Caramel Apples, Castles, and Willy Wonka

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We just had a celebration at our house.  Over 3 states, 3 moves, and 3 orthodontist clinics my son finally had his braces removed from his teeth!  It's interesting how blubberling-ly sentimental I can be at times like these.  

I have one thrilled 14 year old.  Over the years of appointments, we developed a routine to each visit.  Often, the drive to the ortho's office and back was filled with conversation from him.  I find that if I get my son in the car, this quiet pensive boy can turn into quite the chatter box.

We often had conversations about all of the sticky, gooey, wire-bending foods that I would fix for him when those braces finally came off.  Through band tightening and twisting, our eyes were on the distant prize...that crazily illegal treat that loomed at the end of this journey.   Appointments were often followed by a drive-thru for a cold soft smoothie but that was just a pacifier for the ultimate prize.

I'm not sure who was more excited when the day finally arrived.  When your kids are teenagers, there aren't many opportunities when they want to be caught walking around chomping on caramel apples looking like little tots.  

But...Braces were coming OFF.  This situation justified all immature acts of non-teen-like behavior.  Sticky squares of gooey caramel patiently lumped next to fresh apples waiting for the signal to be "ON".

We slurped.  We chewed.  We bit ferociously into these tantalizingly "illegal" braces treats.  We were a mess.  We were juicy and sticky and kind of grossed-out.  But...what fun we had that afternoon.  

We made sure to make one for Patrick.  He instantly morphed into a kid when he came home from work and his eyes locked on his prize caramel apple.  

This complete enjoyment of all child-like sweets brought back memories of our trip last year to Switzerland.  Two stops on that trip were complete delights to my teen son.  One, was a tour through a genuine medieval castle.  I didn't have a train kid, or a sports kid, or a dinosaur kid.  I had a castle kid.

This was like Hogwarts Castle come to life.  This was like  the myriad Lego sets of castles he built as a kid.

After a fantastic tour on this morning of the largest real-life castle we have ever seen, we continued on to Gruy√®re, Switzerland to tour the most amazing chocolate factory, Cailler Chocolates.  

If you enjoyed my tour of the tiny little town of Yvoire from a few articles back, let's continue on the leg of the journey through Switzerland that completely riveted my teen son, Riley.

As you follow the southern coast of Lake Geneva and begin curving around to the northern shores, there rests this enormous castle right on the outskirts of the town of Montreaux, Le Chateaux de Chillon.

Rooms filled with ominous weapons, creaky wooden chests, cold drafty stone staircases were perfect destination stops for my son. Scenes of the medieval time period could easily be imagined played out in this magnificent structure from the days of Robin Hood or King Arthur.

After spending hours at this historic castle, we were back on the road again, this time heading north through the most amazing country scenery we have ever seen.  We bounced up and over hills, passed babbling brooks with quaint wooden covered bridges, and feasted our eyes on the lush scenery that unfolded before us.  

We were now headed to "The Cailler Chocolate Factory" to complete this glorious day moving from King Arthur's world to that of Willy Wonka.

The Cailler Chocolate Factory is right down the hillside from the adorable town of Gruyeres, Switzerland (future article coming!).  What made this tour so much fun was the complete diversity of people from all over the world filing in through the lobby eagerly anticipating a chocolate-filled experience.  Adults looked equally as eager as children.  I know one adult here who had been dreaming of this day while planning this trip!

The chocolate tasting experience did not disappoint.  At the end of the tour, two huge doors opened up into a room filled with tray after tray of chocolates.  Everyone shuffled in slowly, trying not to look entirely glutinous as our eyes widened, jaws hung open and taste buds anticipated the bites of luscious chocolate.  

Did you know the human body can only eat so much chocolate?  I though sure I would glide through that room munching giddily from each and every tray without missing a one.  Nope.  There was one problem.  There was NO MILK!!  Sadly, many trays were left untouched as our quest for milk won over our glutinous desires.

Cailler chocolate is out-of-this-world delicious.  We were amazed at the richness and depth of flavor.  The kids were unleashed in the enormous gift shop to pick out Christmas presents of chocolate bars for friends, family, and teachers.  It was either bring back suitcases of chocolate....or don't bother returning!

I hate to admit it.  But, in all honesty, visiting a real life castle and plucking chocolate after chocolate at the Cailler Chocolate Factory just might be the fondest memory from that trip...of adults and kids alike.

We slurped some more on our caramel apples.  We became sticky messes but the last time we remembered being this childishly delighted was on that gorgeously crisp fall day in that most beautiful of countries, Switzerland.

How to Make Caramel Apples

  • 4 apples
  • 1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • Remove the stem from each apple and press a craft stick into the top. Butter a baking sheet.
  • Place caramels and milk in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave 2 minutes, stirring once. Allow to cool briefly.
  • Roll each apple quickly in caramel sauce until well coated. Place on prepared sheet to set.

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