By Jason Vu

What’s one way of studying globalization in Paris? Why not a tour of some of the best chocolate and cheese shops in town?


After our first week of classes, Prof. Behdad announced that he would be leading an optional excursion on Saturday to local cheese and chocolate shops in Paris. At each store, we would have the chance to sample products (all covered by our program too!) and speak to a few of the workers.

Prof. Behdad gives an introductory lecture before we begin our tour


Before we began our cheese and chocolate tasting, however, Prof. Behdad made sure that we would learn something from this experience by starting our excursion with a lecture on chocolate’s relationship to globalization. In a short amount of time, Prof. Behdad discussed the history of chocolate as we know it and its relationship to colonization and technological advancement. Far from pure entertainment, our trip was meant to give us a direct and intentional experience of globalization as it was shaped by historical interactions. WIth an added layer of background, we were finally ready to head out to our first Parisian chocolatier.


After getting off the metro in the historic district of Paris known as Le Marais, we walked a bit through some old, windy roads to our first stop: Edwart Chocolatier. At the shop, we were greeted by the friendly owner who proceeded to add to what we learned from Prof. Behdad with a brief presentation of his own.

Storefront of Edwart Chocolatier, our first stop!


Once he finished his talk, we moved on to the tasting portion of our program. Rather than having us all sample the same chocolates, the owner decided to spice things up by choosing our individual samples based on how we each answered his questions. For example, he would ask where we were from, our preference for milk or dark chocolate, and whether or not we were adventurous. Based off my answers, I got a piece of chocolate that includes hints of mustard and wasabi, making it slightly spicy! I was surprised by the combination, but it was tasty all the same. After buying some chocolate to bring home, we headed out to our next chocolatier, Pierre Hermé.

Pierre Hermé’s ice cream display


Unlike Edwart Chocolatier, Pierre Hermé was much larger and had a variety of other sweets other than chocolate like ice cream, macarons, and other pastries. Our focus here, though, was trying the chocolates made in-house by their workers. Since our group was so large, we couldn’t sample the chocolates inside, so instead, Prof. Behdad picked up our order of chocolates and we sampled outside. The chocolates from this store tasted much more like traditional chocolate with the exception of some samples that had hints of fruits and nuts added in as well. Once we finished our samples at Pierre Hermé, we went to one other chocolate shop before heading to a fromagerie or “cheese shop”.

Some cheeses on display at the local Fromagerie


The fromagerie we were headed to was fortunately within walking distance of our last chocolate shop, and it wasn’t long before we arrived. As a big fan of cheese, I was overjoyed by the variety of cheeses in front of me. Brie, Gorgonzola, Camambert— these were all cheeses I was super excited to sample. While not as related to globalization as chocolate, cheese is an essential part of French culture that is a must on any trip.

Cheese tasting time!

Prof. Behdad picked up our plate of cheeses and within minutes, we found a cozy park to sit in and began sampling our vast assortment with some complimentary bread. Every kind of cheese we had was different from the others and tasty in its own way. By the end of our small meal, I was stuffed and happy. The cheese tasting marked the end of our tour and was my signal to take a long food nap!

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019.