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The Candy Factory in Amboise

Willy Wonka has arrived in Amboise, except that his name is not Willy Wonka, it is Nicolas Viollet and although he trained as a chocolatier and confectioner, like his father and grandfather, he does not make chocolate, he makes treats, thousands of them. We spent a delightful hour watching Tugdual (a lovely old Breton name) cooking with honey from a local beekeeper.

The inspiration for Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came from the gigantic machines at the chocolate factory near Dahl’s home. Mr. Viollet’s machines are not gigantic, but some are impressive in size. These rare examples of superb engineering are now works of art in their own right. What a joy to see them at work again.

In the story, Charlie lives on the outskirts of the city, just like Mr. Viollet’s confectionery which is a two-minute walk from Amboise station. Just like Mr. Wonka, he looks forward to welcoming children and their parents to his “confectionery wonderland.

Nicolas Viollet is the third generation of father-son confectioners from Tours established in the aftermath of the Second World War, when France had almost forgotten the taste for sweets. At twenty-one, he took over an empty confectionery in Bourges. As it was here that Charles VII established his court, the business was named in honor of the king.

Mr. Viollet has put his heart, his soul and his savings into his Conservatory of Confectionery, the tangible realization of a dream of preserving French heritage and exhibiting the ancient tools of his trade that he has collected since his childhood.

As the profession is no longer taught in France, he plans to open a school and hire apprentices to revive the ancestral art of confectionery and revive forgotten recipes.

The sweets we remember from our childhood are for sale in the shop, but unlike other sweets, they are made on site. If your visit coincides with a manufacturing day, you can watch all the steps and taste the goods.

As soon as word gets out, harried teachers, desperate for new ideas on how to educate their students in an entertaining way, will be lining up around the block.

All our congratulations to Mr. Viollet.

Pamela Boucliers & Marc Playle