pure perfection in Puyricard, Provence

It was a bit of a challenge getting there (we’d taken the wrong train from Paris, received no help whatsoever from the staff on the TGV — French fast train) … but eventually we made our way to the south of France and away from the big-city fast pace of the City of Lights. Our lovely Eurail journey took us through Lyon, Orange, Avignon and past Arles. And the scenery was lovely. But we finally arrived in Aix-en-Provence, the trendy village where we were being picked up by a new friend.

Mary moved to France about 30 years ago after falling in love with a Frenchman. She was from my hometown of Winnipeg, Canada and had come to Aix to study French. I had never met her before, but she was a friend of a friend. We had made contact via e-mail, and without solicitation, she had invited Kathe and me to come and stay with her and her family for a few days. Once a Winnipegger, always a Winnipegger. We are known for our friendly, welcoming personalities.

puyricard-france

Puyricard, France is a tiny village in the Province region of France.

puyricard france

Mary and her family live in the tiny village of Puyricard, in the province of Provence. What was really amazing is that their property shares a boundary with the Puyricard chocolate factory, the main purpose of our trip to the south of France.

Unless you live or travel in France extensively, it is unlikely that you have heard of Puyricard. Unless you are a chocolate connoisseur. I had been told by two different friends in Canada that if I was going to France in search of good chocolate, I absolutely had to check out Puyricard. Many believe they are one of the best chocolatiers in the world — or certainly in the Top 10.

puyricard chocolate

Don’t be confused. Puyricard is the name of a tiny village with very limited services. But it is also the place where Puyricard Chocolatier Confiseur en Provence has a factory where it has been hand producing (with a minimal amount of automation) its delicious chocolate and confectionaries since 1967 to stock its 20 locations.

North American lovers of fine chocolate will be happy to learn that Puyricard will be selling its wonderful wares via an exclusive new online club.

The chocolate of each European country is exquisite in its own way. I loved the smoothness of the Belgian chocolate and the passion and creativity of its chocolatiers. I loved the pride and ingenuity the Swiss have taken to maintain their position as leaders in the world of chocolate. And I loved the purity of perfection found in the chocolate of Puyricard, France.

The French are indeed purists when it comes to chocolate. The dark chocolate is unadulterated. It is pure perfection and they are ultimately proud of this. It stands in a class of its own. But it is not for everyone. It is less sweet than most other chocolate. It is less fancy — although the packaging is certainly among the fanciest I have seen. And it is wonderful.

puyricard-chocolate

Puyricard Chocolaterie in Puyricard, France, is a great place to discover chocolate in Provence.

It is no surprise that I judge a place by its chocolate. I am a chocolate enthusiast, a chocolate adventurist, a self-professed chocoholic — and proud of it.  Hardly a day goes by that I am not indulging in some way.

So it is no wonder that I liked the simplicity of the village of Puyricard and its proximity to all that is wonderful about Provence. We enjoyed drinks on the promenade in Aix, lined with lovely shops and cafes. Aix-en-Provence is probably most famous as being the birthplace of world-renown artist, Cezanne in 1839. It is a lovely place to chill-out and enjoy life away from the rat race. And it is just minutes from Puyricard.

We spent a day in Marseilles, and for someone who loves the sea as I do, it was a pleasure to stroll along the pier, smell the fresh fish being offered by the fishermen, and end up at Le Collins Brasserie, an outdoor cafe on the Quai du Port where we enjoyed plump mussels (moules et frites) expertly prepared and a salad “Exotique” featuring caviar, shrimp, avocado and other tasty delicacies.

marseilles-france

We loved indulging in Marseilles, France.

A highlight of our trip to Marseilles was a visit to Notre Dame de la Garde Basilique. This church is still used for Sunday masses, and although not religious, I was awed by the magnificence and purity of this place of worship. It is set high on a cliff overlooking the port and blueness of the Gulf of Lion. One down side: be prepared to be knocked off your feet by the smell of urine emanating from the men’s washroom (which is next to the women’s washroom.) It was so bad at the time of our visit that I would highly recommend not using the facilities if you can avoid it. But overall, the basilica is well worth the trip.

marseilles-france

The Notre Dame de la Garde Basilique is an amazing place to visit in Marseilles, France.

marseilles-france

 

I wish we had had more time in Provence, but we enjoyed our time there, met some new friends, saw some amazing sights and were refreshed for our visit to Switzerland.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

10 Responses

  1. wizardofwords says:

    I just came across this terrific article (with photo gallery) on Marseilles in the Washington Post. Anyone interested in this area might want to check it out at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2010/12/17/ST2010121703735.html?wpisrc=nl_travel

    Enjoy!

  2. wizardofwords says:

    Lucky you, for going back to Aix and Puyricard, Nathalie! I love both the villages — and the chocolate! Enjoy!

  3. Nathalie K says:

    Hi again. I'll be sharing this blog post with my friends at IAE-Aix en Provence, a university based in Puyricard.

    I'll be there at the end of March and again, to teach another course at the end of April. You're so right about the wonderful chocolate there! Ummm. Will make sure I stop by the chocolate shop when I'm there.

    Am certainly savoring chocolate more now that I've followed your chocolatour stories! Thanks Doreen!

  4. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for the kind comments, Christine. I hope to share much more about the great chocolate of the world with you via this blog, but of course, will be saving the best and most succulent info for my upcoming book on chocolate. Stay tuned for more, as in the next few days I'll be blogging about some great chocolate discoveries I made in Vegas this week.

  5. Christine Peets says:

    I totally agree that a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine. In winter, with less sunshine, we need more chocolate. Thanks for introducing to some of the world's best. Your photos really tell so much of the story, but it's your storytelling that compels me to keep reading. You also inspire me to want to write-and-travel-and write.

  6. Lori says:

    How could anyone resist to such recommendations? And sweets? 🙂 Very interesting post and a must see in the future 😉

  7. wizardofwords says:

    You have willpower, my dear! I couldn't resist the incredible "Mendiants" from the Puyricard collection, and alas … they are all now gone. Devoured with great satisfaction and passion.

    Thanks again for your comments, and for sharing this amazing journey with me.

  8. Kathe Lieber says:

    Ah, yes, Provence. Such fond memories. I just wish we'd had more time to explore, especially Aix, Avignon and Arles – and that's just the A's!

    What a stroke of luck that our new friends live right next door to one of the best chocolatiers in the world. Imagine going out the kitchen door, across the field… and there we were in the chocolaterie. After five weeks back, a lot of the other chocolate has, er, evaporated, but the beautiful "ballotin" from Puyricard is still waiting tantalizingly in my wine fridge.

  9. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for the comment, Grace — and for being so kind with regard to my figure! I eat mostly deep, dark chocolate, which as you know has fewer calories than the milk chocolate and far fewer calories than white chocolate. A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine. I don't like either!

  10. Grace Cherian says:

    Hi Doreen,

    What a trip! One question: You indulge in chocolate at least once a day? How do you stay so slim?

    Grace

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