A perfect day…A long walk deep into the walled city…A diamond in the rough…

Finally, we had reached Pepenero, the French restaurant where we dined yesterday, a long maze like-walk through the narrow passageways in the Medina. This was definitely a daytime-only trek for us.

It would be impossible to have a rental car while living in the walled city of old Marrakech. With the necessary 15 minute walk to exit the Medina and wildly busy traffic on the main road, there is literally nowhere to park. 

As we made a sharp turn on our walking trip to the restaurant we found many interesting sites along the way.

With many petit taxis imminently available outside the entrance at reasonable negotiated rates, we have no concerns about getting around. Plus, Samir will arrange for Mohamed to take us anywhere we’d like to go outside the walled city.

On Monday, we’ll do just that.  Mohamed will meet us outside the wall at noon to take us on a half-day excursion to see some of the sites outside the Medina. Monday, with weekend tourists gone, was a good choice.  At the end of the day, we’ll have him drop us off to try a new restaurant on the return drive, perhaps at one of the many fabulous hotels lined up, one after another, on the main road. 

Many of the roads leading to the restaurant were mostly busy with locals shopping for food and merchandise.

Halfway through our time in Marrakech, we’ll arrange as we often do, to spend three nights at another location, in this case, a journey into the Sahara desert and to see the famed Atlas mountains, staying at different locations each night as we work our way deeper into the desert and mountains. We can hardly wait! 

Then again, we make an effort not to spend time fantasizing about what we will be doing, as opposed to what we’re doing now. As Tom and I always remind one another, “Love the one you’re with!”

As we neared the exit to the Medina, cars were allowed.  Seeing this sign was comforting, so we continued on. We approached a door in this area, thinking it was a public building that we could visit when we were told by a security guard that it was an entrance to a palace occupied by a king. Thus, no entry! We continued on our way.

Yesterday, we did just that, loved the one we were with! Planning a hike through the huge Medina to a TripAdvisor highly rated, #4 restaurant on their list of best restaurants in the Marrakech, PepeNero, we were excited to be on our way.

Finding a restaurant located in the Medina that isn’t situated in the Big Square can be challenging. The narrow winding roads, many unmarked, are comparable to a maze, where one can meet numerous dead ends or seemingly walk in a circle ending up close to where one started. This possibility doesn’t intimidate us at all. 

We walked along many fairly isolated roads such as this with an occasional beggar awaiting a token.

Tom’s excellent sense of direction, coupled with directions on my phone, we took off an hour before our scheduled reservation at 1:00 PM. We’ve found that going on these long treks deep into the Medina is best attempted during daylight. Although the Medina is guarded in the main areas, many of the narrow alleys could easily invite trouble at night, nor would we want to get lost in the dark. 

It was easy to imagine that we thought we were going down the wrong narrow road when we encountered isolated areas such as this. But, it was at the end of this road that we found the restaurant, PepeNero.

Making our way to PepeNero was more about the fun of finding it than the idea of a midday main meal.  However, as many long term tourists have mentioned online in reviews, an occasional meal away from the popular flavors of tagine and its varied spices, is often welcomed. 

These colorful rose-filled fountains were a common part of the decor in PepNero.

The thought of another meal in a French restaurant was particularly appealing to both of us. Having budgeted enough for at least two of these more expensive outings each week, we didn’t flinch over the added cost.

Most likely, every day, they’d add fresh roses to decorate the fountains in the restaurant.

The Big Square in the Medina is a wide-open area filled with vendors, acrobats, storytellers, snake charmers, and musicians during the day and exploding at night. There are numerous side streets branching off of the Big Square, that one can explore heading to many parts of the souk, homes, and shopping areas for the locals. 

It was bright and comfortably warm from the sun in the courtyard as we were seated near one of the flowery fountains.

Taking any of these narrow (no cars allowed) roads is not only exciting but has an element of danger with motorbikes zooming by and with the sudden appearance of fast-moving carts with donkeys and horses.  Although we proceed with extreme caution, we often come within inches of being run over. 

The beautiful roses were displayed throughout the restaurant.

Tom, my personal navigator, pulls me from one side to another as we maneuver our way through the busy alleyways. It’s only when we’re deep into a narrow road, far from the crowds, that the traffic diminishes. Even then, we must remain on guard when suddenly a fast-moving motorbike appears out of nowhere.

Our view from inside the courtyard of the restaurant while we dined.  Heaters were available, but we were comfortable.

Yesterday, caution prevailed while we diligently followed an occasional sign pointing us in the direction of the restaurant. As each sign appeared, we were comforted that we were on the right track. At a few points, when we hadn’t seen a sign in a long while, we became concerned, when moments later, we felt relieved when another sign magically popped up.

There were banquettes for those preferring to dine inside as opposed to the courtyard.

Finally, we reached our destination, the final sign on a wood door. But, the door to the restaurant was locked.  Luckily, an employee also trying to enter, rang a doorbell and we were let inside along with him, wondering for a moment, if perhaps something was wrong with our reservation. 

This bird found a morsel for his meal.
Adjusting the camera in the bright sunlight, she was easier to see.

The website and TripAdvisor.com both stated they were open until 2:30 for lunch, reopening at 7:00 pm for dinner. I’d received an email confirmation for our reservation. Moments after entering, a charming English and French-speaking waiter seated us at a sunlit table for two in the open courtyard. At that point, we were the only guests, although 30 minutes after we arrived a few others appeared.

There were orange trees growing in the courtyard.

It fascinates us that orange and lemon trees grow inside the riads.

This gave us a great opportunity to linger over the interesting artifacts, architecture, and design of the riad and to take photos unhindered by other diners. We couldn’t have had a more enjoyable time in the exquisite ambiance, dining on an equally exquisite meal combined with the finest service in the land. 

A complimentary small appetizer referred to as an amuse-bouche was served prior to our meal. Mine was gluten-free, as are many offered items on the menu. After showing the waiter my written-in-French list of items I cannot have, he assured me this appetizer was befitting my way of eating. It was made with Aubergine, which is eggplant.
Tom’s amuse-bouche had a cracker decorating it.  Surprisingly, he ate it finding it acceptable for his picky taste buds.

Our waiter understood perfectly, obviously from many experiences when to ask how we were doing and when to step back, as we engaged in lively conversation as I told Tom a long-forgotten story from my many years as a business owner. 

Tom’s entrée including filet mignon, grilled potatoes, and vegetables which he thoroughly enjoyed, eating every last bite.

It’s ironic, how placed into a relaxing environment such as our world travels, that long-forgotten stories come to the forefront in our minds. In our old lives, the stress of daily living kept our brains preoccupied. Now, away from all of the stress, we find ourselves recalling stories we’d never taken the time to share.  In a funny way, it makes our relationship new and exciting. 

My entrée was grilled salmon and vegetables which was divine. The total cost of our fabulous meal including a liter bottle of water, tax, and the tip was MAD $400, US $49.25.

Living in a new environment every few months easily makes way for new thoughts, ideas, and conversation that invariably keeps our 24/7 lifestyle fresh and entertaining. Of course, with Tom’s relentless humorous observations and my rampant optimism and attention to detail, we never seem to have a moment of boredom with one another or for that matter, in anything we do.

After we lingered in the pleasant surroundings of the restaurant for a while, we began the walk back, feeling satisfied after a delicious meal and excellent experience.

Currently, we’re sitting on the sofa together in the salon in Dar Aicha,  the little heater cranking out a bit of warmth, I’m writing and posting photos, while he is listening to his favorite radio show, Garage Logic, which is blaring in the background on his laptop. Whether I like it or not, I am a captive audience of his radio show finding myself laughing out loud from time to time.

Returning to Dar Aicha requires a walk through several souk after leaving the Big Square.

Here we are in Marrakech, Morocco, living in a much larger-than-we-need house, the open sky inside brightens our days in sunlight and our nights in stars and occasional moonlight. We’re graciously and elegantly attended to by an amazing household staff of four as we find ourselves content and above all, grateful, for each and every day.

After our almost three hour outing, we returned to find this cat snoozing on the grate outside our door.

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