The House Search

Apartment Hunting: The First House (29/8/13)
Woke up early and took the bus down to UCD to look at the campus for the first time EVER. After getting lost trying to find the bus stop and asking a few bus drivers where we’re going, we met this guy at the bus stop, who was in his 50s-60s. As we were riding bus 46a from city centre to UCD, I was pointing out several different things to my German companion. Each time, the guy from the bus stop – who was now sitting diagonally from us – smiled and nodded, as if giving approval to a child. For instance, I saw an auto shop and noted that tires is spelled T-Y-R-E-S.

When we finally arrived onto campus, we entered the main entrance of campus and saw a map – thank goodness because the ever so small Trinity College had no map. I run up to it to see if we can figure out where we’re going. As I approach, I realize that the map is in Gaelic/Irish. I walked around it to find the English version on the other side. After we do a very brief campus exploration, we walked into a neighborhood nearby, without a map, and got pretty lost. I was 30 minutes late to an appointment with another student since we both were relying on Wi-Fi. My German companion and I ended up knocking on several doors randomly and asking the inhabitants for directions. When I met this other student, she told me about her horrible experience living in Proby Residence: laundry machines rarely worked so she washed everything by hand, the place was old and worn down, and the pillow and comforter (duvet) provided by housing were thin so she bought her own set. She said that she wished that she had lived off campus to begin with. After my appointment, my companion and I took the 46a back to city centre. While we were waiting at the bus stop for the 47 (which we found came infrequently), there were at least 6 buses for the 46a line pass us. On one of these 46a buses, that same guy from the beginning of the trip waved at us from a window facing the bus stop with a giant smile on this face. It was eerily creepy, but he’s the only weird one so far. We ended up taking the 145 up to city centre after waiting at the bus stop for 30 minutes, and discovering that the buses are fairly reliable and that most people arrive 3-5 minutes before their bus arrives.

The Samuel Beckett Bridge. I think it looks like the Irish harp on its side.

After arriving at city centre, we walked to the Waterside apartments on Ringsend Road/Barrow Street (~1 mile/1.6 km). At first it transitioned from the nice city centre atmosphere to a ghetto-looking area, then into this fancy, upscale, business neighborhood. It was a nice walk, as on the other side of the Liffey there is a mall, the Dublin Convention Centre, some piece of artwork and two big major bridges in 1 mile/1.6 km (the Samuel Beckett Bridge & the Sean O’Casey Bridge). Around the apartment, there is The Marker Hotel, a luxurious, 5-star hotel, and an ever so awesome (and adorable) Fresh: the Good Food Market. It was like the Fresh & Easy at home. At Fresh, I learned a bit about the foods available to me here in Ireland. For one, cheesecakes do not seem solid like American cheesecakes. They are often sold in containers that one would think you put pudding in. Also, Guinness makes chocolates. Walking around the area some more, I noted that license and defense are spelled differently: it’s licenCe and defenCe. That makes so much more sense than the American way!

Guinness (& Bailey’s) chocolates found at Fresh.

Then, the apartment. The apartment complex itself seemed to remind me of a cruise ship probably due to how fancy the building (and elevator) were and how the hallways looked a lot like the hallway of portrayed in Titanic. The apartment was rather small with all the necessities in a tiny, tiny space with a tiny, tiny balcony. There was a single washer-dryer unit (I didn’t know those existed!) IN the kitchen (which my German friend says is common where she comes from) that did only what American would consider a small load. It was a really nice apartment for a really good price, but it was a little far from campus.

After looking at that one apartment for the day, we walked back to the hostel and I passed out on the futons in the lobby until my American colleagues returned and we went out for a walk on the town.

Apartment Hunting: The Second, Perfect House (30/8/13)

Guinness gelato?! ❤

Waking up in the morning, we decided to take a walk around town before seeing the house of the day. First, we walked around St. Stephen’s Green. There were a lot of gulls swimming around like ducks. There were also swans, local water fowl and the typical Mandarin ducks. Then we passed by this gelato shop on Grafton street. I was so excited when I saw that they make Green Tea gelato and – what do you know – Guinness gelato.

Then, we went into the St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. It has three floors: labeled ground floor, middle floor, and top floor (when taking the elevators here, ground floor is always G or 0, the floor above that is 1, etc., the floor below – if any – is -1, etc.). The first floor was mostly just small shops with random food places. The middle floor has most of the “home goods” and affordable clothing: TK Maxx, Argos, and the Dunnes store. The TK Maxx was exactly like the TJ Maxx back home, a store that sells brand name things – like clothing, shoes, housewares, accessories, etc. – for a discounted price. They’re both run by the same company, TJX, so I guess that makes sense. Argos was a strange store to be in. You don’t see things on display in the store, instead there are large, phone-book sized catalogs where you find what you want, then I was told you’d take it to the counter and tell them what you want and they’ll bring it out to you. They have things you’d expect Ikea to have, so lots of housewares and decorative things (including bed linens), as well as daily use appliances and pots and pans, everything you need to furnish a house. The only thing I can pinpoint they don’t have is clothing and shoes, more personal items.

A picture from the top floor of the St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. That capsule looking thing in the middle is a radio studio.

Then, the Dunnes store, from what I can tell, is a lot like Macy’s or JC Penny back home. However, most of the clothes and things were store brands, not designer brands. The middle floor was also where there were a lot of “balcony alcoves” that were used as displays for stores, instead of having a store front window display, and a random radio station, 98FM, right in the middle of it. The third floor was, again, a bunch of small shops. There was a great little Irish gift shop I’d recommend if you wanted genuine Irish knits though, it’s called The Donegal Shop. The knits are expensive, but they’re absolutely gorgeous and worth the price, at least in my opinion. Before our departure, I learned something very strange about the mall, and possibly all malls around Europe. They charge you to use the bathroom, or as they say “toilets”. My German companions said that was rather common in Germany as well. It’s not an expensive charge, just 20 euro cents. She said it is done as to keep the maintenance of the bathroom up. I think it’s a smart move.

After exploring the mall, we went over to see the house. On our way to that part of town, we walked down this street and at one point, there were more and more Asians passing me – which was weird because most places, I don’t see any Asians at all! Then, we pass this shop, I smelled what I could only describe as an Asian food store. I turned to my side and lo and behold, an Asian grocery/dry foods store, the Oriental Emporium. It was the most wonderful thing ever (at least at that point in time)!

Then, we arrived in what we thought was the correct area. We were told the house was on “Northbrook Lane”. Turns out, there’s a Northbrook Lane and a Northbrook Road, two totally different pathways. Also, on Northbrook Lane, there were two sets of houses, one on each side of the street, both with the same house number. So, we were rather confused. After about fifteen minutes of getting lost, we called the woman, who picked us up from where we were and walked us to her house. It’s in a quaint little neighborhood, mews. The lady was very nice and made us coffee, showed us around the house, offered us cookies and told us how her and her husband started letting out their rooms since their son moved out. It was a lovely afternoon at her place. She told me how I could find secondhand clothing stores, mostly associated with and labeled as “charity shops”, on Camden Street where I could find some rain clothes I might need.

So after the visit, my German companion and I took a walk down to Camden Street on our way back to city centre. Back at the hostel, we stayed up late listening to Kat review what she remembers from her German classes to my German companion. The fascination of the night, by Sam, was that knee is pronounced “kuh-nee”. It was amusing. Late in the night, before bed, a group of Germans decided to sit across the table from us. They were having a ball drinking red wine and coke. What?! One of them asked if they could have bag of chips we were sharing. He picked out salt and vinegar. Turns out, he didn’t like the taste of vinegar. As he said, “we only use it on salads…and for cooking.” Funny, because next thing you knew, he finished the whole bag without complaining.

Top: US penny/1 cent (left), Euro 2 cent (right) Bottom: Euro 2 cent on top of a US penny

Word/Phrase of the Day
Parking “bay” = Parking spot
To “let” = to rent out

Things I Learned “Today”

  • The 2 cent euro piece is the same size as a US penny
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for directions
  • Save 15 minutes to find a bus stop/route; likewise, save 30 minutes to find your location when you generally know where you’re going.
  • Don’t bring a hair dryer, iron, etc. They will probably get destroyed due to the voltage difference. Instead, go buy them from Argos. (When I arrived, there was an ad for a hair dryer, curling iron, AND straightener for only €40).
  • Get an Irish phone/SIM card ASAP and/or have access to international services, as calling for apartment directions and other things become necessary very quickly.
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