The challenges of dining out in Arizona…Ultimately, weather-related reasons…

When we visited friends Kathy and Don in Pretoria, South Africa, one year ago, we visited this monument, the Voortrekker Monument, which is an unusual-looking structure located in Pretoria, South Africa. At the time I walked up all these steps (not all steps we tackled are shown in the photo) without getting out of breath or having any health issues. It was a little over a month later, I had open-heart surgery with three main arteries 100% blocked. Who knew? For more photos from this date, please click here.

Let’s face it, many of the patrons of restaurants in the area are seniors, based on varying stats online from a number of sites, none of which I will quote based on this variable.


But, overall, it appears approximately 25% or more of the population of Arizona consists of “snowbirds,” those who migrate to the state during the colder winter months from other parts of the US and other countries.


Some have moved here to live year-round, even with the outrageously hot summers in the Arizona desert. Some have chosen to live in cooler summer temperatures, such as stated here from this news article at this site:


“When the temperatures heat up in the Valley many head north to escape the heat, but where is the coolest place to go?


Let’s start with a popular destination, Flagstaff. On average, in July, the afternoon high temperatures are 25 degrees cooler compared to Phoenix. To put it in perspective, the average high temperature in Phoenix during July is 106 degrees, while Flagstaff comes in at a cool 81 degrees. 


While Sedona is also a popular place to go to escape the heat in the Valley of the Sun, it is on average only about 10 degrees cooler compared to Phoenix.
So where is one of the coolest places in Arizona to go to escape the heat? That would be Greer, coming in with an average high temperature for July of only 76 degrees! 


That is on average 30 degrees cooler than Phoenix.
Here are a few other northern Arizona locations, along with their average high temperatures during the month of July:


Grand Canyon: 86°
Holbrook: 93°
Payson: 91°
Prescott: 89°
Show Low: 86°
Williams: 83°
Winslow: 95°”

Here are the average temperatures in Apache Junction during the summer months:

“Apache Junction, AZ
Month High / Low
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Photo from one year ago today, January 8, 2019:

Exquisite paintings and tapestries lined a number of walls at The Voortrekker Museum. For more photos, please click here.

Scouring Paris continues…Early morning train to Versailles on Wednesday…Tomorrow’s post will be 4 to 6 hours later than usual…

This is a typical Parisian scene of a French Balcony which has no room for sitting but offers a view and often room for flowers, such as these.

Yesterday, was a quieter day than the prior days.  Twice, we went out walking to check out a few areas we’d never tried.  On the first time out we looked for a coop or health food grocer where we could buy raw nuts which we found within the first a half hour, returning on the return walk when we didn’t want to carry anything.

Wherever we may walk, we can find our way back for two reasons; one, Tom’s excellent sense of direction and two, spotting the Eiffel Tower.

After spending US $47, EU $35 for the equivalent of two pounds of raw nuts, we continued on looking for new restaurants to try.  We were in luck when we stumbled upon a brasserie, cozy looking restaurant with casual seating that we decided we’d return to for dinner later in the evening.


This is the famous Pont Alexandre III bridge and visitors area which we visited.  The top of the pillars are gold and the street lamps are made of crystal.

When dining in French restaurants its a different experience than what we’d experienced in the US and in some other parts of the world.  Nothing is quite the same as it appears on the menu and thus one must be diligent in asking questions and being prepared for the end result, at times less than expected, at others times, more than expected.  The service can be slow at times.


A closer view of Pont Alexandre III.

Of course, one can become easily startled when seeing the breakdown of the bill when as much as 40% is included into the food costs considering all the taxes and service charges (gratuities are included as service charges). Its no wonder that the items on the menu seem higher than one might experience elsewhere in the world. 


Having seen this and other areas in photos over the years, it was exciting to visit them in person.

French law requires that tips and taxes be included into the price.  The intent in part was to avoid tourists from the confusion of tipping when VAT tax was included in the food cost. All of the service charge may be kept by the owner or, the owner may dole it out to the employees as tips which is expected.


The expanse of the River Seine and its many bridges attracts many tourists.

In cases when the service is over the top, it is suggested on various online site to pay EU $1 per EU $20 of purchases, a reasonable plan in the event the gratuities don’t go directly to the service staff or, as a special token of appreciation of a job well done. 



A bell tower on a church.

Its highly entertaining walking the streets of Paris.  Having walked a considerable distance from our hotel we’ve been able to investigate totally different neighborhoods, each with its own flair and personality.  

Shopping for food and cooking meals in Paris would definitely be an experience with the variety of ingredients and options of less common ingredients.

However, we can only get so far on foot when faced with the return walk.  As a result, we’ll be taking the subway, train and bus for some of our upcoming venues.  Of course, we won’t miss any of the popular venues due to the fact that they are too far to walk, using public transportation as needed. 


“Knock off” designer bags, shoes and clothing are commonly found for sale on the streets.

Tonight, we have a reservation at Les Ombres, a restaurant we’d investigated on foot several days ago.  Only a 15 minute walk from our hotel, the setting near the Eiffel Tower, packed during the day was situated on exquisite grounds.  Both the menu and ambiance appealed to us.  

Even fine French cheeses were for sale in refrigerated cases at the Farmer’s Market.

Although the restaurant is only rate #3657 out of 15,585 in TripAdvior, we felt that with the difficulty of getting a reservation, it must be something special in addition to its ambiance when seeing it was packed in the afternoon when we walked by. 


These mushrooms caught my eye.  Wouldn’t these be lovely to cook?

Considering that this rating puts it in the top 24% in Paris, we felt it was worth a try.  One can assume that the difficulty of getting a reservation may be a good indicator of reasonably good food.



Beautiful flower shops can be found every few blocks.

We’ll report back tomorrow as to our first fine dining experience in Paris, hopefully with rave reviews and more good photos of today’s adventures when we use to metro to seek an exciting venue.

On Sunday, we stumbled up a Farmer’s Market along the boulevard that was winding down in the afternoon after an early morning start.

Tomorrow, we’ll be on the train to Versailles in the early morning and won’t be posting until later in the day upon our return.  Thus, our post will be available approximately eight hour later than usual.  


This venue celebrated architectural shows and conferences from what we could tell.



We laughed when we noticed this old fashioned “iron” used as a door handle at a laundry service.  Walking the neighborhood we’ve found a nearby self serve laundry which we’ll use the day before leaving for London on the 16th.  By hand washing our underwear, we can get by for the two plus weeks in Paris.

Most likely late tomorrow, in order to remain in the order of our activities, we’ll post the exciting venue we plan to visit today and photos of tonight’s dinner at Les Ombres restaurant. 

Flowers lining the walking paths.



There are flower garden throughout the city, this one close to the River Seine and Eiffel Tower.

More flowers garden growing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower where there’s a huge park where many visitors lounge and enjoy the view.

The following day, on Thursday, we’ll be posting photos of Versailles sharing what hopefully will be another extraordinary experience as we make our way through the City of Lights.
Tom said this was the best dinner he’d had since we arrived in Paris.  The total for last night’s dinner was US $57.72, EU $43.10.  Tom had one large beer and I had a large bottle of sparkling water.  Had the waiter requested the small sparkling water I requested, as opposed to the large, the total bill would have been comparable to the last two nights.
 
My dinner was mediocre last night when there were few items on the menu that worked for me.  I’ve never been a fan of those tiny shrimp, although the cod in the salad was good.  When we returned to our hotel, I dug into the nuts, still hungry after dinner.




Tom’s meal included a dessert.  He selected the crème brulee.  After eating it, he told me that he prefers when I’ve made it.  Tres bon!

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Photo from one year ago today, August 5, 2013:

Pescia, Italy was the town we drove to for grocery shopping, via the steep and winding hairpin turns of the mountains of Tuscany.  The meat department in the grocery store was the best we’ve seen anywhere with the finest deli meats, bacon and cheeses. For details for that date, please click here.
 

The Paris trek continues…So much to see…Plenty of time to see it all..

Due to a poor WiFi signal in the hotel, and the numbers of photos today, we’re having issues with paragraph spacing.


The front entrance of the French Army Museum, Musee de l’Armee de Invalides with the bullet shaped evergreens.

The lush green grass and the neatly trimmed evergreens at the museum.

Cathedral de Saint Louis des Invalides located on the ground of the
Musee de l’Armee de Invalides

So far we’ve walked 15 of the 40 square miles (103 square km) of Paris.  In a way I’m thrilled its raining today.  Having tossed all my tennis shoes along the way, I only had a few pairs of leather Keds, one new and one almost new.


World War I tank as we entered the museum.

The massive courtyard of the Musee de l’Armee de Invalides was used as a staging area during times of war.

Normally, these shoes don’t hurt my feet but after all these miles, I must admit my feet are rubbed red in spots and a day off from walking will do wonders.  The rain is a good excuse to keep us from a long walk today.  Although, if my feet weren’t still hurting, we’d probably attempt it, rain or shine.


This was a helmet from medieval times.

Guns on display in the “old department” from the 13th to 17th century.

We need time to continue planning our remaining open days, many of which are already booked.  In Paris, one feels compelled to keep moving in fear of missing something.


Body armor from 17th century.

Primitive arrowheads and stone and metal weapons.

Yesterday, we’d planned to walk to our hearts content in a new direction.  Checking out the map we decided to attempt to make it to the Musee de l’Armee de Invalides, France military museum with such areas as the DÔME DES INVALIDES, TOMB OF NAPOLEON I.  The cost to enter the museum was US $25.50, EU $19 for both of us.

Handmade spears seen in the “old department.”
 

Huge decorative cannon.

Suit of Armor on man and horse.


The walk to the museum was far, taking us an hour of actual walking time and another hour of checking out restaurant menus and other sites along the way.  The weather was ideal, cool, in the 70F’s, 21C’s, making the walking easy.

Another huge cannon and cannonball.

Could this be body armor for women?
 

Full armor for soldier and horse.  That must have been one heavy load for the horse to bear.

 

The museum consists of an “old department” from the 13th to 17th century, the “modern department” Louis XIV to Napoleon III, 1643 to 1870 and to the “contemporary department,” the two world wars 1871 to 1945.  We saw them all.

Chain male.
 

Tomb of Napoleon I.

Surprisingly, the museum, although busy, wasn’t uncomfortably crowded, nor were the streets we walked.  From what we’ve read, tourism slows downs a little in August due to it’s usual heat.  Since we arrived the hottest day was Friday at 86F, 30C which has steadily gone down a little each day. 

Beautiful alter in the area where the tombs were displayed in private rooms.

We love having all the time we’ve scheduled to be in Paris, leaving us feeling relaxed and unrushed, allowing ample time to write here each day and riffle through our zillions of photos from the prior day, in itself a time consuming undertaking.  By noon each day, we’re off, anxious to find the next treasure in Paris.

This ceiling is breath taking.

The construction and artwork is amazing.

We’ll still have several days left to explore on own our attempting to walk to more points of interest. Perhaps, if we’re diligent and our feet hold up, we can see most of Paris on foot in our 16 days.



Tomb of Joseph Napoleon II.

Last night, feet tired, we decided to walk to a reasonably nearby Japanese Restaurant, ranked #1017 of 12585 restaurants in Paris.  It may sound like a high number on the list but it proved to be in the top 8%, not too bad of a choice which we’d investigated in advance. 

More exquisite ceiling art.

Although Tom likes Chinese food (only the same certain dishes) we’ve had Japanese in the past both cooking for ourselves and dining out.  The dinner was excellent and coincidentally it was the same cost as the prior night, to the penny as shown in these receipt below at US $54.38 (the exchange rate changed overnight) including the gratuity and all those pesky taxes.

The tomb of Sebastian Le Prestre de Vauban, “an engineer who revolutionized the art of siege craft and defensive fortifications.”

 
 

 

We enjoyed the dinner although, when we finally returned to our hotel to relax after another tiring day, I ate an entire huge bag of pistachio nuts, lasting through two episodes (sans commercials) of “Murder in the First.”  Tom had a similar meal to mine but with the big bowl of rice he managed to eat with his chopsticks, he was full.

Tomb of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, World War I.

This morning, the hotelier approached us as we sat in the lobby writing, offering us a complimentary breakfast due to the inconveniences of the leaking bathroom.  Hesitantly, we accepted since we rarely eat breakfast (except on cruises when we have two meals a day).  We wandered downstairs to the hotel’s café to an average breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and pastries.



Tomb of Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey, French Army General.



Napoleon II, King of Rome.


Tom didn’t touch a single French pastry, instead opting for toast with butter and jam, which he only eats on cruises.   I laughed.  Had I been able to consume flour, I’d have had a hard time eating only one or two of the yummy looking pastries.  Oh well.  Without my strict way of eating, I wouldn’t be in Paris let alone walk three miles in three days let alone 15 miles.  Who’s to complain?

My sauce free but nicely seasoned skewers with tuna, salmon, scallops and prawns.

The comprehensive menu at Japonaise. 

The receipt from last night’s dinner all inclusive at EU $40.60, US $54.51.  By having a few less expensive dinners such as this, our budget will allow dining in three or four pricier restaurants.

We have many more photos to share with our readers as the days march on.  As I wrote this we decided to head out again, after posting today’s story and photos, now that the rain has stopped.  Much more tomorrow!
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Photo from one year ago today, August 4, 2013:

While living in Tuscany all last summer, we made a point of cooking using local ingredients as we often do.  In this case we made pan fried chicken breast meat filled with ricotta cheese, spices from the our garden, wrapped in pancetta from the amazing deli at the supermarket.  For details from that date, please click here.


Drinking alcohol in Morocco…Not readily available in Islamic countries…

Baskets of spices outside a spice shop in the souk.

Tom is not a big drinker.  On occasion, if readily available, he may enjoy a couple of bottles of beer or a few of his favorite cocktails. When planning to live in Morocco, he had little concern when we discovered that buying a bottle of his favorite Courvoisier, which he mixes with Sprite Zero over ice, was not an easy purchase in this non-drinking Muslim country.

He dismissed the concept of drinking for the two and a half months without giving it a thought.  Out of curiosity, we checked prices of his brand at the grocery store at a cost of US $60, MAD 486 for the VS, not VSOP, for a smaller bottle than he usually purchases. He said, “Nah, it’s just not worth it.” 

Leather sandal are a common offering in the souks.

Yes, he’s quite frugal when it comes to himself but never when it comes to me.  Then again, my wants and needs are minimal these days so I have followed suit in frugality for myself as well.  (Over the past few weeks, I’ve been using a Q-tip in order to get the last remnants out of a favorite tube of lipstick. Perhaps, the difficulty in replacing it is more the intent than the frugality).

Instead of buying a bottle, I suggested he have a few drinks when we dine out.  The restaurants we frequent offer beer, wine and his favorite cocktail.  But, the other problem in ordering cocktails in restaurants is the ice.  All of them use tap water when making ice.  With the risk of intestinal distress the only ice we use is that which we make in our riad using bottled water to fill the tiny trays in the household’s tiny freezer. 


Tourists are often attracted to the varied choices of leather handbags.

The average cost of his cocktail in the restaurants with the Sprite Zero is US $14.17, MAD 115.  If he were to have only two cocktails without ice, which he doesn’t care for, the cost at almost US $30, MAD 243 is ridiculous, costing as much as our food, which in itself in not a bargain in Marrakech. 

Beer, a good second choice, is an average of US $7.00, MAD 57, again in a smaller bottle.  He decided to forgo beer as well.  Why bother?  He feels it’s just not worth it.  For me, it’s not an issue.  I don’t drink alcohol, although at times I do wish I could, especially red wine. But my health supersedes my desire to drink, a decision I made many years ago.

Carry on leather bags also appeal to the tourist trade.

All said and done, Tom has ordered one cocktail without ice and one beer on two separate occasions when we’ve dined out in Marrakech, never to order again.

Another situation where we find cocktail prices outrageous is while cruising.  The cost of drinks and beer are comparable to Morocco prices and then again, Tom cringes.  Cruises offer drink packages usually around US $59, MAD 478 per person per day plus 15% gratuity. 

This clump fell onto the floor of the riad overnight.  With spring in the air and all the birds flying in the house, we assumed it may be the makings of a bird’s nest.

When we did the math for these cruise packages, there was no way buying one made sense for Tom.  He only has a few cocktails at dinner when we’re gathered around a sharing table or dining on our own.  He never drinks alcohol during the day so he’d have to drink six cocktails at dinner to break even, seven to be ahead.  Forcing oneself to drink to justify the “package” hardly makes sense to us.  There are non-alcoholic beverage packages that make no sense for me.  I don’t drink sugary beverages, juice or soda.

In a mere 17 days we’ll be in Madeira, grocery shopping the next day with our late arrival.  With enthusiasm, we anticipate purchasing all the foods, snack and beverages that we desire.  Perhaps, at “happy hour,” we’ll lounge on the veranda overlooking the ocean and once again, feel like we’re “home,” wherever that may be. 
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Photo from one year ago today, April 28, 2013:

The view of the island of Madeira where we’ll arrive in only 17 days, flying from Marrakech.  Our ship docked in Madeira for one day a year ago today, enabling us to visit with Gina, the owner of the house and to see our future home in person.  We couldn’t have been more pleased.  The house is away from this busy port town of Funchal.  For details of that date with more photos, please click here.

Fun date night in the souk…An attitude adjustment hatched…

This gorgeous rose was growing in one of the many flower beds in the restaurant where we dined last evening.

The souks and the Big Square of the Medina of Marrakech change at night.  The energy level amps up, the shopping crowds are less frenzied though crowded and the mood goes from “let’s rush” to “let’s have fun!”


Dining on the rooftop, we spotted this familiar Minaret Tower.

As we walked by a shop, a vendor yelled to Tom, “Hey, Grande Moustache!  What you buy for the madam?”  Tom returned, “She has it all!”

I giggled, as us women often do when our loved ones make assumptions that we already have everything we could possibly want.

When we asked for a dinner menu, the server brought this huge chalkboard for our review.

Yesterday afternoon, an attitude adjustment was born out of our magical way as a team, of making a conscious decision to “reframe our thinking” (words used by motivation speaker Tony Robbins from years passed) by returning to our usual cheerful and enthusiastic selves.

We’d been in a bit of a funk for this past month, mostly precipitated by one of us more than the other, looking for all that wasn’t right, as opposed to what was right,  invariably sucking the other into the mood.  As hard as the more positive one tried to stay upbeat, the at times more somber partner quietly refused to partake in rampant bouts of cheerfulness.

Plants, trees, bushes and flowers were on display on the restaurant’s rooftop.

Without prodding, criticizing or any form of recrimination, the more cheerful one had an idea:  Let’s start planning  our travels from May 15, 2015 into the future for the somber one’s fist choice of the next stop along the way.  And then, magic happened!  We had a light bulb moment.

We have no home, no stuff and no idea where we’ll be in 13 months when on May 15, 2015 our last booked rental ends.  Imagine that such a thought could be disconcerting. 

These tables were rather low suitable more for children than adults.  We sat in a corner managing to get comfortable.

Add the fact that present circumstances don’t necessarily keep us entertained and busy without the day to day responsibilities of managing a household to some extent; planning and shopping for meals, cooking and creating a familiar routine and ambiance, had left us both with too much idle time on our hands.  As a result, idle time…la la la…idle mind (or whatever they say).

With the utmost of excitement, we both began researching online with a greatly improved WiFi signal, thinking, discussing and planning.  Animated conversation ensued along with a renewed sense of “why we’re doing what we’re doing.” 

The views from the restaurant’s third floor rooftop.

Over our next 30 days in Marrakech, we’ll enthusiastically continue our search, already with a decent plan in mind as we strive to make it affordable, exciting and befitting our dreams of continuing on in our travels

Although much of the Medina is well maintained, the age of many of the buildings result in many distressed buildings.

Instead of dining during the day, as we often do, last night we walked the short distance from our door to the souk with a spring in our step, determination in our hearts on a mission to find a new restaurant serving mostly French or Italian cuisine and have a lovely evening.

The restaurant’s name was displayed in white stone in the backyard.

After a 20 minute walk through the souks, we discovered exactly what we were looking for, a three story restaurant we’d noticed on prior walks, one which we’d never tried. We weren’t disappointed by the décor, the food, the service or the prices at Terrasse des Espices or, of course by the conversation.  OK, their credit card machine battery was dead.  No big deal.  We paid in cash.

Here again, more old and worn buildings mostly unoccupied.

As I enthusiastically type fast and furiously while voraciously pounding on this uncooperative keyboard, once done here today, the search will continue.  Over the next few weeks we’ll book the remaining five flights for our family members for Hawaii, book a car and flight for Madeira, while we continue to research our options for future.


More rooftop views.

And, of course, once we start booking for the future, we share the details with our readers.

This Arabic symbol Hamsa, protection from the evil eye.

Once again, we’re our old (yes, old) cheerful selves filled with determination and enthusiasm for today, tomorrow and times yet to come. 

“Hey, Grande Moustache,” I mutter with a huge grin on my face, “Thanks for sharing a great day, a delightful date night and yes, you’re right..she does have it all!
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Photo from one year ago on April 15, 2013:

Tom coming down the slide of the ship’s pool.  For details for the post from that date,
 please click here.

The maze like environmant of the souks…So confusing…Food around the world…

Yesterday, this was my meal at Le Jardin;  fillet of dover sole with a spinach sauce made with a flourless cream reduction sauce.  In the center, is an array of cooked vegetables including carrots, zucchini and eggplant.  The chef prepared this meal for me after the server showed the him the restrictions list on my phone.  It was fabulous.  Now, I can’t wait to have this again!  See how tempting it is to return to favorite restaurant when I can order a dish as amazing as this?

Firstly, again thanks for the many well wishers, for my improving health.  Now with only one more day on Cipro, I am feeling completely well having decided to continue and do the full five day regime.  All symptoms have subsided and I’m back to my energized self, chomping at the bit to get out and explore.

Tom ordered the same dish he’d had at Le Jardin last time we visited, fearful he wouldn’t like other options.  Next time, he’ll try a different dish.

Yesterday, we did exactly that!  Explore.  With Friday, the holy day for those of the Muslim faith, many of the shops are closed in the souks.  As a result, the narrow roads and passageways of the souks are relatively free of foot traffic.  Since we aren’t interested in shopping, this is an ideal time for us to get around and explore the area and search for new restaurants to try.

During the long walk, as we searched for Le Jardin we discovered this interesting door in the Jemaa el Fna souk, one of the more popular souks.

Here’s the dilemma.  We’ve decided we can no longer dine at most Moroccan food restaurants.  Having decided I will no longer eat raw vegetables after this dreadful illness there are few foods that I can eat in a Moroccan restaurants with any assurance that there will be none of the ingredients that I can’t have.  Many dishes have flour, sugar, grains, fruit and starches, all which I must avoid.

Continuing on through the narrow roads, we looked for any familiar landmarks that would assist us in our search for Le Jardin.

A few days ago, Tom suggested I write about food too much.  I agree that it is a frequent topic of conversation.  But, let’s face it, people usually travel for a few reasons other than to “get away from it all.”  They travel for the shopping, the sights and for the food and wine. 

We thought we were close when a few weeks ago, we’d spotted these same two kittens playing at perhaps the same spot.

Many of the homeless cats hang out in pairs.

When travelers board a long flight, one of their first questions asked is, “Do we get a meal?”  One of the major reasons travelers enjoy cruising is for the food, the “all you can eat” aspect, with many courses with an endless array of desserts.  When travelers arrive at a new location, they immediately get to work to find out where to eat using the Internet, the concierge or by inquiring to other travelers.

From time to time we’ll see what appears to be a traditional home furnishings shop. 

We live in a “food” orientated society.  Our holidays and celebrations consist of big meals with many desserts.  Sporting events appeal to many for the food and drinks that seem to go along the frenzy.  A trip to a movie theatre results in a desire for popcorn, candy and drinks. 

Ever go to Las Vegas and not discuss a plan as to where to have the biggest and best buffets, maybe “comped” if one is a serious gambler, or to immediately return to a favorite haunt for a special dish?  Its our nature.

If we go back to the caveman/cavewomen, most likely the first thing they thought about upon wakening, is where and how they’ll get their next meal. In the animal world, we observed both on safari and in living in Marloth Park, that animals lives revolve around the constant hunt or forage for food.


What an interesting door!

Its in our DNA whether its out of the need to feed our bodies or for sheer pleasure.  We can’t help but think and talk of our desires for food in various the forms in which we’ve become familiar.  A huge part of traveling is the excitement of seeking the new food experiences, the new flavors.

Here we are in Morocco, dealing with my major food restrictions (which I don’t resent at all) and Tom’s picky taste buds, in one  of the “foodie” capitals in the world!  Food is a major point of discussion in our lives perhaps in a slightly different manner than for most travelers.

A few decisions have been determined by my recent illness coupled with Tom’s taste buds:
1.  No more dining in Moroccan restaurants
2.  All dining is to be in French, Italian or other suitable international restaurants
3.  When dining in, Madame Zahra will make all meals without the traditional Moroccan spices which at this point, neither of us cares to eat.


Finally, we spotted the green sign at the top of this photo, assuring us at long last, that we were heading in the right direction.

Our lifelong taste preferences can be changed for a few days or even a few weeks.  But, none of us, prefer to eat the strong flavors of another culture’s food for months.  For example, I love Szechuan Chinese food.  Could I eat it everyday for over two months?  No.  Could one eat foods with Italian spices everyday unless  you were Italian, used to eating those flavors at each meal? No.

Ingrained in all of us, are the tastes most familiar in our lives and from our upbringing.  Deviating for a period of time is acceptable but, not so much for the long term.  When Madame Zahra made our meal on Thursday without spices other than salt and pepper, we both moaned in appreciation not only for her fine cooking but for the familiarity of the simple flavors.

With French spoken in Morocco by many of its citizens and the fair number of French restaurants, we’ll have no difficulty finding French restaurants.  The bigger problem is, “finding” those in the souks, many of which appear to be tucked away.


The fresh organic produce offered for sale at Le Jardin.

Yesterday, we decided to do a “repeat” and go back to Le Jardin, a French restaurant offering a combination of Moroccan and French influenced options.  Having dined there recently, greatly enjoying the food and the ambiance, we decided to return. 

The first time we’d dined at Le Jardin, we stumbled across it during one of our many walks through the maze-like souks.  We thought searching and finding it on one of the many online map programs would make returning a breeze.  We encountered a few problems. 

They didn’t appear in any of the map programs. The map on their website was confusing and when I tried to call them to email directions, there was no answer.  When I tried sending an email to their posted address, it was returned.  We were on our own.


Today, we’ll return to the same general area to dine at this French restaurant we stumbled across when looking for Le Jardin.

Tom has the best sense of direction of anyone I’ve ever known.  When we left there weeks ago, he had no trouble finding our way back to our home.  Time having passed with many outings in the souks, he wasn’t 100% certain as to the course to take.

Needless to say, we wandered around the souks for 45 minutes until we found Le Jardin.  We’ve discovered it makes no sense to ask shop workers for directions.  Invariably, the salesperson drags us inside their shop or to another shop, hoping we’ll make purchases.  We’ve learned that we must figure it out on our own.  I suppose the shop workers have grown tired of giving directions to confused tourists.

Yesterday, we had another excellent meal while enjoying the birds and turtles roaming freely in the courtyard.  Hence, a few of today’s photos.


Here is one of the two resident turtles at Le Jardin.  The staff carefully maneuvers past them when serving guests.  It was hard to believe how fast these turtles move.  They moved so quickly that I had a hard time taking the photo.  The turtles are on a constant “crumb patrol” mission.

Today, we’ll venture out again to a French restaurant we found along the way yesterday.  Again, the souks will be packed with tourists especially as Spring Break becomes relevant in many parts of the world.  However, we’ve yet had to wait for a table at any dining establishment.

At Le Jardin we were given two larger maps that hopefully will assist us in the future.  The hostess, speaking excellent English, explained that tourists have trouble finding their restaurant which is tucked away at an unexpected location.


Madame Zahra made us this Moroccan spice-free meal which wasn’t bland at all with her use of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  From left to right, starting at the bread for Tom; sautéed carrots,  chips (fries) for Tom, egg battered sautéed cauliflower (my favorite), sautéed fresh green beans and fried mashed potato puffs for Tom.  In the center is the rooftop grilled chicken with both white and dark meat which works well for us; Tom likes the white meat while I prefer the dark.  As always, there is more food than we can eat.  But, homemade Moroccan cooking consists of many items. 

In two days, on Monday, we’ll go out on a day of sightseeing which we both anticipate with enthusiasm, ending the day at a new-to-us, upscale French restaurant.  See… even sightseeing is laced with concerns about FOOD.

An evening outside the Big Square…

Karim, the owner of the French restaurant, Cheese Me, suggested we take a photo together.  He was also a world traveler which we discovered after our taxi was ordered.  Next time, we’ll spend more time with him sharing world travel stories.  No longer carrying a handbag, I stuff my pants pockets with girl stuff, as shown in my zipping right pocket.  Although we’ve seen few insects in Marrakech, my two pairs of lightweight insect repellent pants come in handy.

In a perfect world, traveling the world would result in being “free spirits” able to do exactly what was most appealing.  In the “real” world we have budget constraints that have a distinct effect on how we spend our time and money.  From time to time spending a little more than usual is inevitable and last night was a perfect example.

As we walked through the Big Square toward the street, the sun was setting.  This area is close to the street outside the Medina and was less crowded during this time.

It was obvious to me over the past week that Tom was needing a more familiar meal with less vegetables, less spices and something he could dig his teeth into.
After spending the morning posting here and the early afternoon working on tax stuff, I quietly searched online in an effort to find a restaurant for last night’s dinner more befitting his limited taste buds.

The simple décor was pleasant and welcoming.

Fingers flying across the sticky keys on this new laptop (yes, now more letters stick than the letter “i”), I was looking for dining options at TripAdvisor.com and other websites.  Screaming out at me over and again was a peculiarly named restaurant, “Cheese Me,” a required cab ride from outside the Medina.

Tom, with his observant eagle eye, noticed that this chandelier was made of upside down wine glasses.  Not only does Cheese Me offer many cheesy dishes but they also have an extensive wine list. 

Using Google Maps, I found the location, set it up on my phone, sent in a request for a 7:00 pm reservation for two, telling Tom the good news when he came back downstairs after his shower.  He was set and ready to go.

The casual nature of updated daily specials adds a nice touch to any dining establishment.

With it raining off and on all day, with a break at 6:00 pm, we began to make our way outside the Medina to the street where we grabbed a “petit taxi” to take us to our destination.  It’s a long walk to the street from our riad including walking through the Jemaa el Fna souks, then across the Big Square through hoards and hoards of people. 

Tom really enjoyed this flavorful French Onion soup, usually served in a cup.  At Cheese Me it’s served in an nice sized soup bowl.

 By the time we reached the street it was 6:25 pm.  The traffic on the street was crazy with fast moving cars, tuk tuks, horse drawn carriages, motorcycles and bikes seeming to go in different directions at once.  While scanning the area for a taxi, a driver approached us. 


My watercress salad, although simple, was fresh and crunchy with a delicious tangy
homemade vinaigrette.

Showing him the address and map on my phone, I asked him, “How much?” to which he says, “70 dirhams.” (US $8.62). Tom flinched and started to walk away.  I started negotiating.  Once we were down to 50 dirhams, US $6.16, I waved at Tom, “Let’s go!”  He yelled out to the taxi driver, “40!”  The taxi driver began to walk away, waving his arms in the air saying, “No, no, no!”

Tom savoring his French Onion soup.

Oh, good grief!  Ten dirhams is US $1.23. “Let’s get going!” I bellowed to Tom over the noise of the crowd. (I am not one to yell by any means but, the situated required a loud voice). The traffic was awful with horns honking, sirens blowing, pedestrians scrambling to cross the street to avoid getting hit, and I thought for US $1.23, we should get going. 

it would be fun to return to Cheese Me, sit at this cozy bar to chat further with Karim.

Tom wasn’t thrilled when we piled into the little car. Later, Karim, the restaurant owner, told us we shouldn’t have paid more the 40 dirhams, US $4.93 for the ride from the street outside the Medina.  So, once again, Tom was right. 

Back inside the walled city, the night’s festivities were in front of us as we made our way back to our riad. It had begun to rain again.

But, my rationale is always the same…circumstances prevail.  It made sense to get into the taxi at that point.  Fortunately, Tom and I don’t argue over such incidences.  We let it go.  Next time, we’ll say 30 dirhams and settle for 40.  We learn as we go.  In any case, the extra US $1.23 was not  that big a big deal.

Tom suggested I turn around to take this shot of the mosque’s lights.  What a sight!

Arriving at “Cheese Me” a few minutes before 7:00 pm, Karim welcomed us at the door.  Upon entering the cozy French restaurant we were comfortable and at ease as we settled into the molded plastic chairs, noisy to move across the floor, comfortable for sitting.  The menu offered a wide array of simple options, dishes that incorporated fine cheeses in one way or another, exactly what the doctor ordered.

Tom ordered their highly acclaimed onion soup, based on a review I read in TripAdvisor.com while I had a plain watercress salad with a homemade vinaigrette as a starter.  For the entrée, we both ordered the bacon cheeseburgers, mine without the bun. I gave Tom my included homemade French fries.  They even had ketchup which Tom appreciated.

We had to watch carefully while walking as these horse drawn carriages stopped for no one.

When our burgers arrived, we were both so hungry that I forgot to take a photo. Sometimes our appetites supersede our desire for a photo op.  Taking the first bite, both of us were in heaven.  I hadn’t had a bun-less burger in a restaurant since Kenya and the taste sent me reeling. The bacon was actually pork bacon, an oddity in Muslim countries, smoky and perfectly cooked.

The presentation, the ambiance and the friendly conversation and suggested photo with the owner, Karim, put the final touch on a delightful experience.  The cost for dinner, the most we’ve spent dining out in Marrakech so far was, MAD $350, US $43.03 including tax and tip, without cocktails but with purchased beverages.   We didn’t flinch. 

Yes, it was a little pricey for “soup, salad, burgers and fries” but, the service, the presentation, the quality and taste of the food, the ambiance and the special attention paid to us by the owner, made it worth every penny.  Maybe, we’ll return but Tom seemed a little hesitant with the high price for burgers.


Once back inside the souk we noticed that many of the shop owners had closed for thenight although this butcher still had his products on display.  Hmmm..I always wondered how meat could sit out so long without spoiling.

The waiter called our petit taxi cab driver when it was time to go, for the return 50 dirham trip to the Big Square for a total cost for the evening of MAD (same as dirham) $450, US $55.41.  Most often, our meals inside the Medinahabe been half of this cost but dining at Cheese Me was well worth the added expense. 

Dining out three to four times each week with Madame Zahra cooking for us on the nights in between, requires us to pay attention to how much we spend each week when dining out. Don’t we all?  The cost for each meal Madame Zahra prepares for both of us is MAD $200, US $24.62.  (This US dollars for this amount may vary from day to day as the value of the dirham changes). 


The dark alleys of the souks are cluttered with litter at night, all of which will be cleaned up
for opening time in the morning.

Each Tuesday, we pay Samir for Madame Zahra’s meals to ensure she isn’t out of pocket for the cost of the groceries for long. Each time we dine in, she shops in the souk for the ingredients in areas the locals frequent as opposed to where the tourists shop.  (We’ll be including tips for the four household staff members halfway through our stay and again before we leave).

Last night convinced us that one or two “special” dining out experiences each week is well worth the added expense and fits into our budget, considering that the other evening’s costs are lower.


By the time we unlocked the door to our riad, the floor in the courtyard was covered in rain water. Luckily, we’d returned in time to avoid getting ourselves soaked.  When walking from room to room on the main floor we have to walk around the edges in order to stay out of the water.  This morning, with the rain having stopped, this area is still wet. Oumaima and Madame Zahra used a squeegee to move the standing water to the drain.

Back at Dar Aicha by 9:30, after another exciting walk through the Medina in the dark with the activities in full roar, we were content to watch a few shows on my laptop and head to bed for yet another good night’s sleep in the comfortable bed. 

Today, more work on the taxes and another walk through the souks.  We’ve yet to shop for our jogging suits. Neither of us is excited about shopping, knowing our luggage is overweight as it is.  Anything we purchase results in disposing of something we already use.  At this point, I can’t imagine what that might be.

Oh, what a night!…Way too much fun!…Tom’s South Africa haircut…at last! A rare visitor…a great dinner…

 

“We’re not moving! We’re waiting on the others!” We didn’t mind a bit. We’d have gladly waited for any amount of time.

There are times I say to myself, “Oh, please, this is too much fun!” Then again, I realize that both of us are easily entertained. Really. 

An interesting insect or sighting of a turtle walking across the garden has the ability to captivate us to the point of squealing with delight once we can let out our breath.

“We’re coming! We need a few more bites before we join the others!”

We were always like this. Only then, we didn’t have access to this degree of almost constant stimulation.  Whether it’s the sound of Lions roaring, the pleasant bubbly sound of hippos as we lie in bed at night, or the shuffling sound of a creature atop the roof, the pleasure only seems to stop when we’re sleeping.

“Hold onto your shorts!”

It’s ironic that this constant state of being “on the alert” and the sheer engagement when we discover yet another wonder, by 10:00 to 10:30 pm, I’m practically falling on my face. Tom is not far behind.

And still, the others had yet to join them while they anxiously looked their way. At this point, traffic was backed up and as soon as there was an opening, we were on our way, our faces hurting from smiling.

Yesterday and last night, one of many days and nights, we had a particularly delightful time. The heat was unbearable as a storm brewed, the air was thick was visible humidity. We lasted outdoors for five hours finally throwing in the towel, heading indoors to the loft with AC.

Yet to visit our yard, a mom and baby Wildebeest watched us drive by.

Due to the excessive heat, the AC wasn’t able to keep up. The lines frequently clog with insects, caused water to start dripping into the house. When this occurred, we had no option but it turn it off. With AC in both bedrooms, I decided it was a good time to go into our bedroom, turn on the AC and read my book. That didn’t last long.

Definitely not pretty animals, but, all of them are cute to us.  Although it’s been very hot here in the summer months, we’re grateful we’ve come during the birthing season, seeing many babies.

Fearful of missing something, a short time later I turned off the AC, shut the door, and looked outside for visitors. What if we missed something else? We’d had a great morning as shown in yesterday’s post.

We were so excited to get this shot of one of the two monitor lizards living in our yard.  This photo was taken at the hottest point in the day.  Louise and Danie told us that they’ll swim in the pool from time to time. We’d have loved to see that!

Having left prawn shells (shrimp) and a raw egg for the mongoose (they eat snakes), I was thrilled to see the monitor lizard eating the last of the prawn shells and then taking the raw egg with her to the hole in which we occasionally see her and her mate slither in and out.

The monitor lizard, a rare visitor, headed to the ground on the opposite side of the pool to check out the eggs that she laid a few weeks ago. As mentioned recently, it may take up to 300 days for the eggs to hatch depending upon conditions such as weather and attacks by other animals.
This occurred so quickly that I had no time to get the camera. A half-hour later we found the monitor lizard contemplating a swim in the pool, the long tongue darting in and out of the water. As a result, we captured these photos from inside the house. These Lizards are very skittish. If they’d seen us they’d be gone in a few seconds. They move quickly.
Tom, outside the salon where he got a haircut on Thursday.

At 6:30 pm, as the sun began to set, Okee Dokee picked us up to take us to Jabula Lodge, our favorite restaurant in the area. Not only is the food fantastic, but Dawn and Leon, the owners, present every time we arrive, make our dining experience comparable to a party each time. The chatting and laughing between tasty bites adds a playful element that drives us back, time, and again for more.

Tom, awaiting his turn at the salon for his haircut appointment.

On the way to Jabula Lodge, we stopped many times to take these photos. Although not as clear as I’d like since taking photos from a moving vehicle at dusk is challenging with our type of camera. However, we couldn’t resist sharing these today. 

Tom with his new haircut getting ready to eat that huge vertical stick of beef known as Espetada. I wasn’t thrilled about him eating the chips (as they call fries in Africa). But, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t comment, as usual. He said the meat was delicious. I had perfectly prepared grilled chicken, veggies, and Greek salad (sans dressing).

After the laugh-fest at Jabula Lodge, we headed home, watched a few shows on my broken-monitor laptop, and headed to bed. The worst of the storm had passed, the temperature had dropped considerably and a good night’s sleep was imminent. Another good day.

 

Making friends while traveling…A local friend’s birthday celebration…A social life…Please scroll for more visitors…

A photo of a lovely painting on the wall of the restaurant, Tambarina.
How lucky we’ve been to befriend local Marloth Park residents, some living here year round and others who have homes in other parts of South Africa or other parts of the world.
At lunch last Friday with our new friends, Piet and Hettie, with whom we celebrated both of their birthdays over a fabulous lunch at the Tambarina Restaurant in the town of Komatipoort.
The commonality of the interest in wildlife creates an easy segue into lively conversation. Add the combined travel adventures to the conversational mix, the unbelievable friendly nature of the citizens of South Africa and friendships bloom with gusto.
Hettie’s lunch of prawns from Mozambique, a neighboring country we’d love to visit. Due to political unrest at this time, we’ve been advised to stay away.
We won’t take any credit for this pleasing friendship-making other than the enthusiasm we share for meeting people along the way in our travels.
Piet T-bone steak platter which he said was excellent.  We were so busy chatting I forgot to take a photo of Tom’s meal.
While cruising we were again lucky to meet many wonderful people from all over the world, many of whom we stay in touch via email. Once we landed in Belize for 2½ months, we made friends with neighbors on either side of us, who happened to have their other homes 35 minutes from our old home in Minnesota. We stay in touch regularly.
My prawn salad was perfect for lunch.  Next time I’ll order the plate of prawns that Hettie ordered and enjoyed.
There’s no location that we’ve lived in the past 15 months have the locals been so welcoming and open to befriending these two vagabonds, who’s three months stay in Marloth Park is rapidly waning.
The elusive monitor lizards occasionally honor us with an appearance. Recently, one of the two of them ate an egg we’d left out for the mongoose family living in our yard, which occurred so quickly we were unable to take a photo.  

In a few weeks, I’m going out to a “girls only” lunch date with two lovely women with whom we’ve socialized as couples. It’s been 15 months since I’ve had a “girls only” lunch with my dear friends from our old neighborhood; Nelleke, Jamie, and Sue, when they planned a get together one last time before we left on Halloween 2012. 

Although not daily visitors, we can count on the kudus to stop by once a week. The wildlife grazes on a rotating basis to ensure they don’t “wipe out” any single area of vegetation. How clever, Mother Nature!

Last Friday, our friends Hettie and Piet invited us to lunch as their guests to one of their favorite restaurants in Komatipoort, Tambarina, a quaint Portuguese restaurant. Offering the freshest of ingredients and known for their jumbo prawns imported from the neighboring country of Mozambique, their menu was diverse and appealing, the resulting food absolutely delicious.

If we lived here, we’d never tire of the graceful beauty of the kudu or for that matter, of any of the wildlife that comes our way with the exception of poisonous insects. Whether a dung beetle, a tree frog, a mongoose, a turtle or the yet-to-visit wildebeest, we love seeing them.

With both of their birthdays early in the month, we celebrated, enjoying yet another excellent time together.  We look forward to their return by the end of this month as well as the return of other friends, we’ve been fortunate enough to make in Marloth Park.

The mineral lick hasn’t garnered as much attention as we’d anticipated.  A few days ago a warthog pushed it out of his way with his snout, showing no interest whatsoever. Thus far, a few kudus have nibbled at it. Guess we won’t need another one of these.

Of course, Louise and Danie, our hard-working hosts, are much more to us than “landlords.” They frequently stop by to see if we need anything but more importantly, for both of us, is the time they spend visiting with us, as we all get to know each other. They are very special people.

The center kudu was nudging the kudu on the left with his massive horns. We seldom see a female kudu in our yard who protect their young in secluded locations during their infancy.  Once impregnated, the males permanently avoid the females and the offspring. A dominant male may mate with many females, leaving other males without a mating opportunity. Later, the boys hang out together, the dominant male heading up the herd.
Not unlike Minnesotans, many homeowners here have a house elsewhere and a house in Marloth Park, as one would have a house and a cabin on a lake in Minnesota. After lengthy holiday stays, many return to their other homes for a period of time with plans to soon return to Marloth Park.
Both of us have always been “social butterflies” making a concerted effort to nurture and cultivate relationships with friends. In the past, we frequently entertained as well as being entertained in the homes of friends. Having left all of those friends behind, making new friends has been such a pleasure.

With only 53 days remaining in Marloth Park, we plan to cherish every moment with our new friends, both human and animal, which apparently are in abundance in this glorious location.

 

 

No water yesterday…No electricity for 17 hours today…What?? Boredom? Nope, not us.

 

Who can be bored when the playful antics of our temporary dogs, Jessie and Gucci never fail to entertain us?

Yesterday, late afternoon the power went out.  After 15 hours with no water yesterday, the power going out after the water came back on was an odd coincidence, none the less frustrating.

We were showering and dressing in preparation for dinner at a resort we’d yet to try, Diani Reef Resort and Spa (photos coming tomorrow).  Luckily, it was light enough to finish getting ready.  Our taxi driver, Alfred, was due to arrive at 6:30.  Darkness falls at 6:45 pm.

Gucci loving demeanor make us laugh when he’s so pushy about us paying attention to him.  He reminded us of our beloved Worldwide Willie (read Willie’s blog of the last days of his life, if you love dogs) who’d elicit a low bark if we made eye contact with him and then looked away. We love dogs.

As we drove away from the house, we both sat silently, not looking forward to returning to a dark house after dinner.  Since arriving on September 2, 2013, the longest power outage in Diani Beach had been an annoying 6 1/2 hours a few weeks ago. 

After a divine experience at the Diani Reef Resort and Spa last night (we’ll share details tomorrow), we’d hardly given the power situation a thought until at 10:00 pm we were back in the taxi with Alfred for the long drive back. 


Candles and lanterns to get us through power outages which frequently occur.

The moment we approached the main security gate  to our small neighborhood, which the guards opened upon recognizing Alfred’s taxi and waving “jambo” at us, we knew the power was still off.  Jeremiah, our security guard greeting us at our gate with a flashlight walking us to the dark house.

Within moments Jeremiah (our security guard) and Jeri (Hans’ wife) appeared with a above handheld candle lantern, two tabletop lanterns and extra candles.  With our plan to use an hour of the remaining battery power on my laptop, we settled in bed to watch a show.

With no overhead fan working, I was restless all night, overheated and uncomfortable.  Yesterday, it had rained off and on, torrential with wind that required that Tom moved the sofa in our outdoor living room to avoid us getting wet.  The sticky humidity remained into the night.

Just before falling asleep, Tom reminded me of the KES $28492, US $335 for two weeks of groceries we’d purchased the previous day, most of which was in the refrigerator and freezer.  Thinking about the possibility of throwing out all of the food, had a tendency to flutter through my mind during the night also keeping me awake.

For the first time, I put my little LED flashlight under my pillow in the event I had to get up during the night.  One must never walk around in the dark without checking the floors and walls for creatures.  Also, getting into bed, I used the light to check under the sheet, pillows and around the bed.  The rain drives the poisonous centipedes inside.

Another morning with no shower, the second in a row. (Thank goodness we showered late yesterday after the water came back on). Today, there was no power to heat the water.  A cold shower didn’t hold much appeal.  I got up at 6:30 am, exhausted but hopeful that in daylight the power outage would soon be resolved.

By 8:00 am, I found Hesborn (he lives on the property) to see if he knew anything about the power situation.  He’d heard from a neighbor that a transformer blew with the power outage effecting a huge area.  Again, we wait.

By 10:00 am, Hesborn informed us the power was back on, 17 hours after it had gone out. Surprisingly, the food in the freezer was still frozen solid and after tasting my ice tea from the pitcher in the refrigerator, it was still cold indicating that the refrigerator food also survived.  I’ll guess I’ll stop whining about the refrigerator’s minuscule size now that I see how well it stayed cold in a power outage.

As much as we’d love to have “safari quality” stories to share every day, reality dictates that at times, that our lives likes yours, may at times be mundane and relatively uneventful and, perhaps at times seemingly boring. 

We’ve asked ourselves why we seldom if ever, feel bored.  With two little adorable dogs hanging out with us most of each day, with a baboon running through our yard cautiously looking our way, with birds involved in a mating rituals before our eyes, with goats in the yard making hilarious sounds as if they’re being torturing (they’re not), we find pleasure and humor that easily entertains us.

When we know that tonight, a dining-in night, that we’ll have another delicious homemade meal, to later watch a few favorite shows while munching on locally grown nuts, we have no reason to be bored.  When we know that tomorrow night, once again we’ll dine out for what will most likely prove to be yet another excellent evening, again boredom is not within our realm.

In any case, last night we had a memorable evening at the Diani Reef Resort and Spa with the utmost of sophisticated atmosphere, the finest of gourmet food and the epitome of outstanding service which we’ll share tomorrow with several photos of both location and food.