverton – read my review here. The hotel is an ideal base for those wanting to explore the area for walking on Dartmoor or to visit the Ocean City of Plymouth. The rooms are all decorated in colourful style using a garden and moorland theme and the award winning Wildflower restaurant is highly recommend for lunch, dinner or cream teas overlooking the lawns.

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