I Got the Golden Ticket: My Week Living Like 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' for Godiva's 90th Anniversary

*eats everything in sight*​

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I'll admit it: I'm a bonafide chocoholic. You put it in front of me, I'm probably definitely going to eat it—and don't even let me near a candy store. So when Godiva invited me to tour their factory in Brussels as part of their recent 90th anniversary celebration, giving me access to what is usually only seen by the chocolatiers, I was, uh, game. I had quite literally received the golden ticket, and was straight-up going to Charlie Bucket this entire situation. 

I had quite literally received the golden ticket, and was straight-up going to Charlie Bucket this entire situation. ​

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As a sort of foreplay to the big event (too far?), we first toured the Chocolate Museum, run by Peggy van Lierde, the granddaughter of famed Godiva chocolatier Pierre Draps—the man who created the OG Godiva truffle. At the museum, visitors get a history of chocolate, and can also taste some creations from their chocolate shop. (Honestly, 10/10, would recommend.)

SHOW ME A MORE BEAUTIFUL SIGHT AND I'LL SHOW YOU A LIAR. 🍫🍫🍫 #chocolate #Brussels

A video posted by Samantha Leal (@samanthajoleal) on

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Then it was time for the big event, at which point all whimsy went out the door: Entering the factory, we were told we had to don hairnets, booties, and head through a series of obstacles procedures to get to the chocolate learn more about Godiva's history. 

If you've ever had the privilege of working with/being in the presence of chocolate artisans, you know that the smell of intense chocolate can be a tad overwhelming—truly not for the faint of heart. But if you love the good stuff, you'll be in heaven. Seriously, is this what dreams are made of? (I can confirm that for me, that answer is yes.)

Thierry Muret, Godiva's executive chief chocolatier, took us through the factory—showing us just how our favorite candies are created and how the chocolate is processed. He also introduced us to Godiva's head chefs across the globe, who specialize in creating concoctions that speak to the favored tastes of that region. (Fun fact: Apparently many Chinese hate white chocolate, and I don't blame them. It's cocoa bean fat and sugar masquerading as chocolate. I don't have time for that.)

Other things I learned on the tour:

1.Those swishes, swoops, and waves on top of the chocolate are the work of specially trained craftsmen, and they are *hard* to replicate. (Believe me, I tried and failed.) The people who work in the factory can do it so fast it will make your eyes cross.

2.The "Autant" ganache topping on the chocolate above was created in 1939 for the premiere of Gone with the Wind, to mimic the feathered hat Scarlett O'Hara wears. (It's one of their signature flourishes for that very reason.) 

3.Unfortunately you do *not* get to eat the chocolate straight from the conveyor, using it like a sort of straight-to-mouth delivery system. (That's kind of a given, but a girl can dream, okay?)

"I'm just trying to do my jig-saw puzzle." At the #godiva90 event. #Brussels #chocolate

A photo posted by Samantha Leal (@samanthajoleal) on

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After channeling my Charlie, it was time to party. Entering Brussel's Albert Hall through hazelnut trees, I made the glorious revelation that the 90th celebration was more in line with the fantastical experience one would expect from this Golden Ticket opportunity. A jigsaw puzzle, designed by artist Oli-B, stood at the center of the room and created a mosaic of gold and color to kick-off the event. Guests were given a piece prior to arrival, and you placed it to make the piece whole. 

Next, guests were taken through the history of Godiva–from the first recipes to early packaging—including the top sellers and creations. Then, it was time for the Aroma Organ—which looks exactly as it sounds.

Golden pipes stretched to the ceiling. At the bottom, puffers (like those of perfume) are attached, which I'm told to squeeze to release a scent found in Godiva chocolates. Orange, hazelnut, ginger, lime...the list goes on and I'm immersed in an interactive chocolate wonderland. (Snozzberries? Who ever heard of a snozzberry?)

At the bottom, puffers are attached, which I'm told to squeeze to release a scent found in Godiva chocolates.

Soon, we're pulled to different booths where we "experience" the chocolate found in the 90th collection in different ways, from being shown different colored lights to bring out different flavor profiles, to pairing musical sounds with the taste of the chocolate, to seeing truffles "levitate" as part of a display. It is one *wild* ride of which I love every freaking minute.

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After the celebrations ended, on my flight home, I realized I've pretty much lived my dream...even if I didn't get to drink from a chocolate river. 

But you know what? There's always next time.

Godiva 90th Anniversary 18 Piece Collection, $36, Godiva.com

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