"Welcome home, ma'am," the young customs officer said to me as he handed me my birth certificate and waved us across the border into Canada.
Welcome home. It sounded lovely. I found myself a bit teary. We were finally in Canada. St Stephen, New Brunswick, to be exact. Canada's chocolate town.
In 1873, the Ganong brothers, James and Gilbert, opened a grocery store in this small town. They branched out into candy soon after, and a Canadian chocolate dynasty was born. Ganong Bros. holds the distinction for being not only Canada's oldest chocolate company but also one of the few companies to have remained family run for five generations.
These and many other interesting chocolate facts can be found at The Chocolate Museum in St. Stephen. The museum resides in what was the original chocolate factory in downtown St. Stephen, a mere stones throw away from the border crossing with Calais, Maine.
"You knew exactly what type of candy they were making in the factory when you would walk down the street," says Museum manager, Sarah Goulding. "The aroma of it was everywhere in town."
The original factory closed down in the nineties to make way for the Chocolate museum. A new, high tech factory was opened on the outskirts of town.
Inside the museum, there are films on the Ganong family history, exhibits describing the chocolate making process, chocolatiers making hand formed truffles, as well as historical items. Ganong was the first to produce lozenge candies in North America, as well as the first to create the now iconic heart-shaped chocolate box which is ubiquitous each February..
But there was one thing that really captured the interest of Ben and Matti: unlimited chocolate. You heard that right - unlimited chocolate to taste. Not some measly mini chocolate sample to take home, but platters filled with Ganong chocolates placed throughout the museum. For you. To eat. However much you want.
Heaven. Absolute heaven.
Our final stop was a visit to the Ganong Chocolatier Store, a recreation of a Victorian chocolate shop, complete with glass cases filled with handmade chocolates. We compared the delicious - but expensive - handmade truffles with the boxed variety available throughout the museum.
Both were delicious. I guess I could tell you which one we preferred, but where is the fun in that? Why not go and try it out for yourself.