Clichés, Shakespeare, and – um – chocolate

A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to this article from Business Insider (Australia) marking William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. It has a list of 26 common phrases that can be traced back to Shakespeare’s writings.

I was curious to see how many might be considered clichés. Although journalists prefer fresher language, we don’t always succeed in avoiding clichés. There’s usually truth in them. That’s why they’ve become clichés. Groan!

Only one of Shakespeare’s phrases from the Business Insider article – “Love is blind” – made this list of 10 common clichés. But here’s a much lengthier list from a seemingly unlikely source, The Pathology Guy. reminds us that we often quote Shakespeare without even being aware of it.

Last summer I saw a play called Taking Shakespeare at the annual Stratford festival in Stratford, Ontario. Veteran festival company member Martha Henry starred as a discontented, aging professor tasked with sparking an interest in Shakespeare in a young, video game-obsessed, struggling student.

The play appealed to me because I wanted it to spark more of an interest in me too. Shakespeare explored ideas and feelings that still resonate today, in language that was fresh for its time. Hundreds of years later, it’s difficult to appreciate all the antiquated turns of phrase.

Reading the Business Insider article this week reminded me again that it’s worth the effort.

PS When I blogged about Stratford last summer, I wrote about the chocolate trail, not the theatre aspect. A visit to the Festival doesn’t have to be all about Shakespeare 😉


Chocolate Sunday – The Chocolate Trail!

Until this week – in my mind – Stratford, Ontario meant Shakespeare plays and swans gliding on the town’s Avon River. Good restaurants, too. More recently, it’s also become known as the hometown of singer Justin Bieber.

For Torontonians, Stratford is less than two hours away by car – a popular destination when the Stratford Festival is on (May to October).

This past week, my husband and I spent two nights in Stratford. In addition to taking in a couple of shows, touring the Festival’s Costume and Props Warehouse, and renting bicycles, we bought a pass for Stratford’s Chocolate Trail to round out our free time during the day.

truffles pic

Chocolate truffles at Chocolate Barr’s Candies, in Stratford, Ontario

For $25 ($28.25 with tax), we received six tickets, each entitling us to a treat at one of 20 different merchants. Most of them are concentrated within a few blocks of each other in downtown Stratford.

The tickets are good for three days, and we decided to stretch out the experience, using two tickets a day for each day we were there.

What a great excuse to sample chocolate every day of our stay! Plus, it has to be good for Stratford’s economy to introduce visitors to businesses they might otherwise pass by.

We began at Chocolate Barr’s, where one ticket was good for two truffles – probably the ultimate treat for chocoholics. We tried a lavender one, delicately painted gold and blue, and a sea salt truffle finished with lustre dust. Other flavours included balsamic vinegar, milk chocolate marzipan, and chili pepper. The store also sells $10 cooler bags, which include an ice pack, a bonus on hot days.

Our next stop was Small-Mart General Mercantile, tucked away in an alley just off the main street. Known for its eclectic inventory, the store offered two retro candy bars in exchange for one of our tickets. We chose crunchy, chocolate-covered peanut butter bars – Fifth Avenue, and a Clark bar – the kind I would have really appreciated as a 10-year-old.

The following day, we stopped in at Rheo Thompson Candies, a local chocolate-maker known for its soft-centre “Mint Smoothies.” We opted for the dark chocolate version, and I had a chocolate-filled soft-centre chocolate as well. The Chocolate Trail treat consisted of four small chocolates neatly packaged in a box.

As well, we decided to try the Rockslide Brownie at Coffee Culture Café & Eatery, after having a light lunch first. For dessert, we shared a generous serving of the very sweet, very dense chocolate brownie, topped with caramel and pecans.

By the third day, we didn’t crave rich desserts, so we tried some chocolate tea at Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar, a 15-20 minute walk from downtown. Chocolate mint (black) tea smelled wonderful even before it was brewed, and the steeped tea was the pick-me-up I needed. The tea bar, run by a certified tea sommelier, boasts at least four chocolate-flavoured teas.

Our last stop was at Bradshaws, an upscale gift and kitchenware store, to pick up a plastic wine glass filled with four small samples of Brix chocolates, each one created to pair with a particular type of wine.

We brought them home, which means that our Chocolate Trail experience isn’t over yet.