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The City of Chocolate

From the book Travelers' Tales Paris.

Strolling hand in hand along the Seine as the evening lights twinkle. Gazing into each other’s eyes over a glass of heady red wine. Licking each other’s fingers as buttery croissants flake all over the bed. Paris, for lovers, can be all those things, but for me, it will always be the place where my kid sister fell head-over-heels – for chocolate.

Emily was sweet 17 and I, her guide, was a worldly 24 when we arrived that summer in Paris. The first morning in our little hotel near the Luxembourg Gardens, we woke to a rap-rap-rapping and a voice singsonging, “Bonjour.” Emily opened the door and brought in the breakfast tray that I had ordered the night before. A crusty baguette with fruity jam, strong milky café au lait for me, and for Emily, the drink that would change her life. When she lifted the white china bowl to her lips and took her first sip of that steamy, creamy chocolat chaud, she knew that she had found true love.

Emily had tasted hot chocolate before, of course. Even at her tender age, she was well on her way to becoming a confirmed chocoholic. But somehow, in Paris, the chocolate was richer, unexpectedly different, like the gangly boy next door you’ve known all your life, who suddenly catches your eye and he’s become a strikingly handsome man.

Every night, my sister curled up in her bed and talked about her new amour, its smells, its look, its feel in her mouth, shivering with anticipation about her next encounter. She bounded out of bed when she heard the morning tap on our door, scooping her bowl off the tray with both hands. She held it up to her nose to let the warm, moist sweetness circle her face. “Ah,” she sighed. “Chocolate…”

I’ve been back to Paris several times now. I’ve walked with my husband along the Seine. We’ve sipped red wine by night and savored buttery croissants as the morning sun peeked across our bed. Emily is grown-up now, too, a sophisticated New Yorker with a husband of her own. But I know she still remembers that tender early love. And as the matchmaker who paired her with that special first amour, I will always remember Paris as the City of Chocolate.