Some things are a matter of life and death, but chocolate is even more important than that. In France chocolate is an all-consuming passion and the ‘maitre chocolatier’ – the master chocolate maker – is revered. With good reason for, after wine, chocolate is perhaps France’s greatest art form.
Burgundy is no exception. Young couples often choose a chocolate confection of some sort rather than a wedding cake. Rarely a day goes by on Le Papillion when it doesn’t appear somewhere on the menu. Early morning, when there has been a clear night sky and the sun is not quite high enough to dispel the dawn chill, ‘un chocolat chaud’ (or hot chocolate) in the village café can be an absolute life-saver.
But Burgundy is also famous for another sort of ‘Chocolat’. We’re talking about the film of the book by Joanne Harris, about a young mother, Vianne Rocher (played by Juliette Binoche), who arrives at the fictional, repressed French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes with her illegitimate six-year-old daughter. She opens La Chocolaterie Maya, a small chocolate shop, and her wares quickly begin to influence the lives of the townspeople in very different and interesting ways.
It’s an enthralling movie, full of humour, passion and compassion. The love interest is Johnny Depp (well, who else eh?), a travelling gypsy who also falls under the spell of Vianne’s confections. Naturally there is a villain, the local Mayor named Comte de Reynaud, who sees the love of chocolate as a weakness. It’s a boy meets girl over chocolate, girl loses boy, girl wants to leave town, Mayor rediscovers his love of chocolate, boy comes back, girl stays, locals happy, feelgood sort of movie.
All in all, it’s the complete Chocolate Opera (Willy Wonka eat your heart out – hmmm, that’s double chocolate movies for Jonnny Depp, anyone see a pattern emerging!). If you haven’t seen it, make a point of searching it out. If you have seen it then watch it again – preferably with a cup of hot chocolate, preferably laced with a nip of cognac.
Anyway, enough of the movies. Back in real life France the exciting thing is that the location for the silver-screen action was the village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, in the middle of Burgundy. It’s renowned as one of France’s prettiest villages and who are we to disagree. It is super-stunning to look at and, perhaps not surprisingly, a bevy of hostelries have set up and developed a very good business selling hot chocolate.
Whether chocolate or Chocolat, what’s not to like? Naturally, as consummate chocoholics, we visit Flavigny every week and we’d love to take you there! But, before we can, we need you to come and visit with us. Don’t leave it too long.