Just days after graduating from college, I jetted off for a 3-week solo trip to Great Britain and Ireland. There are many things I remember about that trip – the churches, the countryside jaunts, and wine – lots of it. But one thing that I will always remember was walking through the streets of Dublin, a city full of history, cobblestone streets, and chocolate.
Before arriving in Dublin, I had three goals in mind – 1) to view the Book of Kells at Trinity College, 2) to walk down the famous Grafton street, and 3) to buy something, anything authentically Irish.
My first objective fell short. The walk to the Book of Kells location, although beautifully medieval, was along a cobblestone path – not very friendly to the pointy-toed pumps I was wearing at the time. Grafton street proved to be a much gentler walk for my weary ankles and shoes, and it also led me to reach my third goal. Ambling on Grafton, I stepped into several clothing shops hoping to find something fun to bring back home to the states. I vividly remember wanting to try on a shirt in a trendy store, at which point the sales girl pointed me towards a communal changing room with at least 10 other girls changing their clothes in front of each other. Hmm…I think I’ll pass. I experienced this local retail custom in another store down the street and decided I should start looking for a nice Irish scarf or hat to take home.
Purveyors of Chocolate Happiness
As I continued my search for the perfect Irish souvenir, I came across a lovely chocolate shop that beckoned my presence. I am not one to resist chocolate and quickly found myself inside the sweet-smelling shop. As fate would have it, I had just walked through the doors of one of Ireland’s most popular chocolate shops – Butlers Chocolates – the so-called purveyors of happiness.
I marveled over the boxes and rows of chocolates before me and was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know what I wanted but I knew I was not leaving that shop empty-handed. A little old man behind the counter seemed to sense my temporary anxiety in choosing the right chocolate. He suggested I try their signature milk chocolate. Although he was old enough to be my grandfather, his voice had such an Irish accent that I could have melted right there on the spot along with the chocolate he handed me. I ended up buying 2 or 3 chocolate bars, explaining that I wanted to take them home as gifts and a personal souvenir. He gave me a smile and what I thought was a quick wink.
I held onto those chocolate bars for the next few hours, proud of myself for buying my edible, yet authentic, Irish mementos. But good intentions fade when chocolate is involved. By the end of my trip, the only chocolate souvenirs I had to show were the Product of Ireland wrappers and sweet and satisfying smile on my face. I realized then why my little Irish chocolate man gave me a sly wink. I think he knew that no good chocolate can remain untouched for too long.
Years later, I learned that several stores near my house sell Butlers Chocolates. Although expensive, I indulge in this authentic Irish treat every now and again. And when I do, I smile – because for a moment, I’m taken back to the quaint chocolate shop on Grafton Street and the little Irish man behind the counter.