29 March 2013

Chocolaterie Courtin

Like Christmas, Easter brings out the chocoholics here! Every store is brimming with bunnies and eggs and that mysterious flying bell (See below for the story of the flying bells!)!! The smell of chocolate permeates the stores where a huge section is dedicated to every type, shape and brand of chocolate.

Luckily for us, we chose to visit one of our favorite chocolatiers on Thursday of Holy Week.  We could tell from the intense work ongoing that they were going to be unbelievably busy on Friday and Saturday for Easter.

Chocolaterie Courtin is nestled in a tiny courtyard in the medieval village of Sommieres, France. (Sommieres Office of Tourism) The village itself is worth a trip for the Saturday market which rates as one of our all time favorites.  Unfortunately the world agrees so we limit ourselves to the non-summer months only.

The chocolate shop is so tiny and charming with its ancient stone walls and wood floors.  The Courtin family has created amazing little bites of paradise since 1963.  We normally just stop in for a treat at the end of our market shopping, but we visited Monsieur Courtin at Halloween this last year to find gifts for some lucky friends back in the US.  We were so fortunate that the store had only a few customers before us and Monsieur Courtin was more than happy to explain to us why his chocolates were so sublime.  We spent an unforgettable afternoon as he walked us through his methods and philosophies on chocolate.  The experience was not unlike a visit to a small winery.  His evident pride and passion for his art infused us with a new appreciation for the artisanal chocolates.

This time we were not so fortunate.  The tiny shop was to the brim with racks of chocolates and customers and workers.  We had never seen it so abuzz with activity.  Nonetheless, after patiently waiting our turn all the while breathing in deeply the heady deep clouds of rich chocolate,  Monsieur Courtin's daughter gave us her undivided and unrushed attention as she helped us to choose the perfect mix of chocolates.  She took special delight in sharing samples of their white chocolate infused with their award winning caramel which surprised me with the creaminess and perfect balance of flavors.  She happily offered a sack of the candies as her gift to us.


One of my favorite traditional French stories is about the Cloches Volants or Flying Bells.
From about the 12th century, it has been customary to silence the bells on Good Friday in acknowledgment of the death of Jesus.
Legend has it that on Good Friday, the bells of every church in France fly to Rome, carrying with them the grief of those who mourn Jesus' crucifixion on that day. In keeping with the tradition, French church bells do not ring from Good Friday to Easter Sunday morning when the bells are said to return. The sound of the bells on Easter Sunday morning heralds the celebration of the Resurrection, declaring that Jesus is alive again. In some villages, people kiss and embrace each other when they hear the bells ring again.
The Easter bells (les cloches de Pâques) are believed to bring with them Easter eggs, chocolates and other treats. Lolly shops sell chocolate flying bells alongside Easter eggs and bunnies.

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