A day outside the Medina...An exhilarating dining experience...Stumbles along the way...Negotiating taxi fares...

Tom eyes scanned the interesting décor in the restaurant.
No matter where one travels, whether in their home country or away, we all occasionally encounter unpleasant experiences.  We're always grateful that above all that we're safe, in good health and at the end of day, able to return to a lovely environment, our home away from home, in this case, Dar Aicha which couldn't be more perfect.

At noon yesterday, we took off on the 20 to 30 minute walk (depending on the crowds) to the main road outside the Medina, where the "petite taxi" area where the gold painted little cars wait along the road to take tourists to their chosen locations.

The name of the game is to negotiate the best fares.  It helps to know what those fares "should be," which we did ,having taken these routes in the past.  We needed three cab rides in one day:

It was a beautiful day sunny but not too warm.

1.  L'annex Restaurant (all indications on their website indicated they were opened for lunch on Monday.
2.  From L'annex Restaurant to Marjane Mall's grocery store to purchase nuts and cheese for the next several weeks.
3.  From Marjane Mall grocery store back to the Medina (the Big Square) for the return walk to Dar Aicha.

From our past experience we anticipated that each fare should be around US $4.91, MAD 40 for a total of US $14.73, MAD 120 plus tips.  None of these locations was far but it's slow through the busy trafficked streets with cars, horse and buggies, carts with donkeys, buses, motorbikes and pedestrians, all of which appear to be oblivious of one another.  How the traffic moves so quickly without endless accidents amazes us.

Yesterday, while on our way to the restaurant.
Our first taxi driver refused the MAD 40 we offered for the ride, until we started walking away.  At that point, he told us to wait while he took off for a minute to grab another taxi driver that agreed to take the MAD 40 for the trip to the restaurant.  Off we went in the tiny vehicle.  Most of these cars either don't have working seat belts or they are inaccessible, making buckled up unlikely.

Arriving at the restaurant, the driver turned and looked at us, in French explained it was closed.  Online, everything pointed to a Monday lunch from 12:00 to 3:00 pm. Well after 12:00, we realized they were closed.  I had tried calling several times getting a message spoken in Arabic with no option of leaving a message.  I'd sent an email to their listed reservation only to have it bounced back. We took the chance and went anyway.
There was a photo of Morocco's King Mohammed VI on the wall in the restaurant.
Paying the driver we deciding that we'd walk until we discovered a restaurant open for lunch. It was a beautiful neighborhood leaving us feeling totally safe.  

It wasn't long before we stumbled upon the Italian restaurant, L'Ultimo Bacio Restaurant, surprisingly rated #19 out of 506 restaurants in TripAdvisor.  Hopefully, after we posted a glowing review yesterday they'll move up to a much deserved higher slot when readers read our review.
Photo taken from my seat at the banquette.
Reading the menu posted outside, we were certain we'd each find something suitable. Walking into the attractive trendy designed space, we were seated at a banquette, where we often sit with Tom always insisting I take the padded seat.  As I sunk into the most comfortable seat I've experienced since "my comfy chair" back in Minnesota, I'd have been happy if the food was mediocre.

Before even ordering, I said to Tom, "Let's come back here.  This is wonderful!"
The  ambiance was inviting, the service impeccable and the food, divine.
Tom enjoyed checking out the pleasant décor in the restaurant.
Carefully reviewing the menu, I noticed a few options that could work for me with a few adjustments.  Taking out my food list on the phone, I handed it to the waiter, who actually spoke some English.  Immediately, he pointed to a few options, the same I'd considered and we were good to go.  Tom ordered the lunch special which is shown here in photos.

We were pleased to find this upscale Italian eatery open during lunch hours, our favorite time to dine.
The meal was superb, one of the best we've had in Morocco.  The owner stopped by during our meal to check on us.  Later, when we were done, he spent considerable time chatting with us in his Italian accented, good English.  This simple touch adds another level of enjoyment to any dining experience.
Tom's complimentary appetizer of fried mozzarella cheese.
Languishing over our meal the time flew by and finally we were ready to leave, our bellies full of great food and our hearts filled with appreciation for a blissful dining experience.  Our bill was US $30.08 including tax, plus tip, much to our delight.  We had no alcohol or dessert, only adding a one liter bottle of still water which we shared, as usual.

Afterward, we walked the neighborhood checking possible future dining options with most of the menus posted outdoors written in French, which I can read or in Arabic, which I cannot.  When we were ready for petite taxi #2 of the day, we stood on a busy street near the curb. 

We've found that "calling" a taxi limits the opportunity to negotiate leaving one stuck with whatever fare they ask.  Flagging one down, we peek our head in the window, first asking, "How much?" at which point the negotiation begins, rapidly going back and forth to finally settle on a number.  Each time, Tom and I decide in advance which of us will do the negotiation.  It gets very confusing if more than one of us is involved in the process.

Tom's starter included in the lunch special, cheese pizzas with hand rolled crusts.  He said it was better than pizza he'd had while we were in Italy.
In two of three of yesterday's cases, the drivers started at US $12.28, MAD 100, finally to end up at US $4.91, MAD 40, a typical price for this distance.  For those who don't like to negotiate when traveling, they may be in for a rude awakening finding themselves paying two to three times more than necessary for taxi fare. 

For us, using taxis frequently, we must remain diligent in our pursuit of a reasonable price for the area.  In the US, the fare would be almost $5 before getting out of the driveway.  It's all relative, based on going rates for the area.

Flagging down a petite taxi, we were on our way to Marjane shopping area's "supermarket" (as referred to in Africa in general).  When the driver pulled up to the strip mall, it wasn't the Marjane mall where we'd previously shopped.  The driver insisted there was a "supermarket" in the center and for us to walk three doors down to it. 

Tom's entrée, pasta with meat sauce.
We couldn't figure out why he didn't drop us closer to the door to ensure we were at a supermarket.  When we saw a few grocery carts in the parking lot, we decided we'd accept this location, after trying to explain to the non-English speaking driver that this wasn't the Marjane Mall we'd visited in the past but a strip mall with the similar name.

Once in the store, similar to a Walmart, we went about finding the few items on our list.  As we approached the bulk foods area I took a photo of the huge open bins of various frequently used grains, for sale by the grams.  Immediately, a well dressed man wearing a store name tag approached me, telling me I'd have to delete the photo in his presence.

Of course, we don't want to make trouble.  I showed him the photo as I deleted it.  I guess we didn't realize that it was inappropriate to take food photos in a grocery store. Tom put the camera in his pocket while we proceeded to shop for our few items.

My delicious entrée, chicken breasts with a light garlic and cream sauce made without starch or sugar and the accompanying layered grilled vegetables layered with fine cheeses.
As we proceeded to pay at the register, their credit card machine wasn't working.  We waited for at least 15 minutes, as other shoppers using cash were scooted through the line.  I'd seen several ATMs in the mall knowing if necessary we could get more cash to pay for the items, totaling US $135.53, MAD 1104.  Finally, the manager brought the checker another portable device that worked and we were on our way with our groceries in a cart.

Now, we needed to find our third and final taxi of the day, none of which were in sight in the parking lot.  Heading the long walk to the main road, we flagged down the third taxi.  I asked" (It was my turn), "How much to the Medina?"

"One hundred," he said.

"Too much!" I said, walking away.

"Fifty," he said.

"Forty," I followed.  He waved his arm for us to enter with our groceries.  As soon as we were situated, he turned to us and said "Fifty to the Medina!"

"No!" I bantered. "You agreed on 40!"  He shrugged in agreement on the 40.  Bait and switch.  It went downhill from there.  He spoke little English and indistinguishable French.

An buffet of various vegetable appetizers might be a future option for me with a side of some form of protein.  This looked delicious in person.
After driving for a few minutes, he took off on a side street stopping the car, saying, "Excuse me, madame, two minutes." 

Tom and I looked at each other wondering what this was about.  He turned off the car and exited, leaving us sitting there stupefied.  Tom could see him talking to a man on the street.  Do we jump out with our groceries, taking off on foot or wait out this peculiar scenario?  We decided to wait the two minutes.

When he returned, he apologized to me (the negotiator in this case) again and we were back on our way.  Within another minute, he turned on the radio to an Arabic speaking station turning up the volume as loud as it would go.  It was earsplitting and nerve wracking.  We looked at each other with the same realization,  he was "getting back" at us for the MAD 40.  What else could it be?
The intimate décor would definitely be romantic at night.
Luckily, in 10 minutes we approached the square, Tom handed the driver the MAD 40 with no tip and no word.  We exited the taxi as quickly as we could, left to navigate the busy road with fast moving traffic while carrying our four bags of nuts, cheeses and a few toiletry items. 

Need I say, we were relieved to be back at the Medina back on our way to Dar Aicha.  We'd been gone for five hours. 

After almost a five hour outing, we headed back to the Medina.
Our dining experience at L'Ultimo Restaurant...stupendous.  Our taxi experiences...not so much.  But, we were safe, well fed and had a pleasant evening ahead of us, playing Gin (Tom's beating me in the fourth country in a row), watching a few recorded shows, munching on our nuts and generally, grateful for yet another day in the life..

Photo from one year ago today, April 1, 2013:

A year ago, we ordered the Sony camera from Amazon.com with these accessories.  We didn't receive it until weeks later in April 2013 and, we didn't begin to use it until sometime in May.  For the story and specs on the camera, please click here.


Louise said...

Whow Jess, that food look YUMMY! So nice to see what you are doing. Sorry, I am not always commenting but it is a hectic time in SA with the school holidays and all the long weekends. BUT I do get time to read your posts and enjoying it so much. Love and kisses to Tom!

Jessica said...

Louise, it gives both of us so much joy to know you are sharing our journey with us. We can imagine how busy you are now so please don't worry about writing.

Almost everyday, I look back at our photos of our wonderful three months in Marloth Park with a deep longing in my heart, missing both of you, the wonder of the bush and of course, our precious animal friends. I love seeing your photos on Facebook.

Love and hugs to you both,
Jess & Tom

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