Cocoa-inspired escapes

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Who said chocolate was only for Easter? Salivate over these cocoa-inspired experiences around the world. By Sarah Marshall, Press Association

Discovering unusual food is one of the great pleasures of visiting new places, but gourmet endeavours also frequently form the focus for a trip. Wine, tea and coffee can all spur adventures, but there's one particular sweet that travels especially well.

Transcending language barriers, there's a shared international appreciation for chocolate, whether it's on the cacao farms of Central America, or at a five-star hotel in the British countryside.

Here are five of the tastiest chocolate trips and experiences around the world.

1. A match made in heaven
What:
Wine and chocolate matching
Where: Adelaide Hills, Australia

The vineyard city of Adelaide is well known for its proximity to some of the world's best wineries, but now its chocolatiers are gaining a reputation for their excellent creations. Based on the concept of terroir, the ChocoVino experience at Hahndorf Hill Winery, about a 25-minute drive from Adelaide city centre, matches boutique wines to chocolate. Learn about gourmet chocolate and fine wine in a fun and informative way while enjoying beautiful vineyard views.

How: The experience costs from AUD$25pp. Visit hahndorfhillwinery.com.au/ChocoVino.

2. Get back to the roots
Where:
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
What: A tour through a cocoa farm

Chocolate has a rich history in Costa Rica, where seeds from the cacao tree have been used in ceremonial drinks, as currency and for desserts. At the CariBeans Chocolate Forest Experience in Puerto Viejo, on Costa Rica's southern Caribbean coast, find out all about the history of chocolate-making. Embarking on a hike through the cacao forest, with a chance to see sloths, monkeys, toucans and parrots, observe how local farmers harvest, ferment and dry cacao.

How: Tickets cost US$28 per adult and US$14 per child. Visit geckotrail.com/tours/caribeans-chocolate-forest-experience.

3. Learning how it's really done
What:
A gourmet cooking course
Where: Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons hotel, Oxford, UK

Few chefs would voluntarily share their secrets, but Raymond Blanc is willing to teach students his treasured cooking techniques at his Le Manoir Cookery School. Under the guidance of chef Benoit Blin, discover how to create treats such as raspberry and chocolate tart, a 'tout chocolat' cake and chocolate truffles. There are also explanations of the different types of chocolate available, along with recommendations on how they should be used in dishes.

How: A full day's cookery course costs from £430pp including coffees, lunch and afternoon tea. Visit belmond.com/hotels/.

4. Celebrating king cocoa
What:
A festival dedicated to choc treats
Where: York, UK

There's a place for fancy pralines, a gorgeous ganache and velvety truffles, but who can resist the sweet goodness of classic confectionery. Many British bars were invented in York: Rowntree's were responsible for Kit Kat, Smarties and Aero, while Terry's lay proud claim to the Chocolate Orange. Fittingly, the city will be hosting the York Food & Drink Festival through Easter (April 19-22; free entry). Along with cooking demonstrations, there will be tastings of eggs, bars and - oddly - chocolate pies.

How: Hotel Indigo York has rooms from £51.50 (two sharing) per night, including breakfast. Visit hotelindigoyork.co.uk.

5. Waking up to the good stuff
What:
An overnight stay in a chocolate-themed hotel
Where: The Chocolate Boutique Hotel, Bournemouth

You can eat, sleep and even smother yourself with chocolate. Now you can sleep with it too. Decorated in warm caramel and chestnut tones, the rooms at this boutique hotel in Bournemouth are inspired by the calorific treat, and chocolate pancakes are served at breakfast. A selection of workshops can also be booked, including instruction on how to decorate your own designer shoe with chocolate or even paint a portrait with the stuff

How: Rooms start from £75 with breakfast. Two-hour courses cost from £55pp (including a glass of cava). Visit thechocolateboutiquehotel.co.uk.

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