The best places in life are the ones where we spent time with a loved one or experienced something new or extraordinary. During my childhood in Germany, we shopped in small bakeries and cheese shops, visited the butcher for meat, and perused specialty stores from clothing to crystal. These were just ordinary experiences to me, but now after living in the States for many years and shopping in large conglomerants like Walmart and mega malls, these memories are very special to me. So when we headed to Montreal for the second time, it wasn’t the underground mall, 6 pound lobster at Chaval or the sweeping panaramic views from St. Joseph’s Observatory that I was looking forward to. It was a little basement chocolate shop, Chocolaterie Suisse on Crescent Street, that stole my heart and revived my memories from childhood.
The yellow sign with the swiss emblem was the first to greet us and lure us away from the street, past the picture window and down the short flight of stairs into the shop. Memories of the little gummi basement shop a few blocks from my house in Heidelberg flooded my brain while the aroma of warm dark chocolate draped over me like a a comforting quilt. The space was filled with everything associated with Switzerland and Germany; pendelum clocks, music boxes that doubled as jewelry chests, Steiff teddy bears, glowering nutcrackers, collectible miniature cars, and the wood carved cuckoo clocks with tiny figurines dancing in a circle on the hour every hour.
The owner was the cherry on the cake. Germans and Swiss are known for their brash and abruptive ways, but really it’s decisiveness. He was definitely Germanic- Swiss, know what you want, he doesn’t have the patience to humor indecisiveness. Tom ordered the Mexican hot chocolate while I stayed nostalgic with the Belgian.
While we waited, we examined the collection of candies with the familiar chocolate brands of Toblerone, Ritter Sport, and Milka, plus many others that were new to me. A long display case filled with dozens of chocolate truffles mesmerized my eyes and tastebuds.
Our hot chocolates were perfect for this cold winter day. Usually when I travel, I want to experience something new, but today, it was reliving the past that made the day so special.