One early spring Saturday afternoon, we pointed our family car toward the center of Mons. We’d heard that the locals were going to the Chocolate Festival, and that the Americans who live around Mons were going, so we decided that it was probably the place to be. The Grand Place was looking lively with chatting groups and passers through (including a troupe of steampunk goths), and it provided a nice space for my kids to get their wiggles out before heading down Rue du Chausée into the booth area. Strolling through the historic center of the city afforded charming views when the sun peeked out.
There was a pleasant ratio of street space to crowd to chocolate booths—I was entertained but not overwhelmed by the clamor and displays. On offer were not only variety after variety of chocolate, but also pies, convincing chocolate “salami”, artisanal gummies including chocolate-gummy sandwiches!, all manner of macaroons, cake pops, and even macaroon pops. Easter, still a few weeks away, dominated much of the merchandise; chocolate bunnies, eggs, and colorful baskets and candy bouquets caught every drooling child’s eye. And finally, in salute to the area’s mining heritage, one could buy a coal car full of chocolate.
Most booths offered samples; I was finally able to satisfy my curiosity by trying lavender-flavored chocolate. I’d seen it before but quite frankly not been willing to spend money on the risk. Here I was able to taste freely and decide that, in fact, my skepticism had been correct.
At the center of the festival was an enormous chocolate cake, cut by 6 chefs and distributed to all interested onlookers. It was well worth the calories! Alongside it was an impressive all-chocolate model of Mons’ 17th century belfry, a local UNESCO World Heritage site.
Of course there was the added benefit of strolling by all of the open shops, which provided an opportunity for even more exploration–my European euphemism for “shopping”–and also shelter from the spring showers. My daughter made off with a new Easter dress from a boutique. (My son had to make do with a session of peekaboo with a gregarious 6-foot-tall Easter bunny.)
It was an enjoyable afternoon, giving us another window through which to see this always fun, sometimes quirky, and unfailingly tasty country we call home.
La fête du chocolat happens every spring in Mons. Admission is free.