Writer Wednesday – Meet Doreen Pendgracs
Whether its the next adventure, the history or the food, many of us travel for different reasons. Doreen Pendgracs, a professional writer and long time traveller travels in search of chocolate. She travels to learn about the history of chocolate, how its made, the various flavours, and the variety of uses – like a chocolate spa. Read below for her story of travel, writing and chocolate…
Writer Wednesday would like to introduce Doreen Pendgracs.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993, specializing in writing about travel and lifestyle. That evolved and enabled me to co-author a couple of travel-related books, one of which was a local bestseller. I then wrote a solo project on volunteerism and volunteering for non-profit groups—something that is very dear to my heart. In 2009, I embarked on my first chocolate trip to Europe, thinking I would write a book about chocolate. That has evolved into a series of books about the world of chocolate, as there is so much to learn, share and enjoy!
Have you ever travelled solo?
I’ve travelled solo several times, but not completely solo in the true sense as I’m always coordinating my efforts with local tourism reps and people in the hospitality and chocolate industries to make sure I hit the right people, places, and events in my research. I much prefer traveling with a friend as I truly enjoy having someone to share my experiences with.
How many countries have you visited?
In total, about 40. For chocolate … 16 to date.
What is your favourite place and why?
That is a completely impossible question to answer. I have so many favourites! It’s just like with chocolate. People always ask me my favourite. I always say that it depends on my mood, who I’m with, and what else is going on around me. But I can tell you that nearly all of my favourite places are islands, as I truly love the vibe of islands. Laidback, sea breeze, tropical music, freshest of fruits, the sound of the waves, the aquatic life. Those are the things that put my soul at peace, yet energize me.
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
Authentic. I really love to eat the local foods (or at least try them!) and experience life as the locals are living it. It generally makes me appreciate Canada so much more.
What is your must have travel accessory?
Definitely my iPhone. I use it to take nearly all my photos. It’s small and light and gives me freedom while keeping me connected.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
I have so many, as I’ve been an avid traveller since the 1970’s. But I think that spending time with the cocoa farmers in the Peruvian Amazon jungle—seeing how they live and work transformed the world of chocolate for me—and as a decadent contrast, being slathered in molten chocolate at the Pure Jungle Spa in Costa Rica are two that come to mind and make me smile.
It would have to be Australia. I know I will get there for volume III of Chocolatour, and truthfully, I can’t wait! Now, I just need to make the right connections to make it the best chocolate trip ever!
Do you have any upcoming trips?
Yes, I’m going on a customized Chocolatour to Switzerland in September. The travel provider is preparing an agenda of experiences for me that hopefully will be so good, that we’ll do it again in 2017 with me as the group tour leader. It’s always been my dream to share my passion for chocolate travel in real time, not just on my blog and in my books. Leading small, customized chocolate tours will accomplish that.
How has travel changed you?
Travel has made me whole. It fuels my passions, opens my mind, tantalizes my senses, and keeps me learning. I would not be who I am if I did not have the opportunity to travel.
How long did it take for your book to come to fruition?
I began researching volume I of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate in 2009. I published it in 2013. It was a major journey for me in every way. Firstly, visiting the founders and trend-setters of the modern world of chocolate in Europe (Belgium, France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Holland, and the UK), and then visiting several cacao growing regions in South America and the Caribbean made the experience whole and authentic. Then fundraising to self-publish the book gave me the creative licence to make Chocolatour my own. The book contains 61 colour photographs. I took nearly all of them and am very proud of that.
As the Chocolate Queen, what inspired you to combine chocolate and travel into a book?
No one had ever written a book about chocolate travel. There were dozens of books on wine travel. Why not travel the world for chocolate, too? Carving this new niche has been hard, but I think people are catching on that chocolate travel doesn’t mean just going places to eat chocolate. It means visiting chocolate events and yes, eating chocolate. But chocolate travel also gives you the opportunity to meet the people who are making the chocolate and growing the cacao, to make your own chocolate or participate in the cocoa harvest, learn about chocolate-inspired art, visit chocolate spas and resorts for decadent treatments, and indulge in cocoa cuisine–where every component of the meal uses cocoa (processed cacao) in it. Those are all components of chocolate travel and why I do what I do.
What do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
I’ve pretty much answered that in the previous question. But to reiterate, the mission of Chocolatour is to educate, entertain, and inspire chocolate lovers to gain greater knowledge of the world of chocolate through travel.
In your opinion, which country has the best chocolate?
Each country makes chocolate quite differently and is known for its own kind of chocolate. Northern Italy is known for its hazelnut chocolates. Southern Italy and Spain are known for their intense dark chocolate. France is known for the elegance of its chocolates. Britain likes to play with flavours by adding all sorts of infusions. Belgium, Switzerland, and Holland love their chocolate creamy. I love the acidic fruity notes of Peruvian and Madagascan chocolate. And I recently returned from Grenada, where the cocoa beans have a naturally high level of cocoa butter, resulting in a pure dark chocolate that has a wonderful creaminess to it. I love them all!
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
Absolutely! I am nearing the end of my research for volume II of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate Adventures. This volume will focus on the Americas and the Caribbean, and will deal heavily with the adventures I’ve had in my chocolate journeys. This volume will have an expanded chapter on cocoa cuisine, recipes, and pairings, as well as updates on the health benefits of chocolate.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Definitely in my loft office. It’s bright and airy, and filled with books, art, and a place for my cat to stretch out and contemplate life while I’m working.
What is your favourite travel book?
Two books that helped transform the way I travel are “Life is a Trip” by Judith Fein, whom I met at a Travel Classics conference. Judie really writes from the heart and shares how travel truly can transform us. And “Travel Therapy” by Karen Schaler. Karen’s book helped me determine the tone I would take when writing the first volume of Chocolatour, and the fact that numerous colour photos really do help tell a story.
What is your favourite travel quote?
I have so many! But I think this one from James Michener really sums up the way I feel about travel: