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Travel Picks: Top 10 up-and-coming gay wedding destinations

A slew of countries and states have recently voted to legalize same-sex marriage, which means new gay and lesbian wedding destinations are popping up around the world. Some of the latest locales to honor gay marriage are also some of the most picturesque and romantic places for couples to exchange vows. That’s why online travel advisor ( has come up with its list of the Top 10 up-and-coming gay wedding destinations. Reuters has not endorsed this list: 1. Newport, R.I., United States

Rounding out the northeast corner of the United States, Rhode Island became the final New England state to legalize gay marriage with same-sex weddings expected to start in August. Situated along the state’s 400 miles of coastline about an hour south of Boston, Newport, R.I. gives couples looking to book a summer wedding the chance to declare their love against a backdrop of spectacular beach scenery. With a lively downtown area, a stretch of famous mansions that once played summer hosts to wealthy families and three vineyards to visit, this resort town caters to out-of-towners making it an ideal warm-weather wedding destination. 2. Queenstown, New Zealand

Gay marriage won’t officially become legal in New Zealand until August 2013, but Kiwis are already prepping for an influx of tourism from same-sex couples, specifically those hailing from their neighbor to the north,Australia. New Zealand will become the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to officially legalize same-sex marriage, which means gay and lesbian couples will now be able to exchange vows in places like Queenstown. Already one of New Zealand’s most desirable wedding destinations, Queenstown is a four-season town offering spring flowers, summer warmth, fall foliage and a winter wonderland. Indoor and outdoor wedding venues are plentiful and its reputation as a resort destination means it’s accessible and ready for plenty of visitors — including wedding guests. 3. Montpellier, France

Often dubbed France’s unofficial capital of gay culture, Montpellier offers couples a beautiful wedding destination on the southern shore of this romantic European country. Situated along the Mediterranean Sea in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Montpellier has a vibrant arts scene and a young vibe. From wandering among medieval architecture to taking in a show, couples and wedding guests won’t be at a loss for cultural experiences here. The city’s sunny, Mediterranean climate and its proximity to some of France’s finest vineyards don’t hurt either. 4. Copenhagen, Denmark

While Denmark previously allowed short blessing ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples, the country made formal church weddings available to same-sex partners last year. The capital city of Copenhagen is teeming with history and romantic scenery. Plenty of canals, parks and narrow streets give the city an intimate feel for couples looking for a more private affair. Award-winning restaurants are turning Copenhagen into a respected foodie destination and the beer scene is booming with microbreweries popping up across the city. With one of the highest numbers of restaurants and bars per capita in the world and watering holes that often stay open until 5 or 6 a.m., couples won’t be at a loss when it comes to taking the celebrations into the wee hours of the morning. 5. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gay marriage is only legal in some parts of Brazil, but the state of Rio de Janeiro officially invited gay and lesbian couples to walk down the aisle inside its borders this year. The people here know how to celebrate. Known for its colorful carnival festivities, mountainous scenery and famous landmarks like Ipanema Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue (one of the New Seven Wonders of the World) atop Corcovado Mountain, Rio de Janeiro offers plenty of experiences for wedding guests. And you can be sure they’re prepared to host a wedding celebration; after all, the city is preparing to play host to athletes and spectators from around the world during the 2016 Olympic Games. 6. Camden, Maine, United States

When gay marriage became legal in Maine in December 2012, 14 same-sex couples flocked to Portland’s City Hall to get marriage licenses — five of those couples married on the spot. For those looking to host a larger, less spontaneous celebration it’s worth traveling about an hour and a half north by car to Camden. This affluent coastal town sits on Penobscot Bay along the Pine Tree State’s 3,478 miles (more than California) of picturesque coastline — a romantic scene for any summer wedding celebration. Guests will have a chance to connect with nature at Camden Hills State Park, which features 5,500 acres of trails, picnic spots and lookouts delivering beautiful views. Friendly people, plenty of bed and breakfast inns and an open-arms type of hospitality make Camden a popular tourist spot. From casual clambakes to more formal affairs, weddings run the gamut in Camden, offering couples many venues to choose from (an amphitheater, anyone?) and the chance to set whatever tone they want for their celebration. 7. Montevideo, Uruguay

Same-sex marriages are expected to start in July in Uruguay, 90 days after the law is promulgated. With a relaxed atmosphere and beloved beaches, this South American country offers plenty of sights and activities for wedding guests. Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, where celebrations broke out following the vote this spring and street parades are a regular occurrence, is a laid back port city featuring picturesque beaches, captivating colonial architecture and a lively nightlife scene — a perfect place for couples to relax and celebrate. The country is relatively small, making Montevideo an easy jumping-off point for day trips — a helpful feature for guests traveling from a distance and looking to explore. Trek to the southwestern area of the country to see Colonia del Sacramento’s historic district — a UNESCO World Heritage site. 8. Rehoboth Beach, Del., United States

A long-time summer tourist hot spot and gay friendly beach town, Rohoboth Beach takes couples and wedding guests back in time. Complete with a boardwalk and an amusement park, this seaside locale gives the feeling of stepping into an old-fashioned summer vacation — an interesting juxtaposition to the state’s more progressive adoption of gay marriage. The first gay and lesbian couples will be allowed to marry in Delaware this summer and Rohoboth Beach is one of the state’s most popular summer vacation destinations. Located only a few hours away from major U.S. cities like Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Rehoboth Beach features plenty of restaurants, places to stay, golf courses and even tax-free shopping for those last-minute wedding necessities. 9. Saba, Dutch Caribbean

The number of tourists flocking to this tiny island in the Dutch Caribbean has increased dramatically since gay marriage was legalized here last year. Though the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage, officials gave the country’s islands some added time to integrate the law. But Saba has long been considered a gay-friendly destination — an approach that paved the way for its newfound popularity as a hot spot for gay and lesbian weddings. Secluded and peaceful, the island is known for its scuba diving, hiking, nature experiences and friendly people. Even though Saba is surprisingly lacking in beaches, it offers plenty for adventurous couples and any pair that wants to exchange vows away from the hustle and bustle. 10. Seattle, Wash., United States The state of Washington voted to make gay marriage legal at the end of 2012 (Diablo 3 Gold Kaufen ), opening up the city of Seattle as a gay wedding destination. Foodies can get their fill at Pike’s Place Market (don’t wear good clothes — you’ll have to experience catching a fresh fish from a fishmonger!) and the original Starbucks coffee house. There are plenty of neighborhoods to explore — each has its own personality — and a trip to the top of the city’s iconic Space Needle is also a must for couples and wedding guests alike. Same-sex couples who journey to Seattle to exchange vows may have to contend with the city’s notoriously high amount of rainfall, but they’ll celebrate surrounded by Puget Sound and beautiful mountain ranges.

Travel agent Jimmy flew bookies, lands in Ahmedabad cops’ net

Big fish like bookies Jitu Tharad and Dinesh Khambat may have eluded the Delhi police special branch. But the latter has managed to net Jimmy, not so small a fish either. A travel agent based in Ahmedabad, he was allegedly involved in booking a majority of air tickets of almost all the bookies like Ramesh Vyas, Chandresh, Jitu Tharad and a few others. And, the money was easily transferred to Jimmy through the Hawala route.

Sources in the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) confirmed that Jimmy was nabbed from the city and handed over to the Delhi police for his alleged role in booking tickets for bookies.

Jimmy, police believe, has the potential to turn into a key witness as he was familiar with the bookies and their travel plans during IPL 6. DCB sleuths arrested Jimmy from his hideout on Monday and handed him over to the Delhi police, which had sought their help to nab him.

Sources said Jimmy used to book tickets on the basis of just a call. “It has been found that he had booked many domestic and international tickets in lieu of a heavy commission,” a police source told dna.

Police found that the bookies had a busy schedule during the IPL 6 season and had to travel, most of the time unplanned, from one city to another. “All they did was to call Jimmy, who took the pain to make all the arrangements in both cities,” a police source said.

Police had also found that it was easier for the bookies to book the tickets from Ahmedabad compared to any other city as the Hawala transaction here is far easier and safer than elsewhere. “He used to book the tickets through credit cards and getting the cash through Hawala,” said a source.

Jimmy, according to police sources, could prove to be a vital witness to nail people associated with the bookies, their travel plans and their connection with S Sreesanth, Vindoo Dara Singh and others as they were also using Vyas’s network to book tickets. Vyas has already been arrested by the Delhi police.

Summer Travel Bargains, Available Now During Brief Buying ‘Sweet Spot’

Summer travel season is right around the corner but exciting travel opportunities are often limited by price. There are plenty of places to go, but they are often priced out of reach. Still, with some research and timing, summer travel bargains are out there right now. Why? Sellers of travel want occupancy and booking levels to be at a certain target number right about now. If the numbers are not where they want them to be, they bring on the discounts to shore up summer season bookings. Here are some we found as standout bargains.

Disney World, Discounted
Summer is usually a popular time to visit Florida’s Walt Disney World and this year is no exception. Many families have to do vacations during the summer, when kids are out of school, most often driving prices up. Still, with hotel capacity running a bit ahead of reservations, deals are out there. Savings of 30 percent on select Disney hotels on Disney property, free dining with a hotel and ticket package, and more can be found at Disney’sSpecial Offers webpage.

Hike the Blue Mountains in Jamaica
Strawberry Hill is offering guests 25 percent off rates for stays through October 31 with its”Discover the Blue Mountains” package. The three-night stay includes two hikes on Gordon Town Trail and Settlement Trail, daily breakfast, a fruit and cheese welcome amenity, dinner with a bottle of wine, daily Blackwell Rum cocktail and a spa treatment. Don’t come home without a pound or two of that Blue Mountain coffee.

Summer for Less at Nantucket Island Resorts– Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket Island Resorts is offering 30 percent off room rates at White Elephant Village, The Wauwinet and the White Elephant Hotel to guests who book five consecutive nights July 7-19. Rates start at $2,500 for five nights. Visit for more.

Pick A Cruise, Any Cruise
Practically every cruise line sailing has felt the sting of recent widely publicized events so prices have gone down. Some lines are advertising like never before, others have quietly justnot raised pricing as they might have normally done at this time of the year, choosing instead to go for maximized occupancy. Best deals can be found in the Mediterranean where prices can be as low as $75 per person, per day. Short Caribbean and Bahamas sailings are also showing fall-like pricing for summer sailings. That never happens.

Cheap Not Good Enough? How About Free?
Ultra-luxe cruise line Crystal Cruises is allowing kids ages 17 and under to sail free when sharing a third berth stateroom with two adults. Families can choose from seven- to 15-day voyages in the Mediterranean, Western Europe, North Cape, Baltic, British Isles, Canary Islands and across the Atlantic from May-December aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Book by June 28, 2013.

Take A Road Trip, You Will Not Be Alone
Compared to many summer travel options, a road trip is still a standout winner for budget-minded vacationers. A timely YP survey published in TravelPulse compared driving versus flying and found that Americans believe they have a greater flexibility in schedule (35 percent) and sight-seeing (33 percent) when driving vs. flying. They also liked having the ability to easily take more stuff with them (11 percent), avoiding crowds and security lines (9 percent), and the ability to more easily take pets (7 percent).

Arizona Memorial Day weekend travel to drop slightly

Memorial Day travel in Arizona is projected to dip slightly this year, according to AAA Arizona.

This weekend, which serves as the unofficial kickoff to the summer travel season, more than 701,000 Arizonans will head out of town, representing a 0.4 percent drop from last year.

AAA attributes the drop to a pullback in air travel. But auto travel will help bolster numbers.

“Memorial Day travel is a mixed bag this year,” said Amy Moreno, director of travel services for AAA Travel. “A decline in air travel has pulled overall travel down below year-ago levels, but auto travel remains strong and is up slightly. This is consistent with AAA booking trends for the year.”

In Arizona, nearly all projected travelers are expected to hop into an auto. More than 618,000, or 88 percent, of Memorial Day travelers plan to drive, which equates to a 0.4 percent increase from last year. With lower pump prices, drivers will be able to enjoy their three-day weekends a little bit more.

Arizonans will fill up for an average of $3.43 a gallon this holiday weekend, compared with $3.77 a year ago.

Up in the skies, 57,000 Arizonans will fly over Memorial Day, a drop of 6.3 percent from 2012.

For travelers headed in and out of town by air, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is offering 40 percent off on garage parking from May 23 to 30, which translates to $15 a day compared with the standard $25. Download the coupon at

The average round-trip distance Arizonans will travel this holiday is projected to be just over 800 miles, according to AAA. Nearly 50 percent of Arizonans, however, will travel 700 miles or fewer.

AAA says median spending this Memorial Day weekend is expected to be $730, 30 percent of which will go to food and beverage and another 20 percent to fuel. The remaining 50 percent will be doled out to accommodations (14 percent), entertainment (13 percent), shopping (10 percent), other transportation (7 percent) and miscellaneous costs.

Mark Hunt Receives Visa to Travel, Fight with Dos Santos on at UFC 160

The long wait for Mark Hunt to travel to the United States appears to finally be over and the heavyweight slugger should be on a plane either Sunday or Monday headed for Las Vegas to fight at UFC 160.

Hunt has been waiting for two weeks to receive his travel visa to be able to come to the United States, but because of an arrest that happened in 2002 involving the former K-1 fighter he’s been delayed and unable to get on a plane thus far.

While Hunt was never actually charged with a crime in the incident, he was unable to secure a travel visa for the past couple of weeks and there was some worry his fight at UFC 160 against former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos was in jeopardy.

Fortunately for Hunt the red tape that was preventing his travel was cut down over the weekend, and as promised by UFC officials as of last week, the New Zealand fighter will be on a plane headed to the United States shortly (Hunt is expected to be on a plane this evening with an arrival time in the U.S. on Monday).

Hunt first confirmed the news via Twitter on Sunday

Representatives from Hunt’s camp also confirmed via email to Bleacher Report that the fighter would be on a plane very soon traveling to the United States.

The good news is that Hunt will be able to fight and the UFC won’t have to scramble for a last minute replacement for the co-main event on a major pay-per-view card.

If there is a downside however it’s the fact that Hunt will be traveling halfway around the world only four days before his scheduled showdown with a former UFC heavyweight champion.

Hunt’s trip was supposed to take place two weeks ago to allow him time to acclimate his body to the time difference, food and other variables that can affect a fighter leading into a bout. Several competitors from countries like Japan have noted in the past that long travel schedules that see them arrive close to a fight date can be a factor when it comes to their performance.

Hunt has traveled long distances for fights for most of his professional career so hopefully this late notice trip to the United States won’t stop him from putting on the best performance possible when he faces Dos Santos on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Travel Essentials | The Fairgoer’s Guide to Venice’s Other Attractions

Osteria di Santa Marina
This respected (and pricey) osteria, just steps away from Marco Polo’s house, could have a Michelin star but balks at the idea. The tiny two-room eatery started as a modest blue-collar lunch spot serving simple sandwiches and pastas. Today, the menu looks something like this: scallop carpaccio topped with foie gras shavings and sauterne jelly. A far cry from its humble roots, but worth every penny. Campo Santa Marina,  

Enrica Rocca Cooking School
Learning authentic Venetian cookery is more about finding the best regional ingredients than knowing how to fry a fish. This is the fine point that Enrica Rocca, a Venetian countess and lifelong chef, likes to stress in her lessons. Her classes begin with shopping tips at Venice’s Rialto fish and produce market and end with a jolly cooking tutorial in her home. After a few casual yet highly informative hours spent with Ms. Rocca, guests leave with a knowledge of lagoon ingredients, a little culinary wisdom and, without fail, a full belly. Dorsoduro 568/A;  

Ristorante Quadri
The Alajmo family take cooking seriously, which is why both of their restaurants — Le Calandre in Padova and Ristorante Quadri in Venice — are studded with Michelin stars. For this year’s Venice Biennale, Ristorante Quadri opens its doors to pavilion-weary visitors, offering aperitifs that include chef Max Alajmo’s riff on classic Venetian cocktails, like the Verdini, a Bellini made from centrifuged apple and celery juice and topped with Prosecco. Piazza San Marco 


Locals go to Venetian Baccari, or snack bars, to fuel up on tasty morsels of baccala pâté and mini prosciutto sandwiches while shooting the breeze with strangers. This daily ritual usually includes a glass of wine. Nowhere are these satisfying snacks — orchiccette., as they are called — more toothsome than at L’Arco, a family-run baccaro beloved by Venetians and visitors alike. Calle Arco,  


The former Ungaro creative director Alessandro de Angelis’s new Venice jewelry boutique, Palwer, isn’t easy to find, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from looking for this little gem near San Marco’s Palazzo Grassi. Palwer’s signature pieces are dainty diamond-studded leather bracelets with gold and platinum clasps. But his collection also includes show-stopping pendants, rings and necklaces set with rare rubies, emeralds and precious stones and glass. Call for a private viewing of the collection. Salizada San Samuele  

Glass shops in Venice seem more ubiquitous than Starbucks. But give this boutique, on the two-minute stroll between Venice’s Academia Museum and The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a chance. The owner Filippo Gambardella doesn’t knock out legions of cheap souvenirs; instead, he curates the work of mid-century Venetian glass masters, from Barovier to Seguso to Venini. While there is some contemporary glassware here (Mr. Gambardella is very picky), the bulk of the objects are rare or limited-edition works from another time. Dorsoduro  

Cips Club is a short boat ride away from Hotel Cipriani.Tommy PiconeCips Club is a short boat ride away from Hotel Cipriani.


B Bar
The B Bar at the Bauer Hotel is the only late-night locale where Biennale attendees can really let off steam. The Negronis are coma-inducing, and the D.J. sets aren’t half bad either. But the biggest reason the art world’s glitterati (and their groupies) flock here is because it’s the only bar in town with a license to operate until 5 a.m.
Cips Club
To reach Cips, a casual dinning spot attached to Hotel Cipriani, you can catch a (Wow Gold ) private boat shuttle from San Marco that leaves you in front of the hotel. The menu is delightful (if spider crab linguini makes an appearance, order it), but even more impressive is the outdoor terrace with its cripplingly beautiful views of Venice. Because the wine list is so vast and so expertly curated, if dinner isn’t in the cards, spend an aperitif hour here with the sun setting on the water in front. Cips Club only has evening

Travel-weary Red Wings look forward to extra day off, recharging before Game 2 vs. Blackhawks

The Detroit Red Wings logged more than 12,000 air miles in three round trips to the West Coast while playing every other night in the first round of the playoffs against Anaheim.

They were grateful for the extra day off before the second round. And they’ll gladly take their additional day of rest before Game 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday afternoon.

They will look to get refreshed Thursday, after faltering Wednesday in the final two periods of a 4-1 loss in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals. They’ll practice on Friday and hope to have much more jump in Game 2 Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

“We got to get up to speed because we haven’t played like that in a while,” coach Mike Babcock said. “So just getting some energy back in us.

“We thought we were actually playing (Tuesday) and we really felt the break was going to help us and the way this series is set up we have no reason not to be very good next game. So we got to get back at ‘er and playing at a high tempo because obviously they were playing at a (high) level (Wednesday).”

The Blackhawks made one short trip to Minnesota in the first round and earned a five-day break between rounds.

“Maybe it had to do something with the rest, (but) it seemed like after the first period they had their legs and we didn’t,” Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “We have tomorrow off, take full advantage of it and then get a good skate on Friday.

“We played a lot of hockey in the last little time and with a lot of travel. The day off and sleeping in our own beds will do us well.”

The Red Wings have dropped Game 1 in each of their past four series. All have come on the road.

“We’ve been in this position before,” Howard said. “We were in this position last series. It’s one game. They definitely played better than us. Saturday we have to respond.”

Said Damien Brunner: “It’s good for us to get a day off. We came off a seven-game series. That’s not an excuse. But, I think we take that day off.”

Will travel for chocolate: Top tasting spots and tours

From the white pulp of the cacao pod to the dark velvety candy, the path chocolate takes from bean to bar is a fascinating one. And travelers can follow along as companies reveal the whole process, starting with fermenting the beans and ending with molding cocoa liquor into delectable bars and bonbons. As the craft chocolate movement and people’s food curiosities have grown, chocolate makers have become excited to share their obsessions with quality and innovative techniques by opening up their factories to the public. Learning has never tasted so good.

COMING IN 2014: A cruise for chocoholics
MORE: 10 great places to get drenched in chocolate
MORE: The nation’s top spots for chocolate lovers

I’ve explored the world of artisan chocolate with both well-established chocolate makers and those with brand-new offerings. From the simple and raw to the classic and refined, here are a few of my favorite places to experience bean-to-bar chocolate.

Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, Paris

This past February, Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse of Plaza Athenee fame added a brand-new venture to his Paris repertoire: Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, the city’s first bean-to-bar atelier. According to his trusted chocolate maker Nicolas Berger, who has worked with Ducasse for 13 years, the goal of the shop is to “create artisan interest in chocolate and make something different in Paris that is part of [chocolate] education.” And visitors can learn just how it’s done, from roasting the beans to refining and conching them into rounded particles of 20 or fewer microns (translation: chocolate so smooth you’ll want to die while tasting it).

Unsure of the factory’s exact Bastille-neighborhood location, I walked slowly down rue de la Roquette until I was stopped in my tracks by an intense scent of cocoa coming from a small courtyard. As I proceeded in, I could see large burlap sacks of beans stockpiled on shelves and heavy machinery through tall glass doors. Entering the adjacent retail store was like stepping inside an elegant plantation warehouse, with an antiqued bonbon case and rows of chocolate bars packaged in simple brown paper. A chocolate statue of a Maya warrior by Timothee Gauguet was a reminder of where the “food of the gods” came from.

Don’t Miss: Berger’s signature bars by origin (Java, Madagascar, Peru, etc.) and bean type (trinitario, forastero, and criollo), as well as flavored ganaches like cassis, mint, and passion fruit and coconut.

Tour Information: While no formal tours are allowed, you can watch Nicolas and his team honing their craft through windows in the retail store.

Dandelion Chocolate, San Francisco

“Small batch” is what’s big at Dandelion Chocolate, a new bean-to-bar factory and cafe in San Francisco’s Mission District. Here, the focus is on quality, not quantity: Made in small amounts (with no batch exactly the same), at any given time nearly all the chocolate is on display, and it sells out almost immediately. Ingredients are limited to cocoa beans and sugar (forgoing the usual added cocoa butter, vanilla, and soy lecithin), and the bars focus on origins such as Patanemo (Venezuela) and Ambanja (Madagascar).

Part of an explosion of chocolate makers in the U.S., Todd Masonis began Dandelion in 2010 with his business partner Cameron. According to Masonis, “As a hobby, we started roasting up beans and building machines, and we started making small batches of chocolate. We were only concerned with getting the best flavor, and before long, we shared our chocolate with close friends and family. … From there, we started selling our chocolate in markets and winning awards and it’s sort of evolved from there.” The latest piece of the evolution is an inviting cafe focused on hot chocolate (and related treats), which opened in mid-January. Patrons can pull up a stool and watch the chocolate production while they sip.

Don’t Miss: Hot (and cold) chocolate, like the Italian-inspired European Drinking Chocolate and Vanilla-Lemon Iced Chocolate, daily pastries from the creative whims of Chef Phil Ogiela, and the bars, which are packaged in house-designed paper printed in India.

Tour Information: The factory is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Places to indulge in chocolate

Taza Chocolate, Somerville, Mass.

In my hometown of Somerville, Mass. (three miles from downtown Boston), Taza Chocolate brings cocoa beans to Beantown and transforms them, Mexican-style. Cofounders Alex Whitmore and Larry Slotnick keep things authentic by opting to produce chocolate using hand-chiseled Oaxacan molinos (stone mills). Unlike ultra-smooth European-style chocolate, the resulting texture is decidedly gritty, with remaining bits of cacao and raw sugar crystals (plus any flavorings). With few ingredients and minimal processing, the “chocolateness” of the bars is heightened. The bars are 100% organic, and just about anyone can enjoy them since they are vegan, kosher, and free of dairy, gluten, and soy.

Not only does Taza care about what goes into its chocolate, it also cares about how it sources its beans, which come from farmer cooperatives via direct trade (transparency reports are available). Just like the growers who are invited to Taza, visitors can don a hairnet and go behind the scenes to see the hip, sweatshirt-clad workers roast, winnow, grind, and ultimately wrap the treasured cacao by hand.

Don’t Miss: New bars like Coco Besos with shredded coconut, Chocolate Mexicano Disks in flavors such as Cinnamon or Salted Almond, and recipe cards for making Mexican hot chocolate with any Taza bar (I recommend Guajillo Chili).

Tour Information: Tours (offered several times a week) start at the on-site retail store and cost $5 per person. Samples and witty banter are free.

Bernachon, Lyon, France

Thanks to a strong culinary tradition and top chefs like Paul Bocuse, Lyon is often referred to as France’s gastronomic capital. Strengthening that moniker is the city’s own Bernachon, one of the most famous chocolate makers in all of France—and the world. Started in 1953 by Maurice Bernachon, the shop is classically French in style but has a bean-to-bar approach that began well before its time.

Now run by Maurice’s grandson Philippe (whose other grandfather happens to be famous chef Paul Bocuse), Bernachon is a patisserie in the front and a factory in the back. Initially, it impressed with luscious cakes, viennoiseries, and all flavors of handmade truffles and bonbons. However, unsuspecting visitors would hardly know what lay beyond the back door: a multi-room workshop with the feel of a rabbit warren (chocolate rabbit, of course). Led by a guide, I walked through a long corridor storing wooden pallets filled with chocolate hens, chocolate eggs, and other Easter-themed treats. We then passed through rooms for baking, cake decorating, and at last, chocolate making, where cocoa beans were ground into cocoa mass and eventually tempered, and where chocolatiers filled molds to create distinctive bars like the Jour et Nuit (milk and dark chocolate) and Kalouga (salted-butter caramel).

Don’t Miss: Palet d’Or, a chocolate laced with gold leaf, and the President cake, a chocolate genoise with hazelnut praline, cherry confit, and chocolate shavings formed in the shape of a giant pom-pom.

Tour Information: Tours are organized by request for a minimum of eight people (in French only). I joined Chef Michel Bouit of The World of MBI culinary tours, who arranged a visit for my group.

Theo, Seattle

With fair-trade, non-GMO certified chocolate and the claim of being the first fully organic bean-to-bar chocolate maker in the U.S., Theo—aptly named after the cacao tree’s scientific name, theobroma cacao—clearly puts high priority on sourcing and sustainability. According to the company, “Theo is founded on the belief that there is a common thread that binds us, from the cocoa farmer to the chocolate lover, and we’re devoted to making our world a better place.” To make good on that promise, it pays farmers more than twice the conventional market price for their beans.

Free of emulsifiers and additives like high-fructose corn syrup, Theo’s classic bars offer nothing but pure chocolate flavor. Most bars are sold by cacao percentage and some include nuts, spices, or fruits. Others take things a step further and involve special partnerships. Its new Congo bars, for example, are made from 100% Congolese cocoa through a collaboration with Eastern Congo Initiative (a nonprofit founded by Ben Affleck). At the factory in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, visitors learn about the history and science of chocolate and can walk through the chocolate-making process, where beans are roasted and milled into nibs, refined and flavored, and ultimately molded and packaged in colorful wrappings. Chocolate samplings are included.

Don’t Miss: Classic milk and dark chocolate bars, plus flavored versions like Orange, Mint, and my top pick, Cherry & Almond, as well as the Congo bars, including Pili Pili Chili (with spicy peppers) and Vanilla Nib.

Tour Information: Tours last an hour and cost $6 per person. Tours book up three to four weeks in advance. However, there are also a limited number of day-of tours that open up at 10 a.m. and are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Grenada Chocolate Company, Grenada, West Indies

While all the chocolate makers on this list will take you from bean to bar, The Grenada Chocolate Company will also take you to the very cacao groves where the beans come from. Through a strategic alliance with cocoa producer Belmont Estate, travelers to the “Isle of Spice” can go right to the source and see beans being brought in from the field and then fermented in banana leaves and dried by the sun. Those beans—all certified organic and part of a cooperative of about a dozen local farmers—are grown on the estate and used by the factory (about a mile away) to make fine dark chocolate. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.

Tours of Belmont Estate are completely immersive and educational. On a visit, I got to help dry the beans the old-fashioned way, by walking through them (still in their shells) to allow for air circulation. I also touched and tasted the fruit inside a raw cacao pod and learned the traditional method of transforming cacao into chocolate, part of which involves polishing the beans in an old copper pot. Visitors can also head to the fields for a harvesting demonstration and see pods piled up, cracked open with a cutlass or machete, and seeded.

Don’t Miss: Bonbon Chocolates, the on-site factory outlet that sells candies made with Grenada spices and fruits, Grenada Chocolate Company bars by cacao percentage, and tea made with cocoa balls that have been spiced with nutmeg, clove, pimento, and bay leaf.

Tour Information: Several different tours are offered at Belmont Estate. While regular tours of the chocolate factory aren’t available, groups can ask for them by special request.

TCHO, San Francisco

At TCHO (pronounced “cho” like the first syllable of cho-co-late), Silicon Valley intersects with San Francisco’s food culture in the sweetest way. Originally started by an ex-NASA engineer, the company is now helmed by the cofounders of Wired, Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, who run it like a genuine start-up. Here, innovation and technology are key components for making chocolate: iPhone apps allow chocolate makers to control aspects of the company’s “Flavor Labs” remotely, and the cloud-based database Cropster helps farmers and TCHO workers share information in real time. Customers are part of the process as well and can sign up to be beta—and taste—testers.

At TCHO’s factory on Pier 17, visitors have to wear the requisite hairnets and closed-toe shoes but get to see firsthand how the square-shaped bars are made, from conching and molding to wrapping them in their distinctive packaging. Knowledgeable guides offer briefings on the company’s direct-trade sourcing program and explain how the company collaborates with farmers to produce flavor-focused cacao that reflects the various soils and climates in which it’s grown.

Don’t Miss: TCHO’s PureNotes dark chocolate bars with names based on inherent flavor profiles like Chocolatey, Fruity, Nutty, and Bright, and bonbons such as Sea Salt and Roasted Nib Caramel from budding confectioner Ryan Holmes (also look out for his latest, the Hops and Chocolate truffle).

Tour Information: Free hour-long tours start with a video presentation and run daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Reserve tickets online.

Fine & Raw Chocolate, Brooklyn, N.Y.

With its proliferation of artisan purveyors—including chocolate makers—Brooklyn has become a hotbed for the latest food trends. And at the New York City borough’s ownFine & Raw Chocolate, sugar and additives are out and authentic chocolate flavor is in. What sets the company apart from other gourmet makers is that its chocolate is processed raw (i.e., by dehydrating beans at a low temperature for at least eight hours). Because the cacao remains virtually in its natural state, antioxidants—as well as chocolate flavors—are preserved, resulting in a bar that not only tastes good but is good for you, too.

The ingredients—including heirloom cacao from Ecuadorian rain forests, virgin cold-pressed coconut oil, and blue-agave nectar (which is lower on the glycemic index than sugar)—also differentiate Fine & Raw’s handmade chocolate. According to founder Daniel Sklaar, “We constantly look for the best ingredients in terms of flavor. The ingredients also have to be whole foods. Coconut butter is nothing short of superlative. When you open tubs of it you want to dive into the pails. Heirloom cacao has been harvested and grown in a way that is thousands of years old … it’s a great concept.” Started in Sklaar’s Williamsburg loft, the company recently opened a new factory in nearby Bushwick and will soon allow people a glimpse into the raw-chocolate-making process through tours. Until then, visitors are welcome to purchase bars at the shop or enjoy chocolate drinks at the cafe.

Don’t Miss: Bars like the Sea Salt (made from raw cacao, crystal palm sugar, raw cacao butter, and sea salt) and the Lucuma & Vanilla (with raw cacao paste, agave nectar, cacao butter, and lucuma, a fruit native to Peru). The Cacao & Coconut Chunky Bonbon is also a fan favorite.

Tour Information: According to Sklaar, factory tours are to be announced but will likely start early this summer. Follow the latest updates by “liking” Fine & Raw on Facebook or following its blog.

Readers, where have you experienced the best chocolate? Share your favorites around the world in the comments section.

What are the rules of time travel in the J.J. Abrams Universe?

This week, we return to the Star Trek universe that J.J. Abrams rebooted using time travel. And meanwhile, Abrams is  . So it’s a great time to ask: How does time travel work in the Abrams-verse? If you’re in a J.J. Abrams story and you build a time machine, what should you expect to happen?

As usual when discussing J.J. Abrams, it’s important to recognize that J.J. Abrams is not one person. He’s like a dozen guys, including Bryan Burk, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, J.H. Wyman, and so on. J.J. Abrams seldom does anything without the help of his brains trust, and he often starts projects and then lets others complete them. So when we talk the Abrams-verse, we’re not just talking about things Abrams personally created, all by himself.

So how does time travel work in the Abrams universe? Here are some rules we’ve discerned:

1. You can try to change things, but the universe will always steer some things back on course.

The universe really, really wants some things to happen — think how badly you want chocolate, at around three in the afternoon, when you’re still stuck at work for another couple hours. And then multiply that by infinity (the size of the universe) — that’s how badly the universe wants certain things to play out in a particular way. Thus, the universe goes to great lengths to ensure the classic Enterprise crew is united in Abrams’ first Star Trek movie. And the universe also makes sure that the Incident happens on Lost, the way it always happened. Miss Hawking actually says the Universe has a “way of course correcting.”


2. You can travel back in time and change the past, but your original timeline will still exist.

Hence, after Spock Prime has gone back and helped to screw around with his own history, he doesn’t cease to exist or change into the future version of Young Spock. Also, when Walter Bishop and the Observer Child travel forward in time to 2167, they arrive in the original 2167 — not the future of a world that was invaded by the Observers in 2015. Presumably if you lived long enough in linear time, you’d arrive in the 2070 where the Observers had been ruling the world for 55 years, but you can still travel to the other 2070. The future is like a miraculous sandwich, which still exists after you’ve eaten it.


3. If you get unstuck in time, you have to figure out whom you love

Like Desmond on Lost. Or Felicity on Felicity. Both Desmond and Felicity become unstuck in their own personal timelines, and the only way to become re-stuck is to find their “Constant” — so in Felicity’s case, she thinks her constant is Noel, but it’s actually Ben. We think. Also, mental time travel is almost always indistinguishable from mental illness.


4. Time can be “rolled back,” allowing for do-overs

That’s more or less what seems to happen in Felicity, where she gets to go back to the start of senior year so she can be with Noel instead of Ben. The only difference being that she remembers everything that happened after that, including that Ben totally kissed that other girl, and it was not cool — it was so uncool, in fact, that that one kiss polluted an entire timeline and caused temporal regression. WTF Ben. Don’t pollute the timeline, Ben — your last name isn’t even Linus!


5. If you change the timeline enough, the effects ripple backwards as well as forwards

So when Walter Bishop travels from 2036 to 2167, he erases himself from the past starting in 2015 — because otherwise there would be a bigger paradox than the Observers going back in time and wiping out their own ancestors. (This is mostly because he’s bringing the Child Observer, I guess.) Also, when Old Spock and Nero go back in time to the early days of Kirk, some of the stuff that happened before Kirk’s birth seems to change — to the point where, for example, Scotty looks totally different, like maybe one parent was different. And some basic stuff about the Federation and ship design seems changed as well.


6. Any phenomenon has a 60 percent chance of making you travel in time

Solar storms, wormholes, H-bomb detonations, falling asleep in prison… it’s all possible. Basically, if you’re in a J.J. Abrams story, don’t turn the hot water in the shower too high, or the steam will cause a trans-temporal cross-reaction that relocates your time axis.


7. Time is a bubble, pretty much exactly made of soap

You’ve heard of quantum foam? Well, it can have bubbles in it, and they’re very soapy and blobby — which is why time dislocations are often highly localized. And why they’re so flimsy and see-thru. On one level, time is a fixed thing that always has to happen the same way — but on another level, time is a big custard that’s always getting air pockets in it. TIME IS A CUSTARD.


8. Even if you know what’s going to happen, you still have to work your butt off to make it happen.

Hence, after Eloise Hawking shoots her unborn son Daniel as a grown-up, and sees his notebook showing that he’s going to become the World’s Greatest Physicist, she doesn’t then decide that it doesn’t matter if he plays soccer and breakdances all the time — since she’s already seen that he’s destined to become the World’s Greatest Physicist, no matter what. Instead, she pushes him psychotically to do NOTHING BUT PHYSICS, even when he’s in the bath or whatever. Because once you know your inevitable, unchangeable future, you should do your best to overdetermine it.


9. Information is the one thing that can always travel in time.

Sometimes you can physically travel in time but can’t alter events. Sometimes you can alter events but things wind up “course-correcting.” (Unless you happen to live on Vulcan, in which case you’re outta luck.) Sometimes you can jump forward nearly 50 years from 1963 to 2012, and go on a pomo crime spree. But no matter how you travel, the one thing that can always make the trip is information. You can send messages back to the past, or miraculously know about the future if you’re from 1963 — but one way or the other, knowledge is the one thing that can reliably travel through time in the Abrams-verse.

Natural remedies for travel ailments

From jet lag to sunburn, the body takes a beating while we’re out exploring the world. Some ailments can be assuaged by a well-timed painkiller, but there’s also a whole world of effective natural remedies that are easy to pack and handy in a pinch.

We asked Dr. Kate Brainard, one of the resident naturopathic doctors at Pharmaca, as well as Dr. Karen Hurley of Bastyr University for the best tips about staying healthy naturally on vacation.

Jet Lag


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Jet lag, which occurs when your sleep-wake cycle is disrupted by a flight across multiple time zones, can ruin you for the first few days of your vacation.

On flights, Dr. Brainard suggests using Miers Laboratory No-Jet-Lag, a blend of five homeopathic remedies that she calls “safe, easy to take, and proven effective in tests.” She also recommends melatonin. “Melatonin is the hormone our bodies make to regulate the sleep-wake cycle—taking extra in a supplement form may help to reset the cycle disrupted by jet lag.”

Travel AnxietyPhoto: Shutterstock)

Travel is one of life’s greatest thrills, but for most people it also comes with its share of stresses. Travel anxiety can really take you out of the moment, and since you want to enjoy every minute of vacation, it’s an affliction worth treating.

Dr. Hurley recommends Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, a blend of five flower-essence formulas, stating that it can be “very helpful.” Dr. Brainard suggests L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that “supports mental calmness and relaxation by increasing dopamine and GABA in the brain. … without any drowsiness.” She also recommends kava kava, a popular ceremonial drink in Polynesia that “supports relaxation from tension, encourages a sense of well-being, and promotes relaxation of nerves and muscles,” all without disturbing mental clarity.

Motion Sickness

ds.For motion-sensitive travelers, Dr. Brainard recommends PSI bands, “adjustable wristbands that apply acupressure to help relieve the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.” She also suggests traveling with a concentrated-peppermint product, such as Pharmaca Peppermint Spirits or Herb Pharm Breath Tonic, and taking vitamin B6 or homeopathic Gelsemium Sempervire 30C by Boiron, both of which are known to relieve motion sickness. Dr. Hurley adds that ginger chews or ginger tea can also be helpful.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

With so much new input during travel, the microbial balance in the digestive tract can be easily disturbed. Dr. Brainard says, “It’s important to plan ahead and supplement with probiotics to give the immune and digestive tract a head start.” She suggests starting a good probiotic (such as Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS, which doesn’t require refrigeration) a few weeks before leaving “to build up healthy colonies of friendly flora.”

And you can’t go wrong, says Dr. Brainard, sticking to bottled water from a trusted source and making sure to wash your hands frequently. If you are hit with TD while traveling, try UrgentRx Upset-Stomach Relief. These pocket-sized packets are easy to transport and can be taken with or without water.


When choosing a sunscreen, Dr. Brainard says that “it’s vital to always choose a broad-spectrum product that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.” Sun-protection factor (SPF) ratings measure only UVB rays, which are largely responsible for both burns and skin cancer, but it’s important to protect against UVA rays as well, since they “penetrate deeper and are responsible for premature aging and wrinkling of the skin.” Of the more natural sunscreen brands on the market, Dr. Brainard recommends Sanitas, Eco Logical Skin Care, Kiss My Face, Badger, La Roche Posay, and Alba Botanica products.

Treatment can’t fix a sunburn, but it can offer some soothing relief. Dr. Brainard recommends All Terrain Aloe Skin Repair with healing herbs or Boiron Calendula Lotion. She also notes that rehydrating after being out in the sun all day is important, and she suggests coconut water as a good way to get more electrolytes than with water alone.