Cadbury World is tucked away in Bournville, a suburb of Birmingham, and presents — in a mildly-theme-park style — the the socialist-industrial-chocolate dreams of the Cadbury family.
I think this sums up the overall theme of the factory tour: St. Cadbury of the one and a half glasses. Go ahead and read the story of Cadbury if you like — I’m not going to repeat it all here. I get the feeling Cadbury has enough of a PR machine already.
When you first arrive, you see a plain building highlighted in Cadbury purple. Tip: buy your tickets online ahead of time, and print them yourself. You’ll skip all the lines and can go right in to the start the tour.
Jump right in to the Experience– yes, capitalized — and see life-sized mannequins in jungle scenes depicting the early days of chocolate consumption. The Experience goes on in a series of slightly bizarre (and therefore delightful) would-be multi-media edutainment displays.
From life-sized mannequins to miniature holograms in tiny dioramas. Here a spanish explorer introduces the upper class to chocolate. In another display, a Jacobean gentlemen extolls the use of chocolate as a hangover cure.
A sit-down theater where the floating head of Cadbury talks to the audience about the development of his business. I’ve never been lectured about Quaker values and industrial philanthropy by a floating head before.
The next theater has some interactive elements — with shaking benches, hissing steam, and hot red lamps the audience is meant to feel what it’s like to be a cocoa bean as it is processed, Cadbury style, complete with shaking, roasting, crushing. And, one assumes, watching black and white photography.
indoctrination education in the theaters, the walk of the factory begins. With more chocolate. There are big signs everywhere restricting photography, but this nice purple stripy young man said I could take his photo as he passed out chocolate. Did I mention all the free chocolate?
The self-guided factory tour involved a lot of walking down hallways next to closed-up rooms, which was even less exciting than it sounds. Interesting trivia: the floor tiles are metal, to hold up to the weight of the heavy pallets of chocolate going to and fro throughout the facility.
As you wait for your diabetic coma, you can admire a London 2012 Olympic Stadium, made of chocolate! (You didn’t think you were going to get out of this post without an Olympic reference, did you?)
Some picnic tables next to the play area and the outdoor cafe, existing under the largess of CADBURY. The Bournville Experience continues the
indoctrination edutainment — we skipped it. It was probably very cool, but the kids were ready for some running around.
And if you want some more chocolate, move along to the steampunkesque Essence Emporium.
I was remarkably restrained in the gift shop, No, honestly, I was. I didn’t grow up on Cadbury so the myth of the chocolate is a bit lost on me, but delicious is as delicious does and Cadbury’s is a nice contrast to the darker, more intense and less milky chocolates I usually enjoy.
Cadbury World is positively quaint compared to the mega-entertainment commercial theme park complex that is Hershey Park (the only other chocolate world experience I have to measure a comparison), but it has a charm all its own, in a very British style. And with endless streams of liquid chocolate to ramp up the heart rate, this is a day out we’ll surely remember.
(Note to the side, here at the end. You know when you meet someone in real life, think they are really cool, lose touch for a few years, reconnect through a mutual friend on Facebook, start to stalk them because you think they do all the sorts of things you want to do, only better, and then freakishly you end up both living overseas in the same country, and you find a day when you can get together with the kids and tour a chocolate factory? That happens to everyone, right? Well, it happened to me and IT WAS AWESOME! You know who you are — love ya, babe!)