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We had big plans for Valentine’s Day. No champagne and extravagant dinner, but instead a few hours of relaxing at a fancy-but-affordable spa, right downtown. It was going to be beautiful… until it was closed.

Luckily Amsterdam had more in store for us than a sad, cold walk home. We wandered around, soaking in the city, the melting ice on the canals, happy to be holding hands and enjoying life with each other. Eventually we made our way to the Nine Streets, and then to a tiny street behind those streets, the so-called “10th Street.” There, with bikes propped near the windows, a chocolate store beckoned us.

Chocolátl. It’s a beautiful little store. Clean white cabinets hold shelf after shelf of gourmet chocolate, sourced from all over. It’s an around the world in 80 bites dream, from Venezuela to Belgium to Missouri to a gorilla refuge in the Congo.

Then we saw this nestled in the corner:

Do you see it? It’s a poster of the Bridges of Portland, Oregon, sometimes known as Bridge City. When asked, the owner said, why, yes, he is from Portland! And we all marveled and made small noises of astonishment at the wide small-ness of the world, and the chances of finding someone from your home town, so far away from home.

Erik, the owner, and his wife have lived in Amsterdam for about three years now, and their store opened in December 2010. We chatted about Portland, about Amsterdam, about chocolate and more, and then he brought us our orders: two “shots” of smooth silky melted chocolate mixed with milk. Pure deliciousness. We relaxed at a long wooden table in the corner while another woman chatted with folks she had apparently just met. Chocolate brings people together.

Portland has it’s own similar shop, Cacao, but personally, I like Chocolátl better, if only for the encyclopedic passion Erik has for his treasure-filled store, and his happiness to share samples with you. We missed the sauna, but a Valentine’s Day date in a cozy chocolate store couldn’t have been planned more perfectly.

Check out a cute video of Chocolátl here. Find them on Facebook here. And best of all, visit them at Hazenstraat 25-A, Amsterdam.  Valentine’s Day not required.

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