No such thing: “The best place to visit”

Now that I’ve come back to the United Stated permanently, I’ve spent a lot of time explaining to people where I’ve been and why I ask so seemingly inane questions (“How long ago was it when the flu shot needles changed to these things?” “What is the sales tax again?” “Are those parking rules new?” “When did you change your menu?” “You don’t accept these frequent drink punch cards anymore?”). Inevitably, a lot of people ask me “where’s the best place to go?”

Whew. Where do I start? There is no such thing. At least for me. Some people may fall in love with a particular place. Many do, and continue to purchase vacation or retirement homes in those locations. But I’m not that person. I want to see as much of the world as possible. It takes a lot to convince me to revisit a place when there are other places I want to explore. My philosophy is that no matter how poor or different each place is, there is some inherent beauty to it and I always find those features. There is a top destinations list, but each made it to that list for a very different reason.

The worst part about that question is each person’s idea of vacation is different. So many people want to lounge by the beach and go no further than 10 feet from bedroom to beach. I hate it. To me, I can’t imagine a more boring and expensive way to blow through a budget. I pounce through places like Myanmar and Egypt. I don’t define exotic by palm trees and sand. The poorer the country, the more intriguing to me. My to-do list includes Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet. So to ask me to make a recommendation to a beach-goer is asking for a disaster.

I do realize I travel so much more than an average person, regardless of nationality. I do have so much more experience in a large variety of destinations. I realize that knowledge alone is precious. I continue to travel a lot, even domestically. I have so much more freedom and time in taking off somewhere than a majority of my peers. So, when you ask me “Where is the best place to go for vacation”.. be ready to sit down for a good 20 minutes while I drill you on your preferences before getting around to answer your question.

My Favourite Things: Chocolate

I love chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate bars from the supermarket anymore. I go to specialty chocolate stores for my fix.

My favourites, hands down, anywhere in the world:

Chocolate makers:

Chocolate by The Shop, Phnom Penh. Who would have imagined there’s be a specialty chocolate shop in Cambodia and that it is really really really good?? It is so good that I bought boxes of them whenever I was in town to gift. The fact that it is easy on the pocket was a huge bonus. Expensive for Cambodian standard of living, but extremely reasonable for the American snob. My favourites are the dark, the white, and the passion fruit pralines. They just melt in your mouth, those chocolates, but somehow with being made in a humid climate, they don’t melt on the way home. Women talk about craving chocolate all the time; when was the last time you heard a man say so? I got my male colleagues hooked and they go for their fix as well!

Recchiuti Confections. I schedule flight layovers in San Francisco just to buy their chocolates. Pricey, but so worth every penny!! A lot of chocolate makers mix in unusual flavors- salt, pepper and cinnamon, rose, etc- but more often than not, the flavors aren’t blended into the chocolate and leaves a jarring taste in my mouth. This one has figured out how to fix that. No matter what flavour, it melts smoothly.

Hot Chocolate: 

Not to be confused with neighbouring Serendipity Cafe’s celebrity frozen hot chocolate, my favorite hot chocolate either order in or to take back home to brew myself is Dylan’s Candy Bar hot chocolate. Actual chocolate shavings melted in hot milk. Sadly, I haven’t been able to purchase any online lately. But should any be available, highly recommend you purchase some, after I have my turn..

Countries:

Belgium. Hands down. Don’t bother with the brands or the pre-packaged stuff. Just go to the mom and pop shops that have their various truffles laid out for you to admire. I would stop by a store each day, a different one as there is one every single block, and get a sampling of different flavors. That would be my chocolate intake for the entire day.

Switzerland. But, like Belgium, don’t go to the mass producers. The specialty shops are pricey, but often crowded. That should tell you something.

Just Chocolate in general:

CoCo Sala is the biggest chick pit in DC. It has got to be. Every time I go, the place is packed with women. The few men there who are not staff tend to be boyfriends/husbands humoring their lady’s desire. Their chocolate-inspired menu has changed considerably since their opening, but that’s the nature of a surviving restaurant/bar/lounge.