Friday, May 11, 2007

Apt Hunting in MD & the Mazur Group in Baltimore

Monday, May 7th 2007:

We took an early train from South Station to Washington, DC's Union Station on our quest to find a new apartment in our soon-to-be new metro area. Feeling pretty crappy, I try to work on some projects with no success as I slept most of the way down. Brian on the other hand rallies and works on making corrections on his thesis. The train ride was actually pretty nice, except for the overhead compartments that were always noisy upon closing, so my rest wasn't quite restful.

All of the apartments we made appointments for were taken off craigslist, so we avoided any kind of broker's fee. But little did we know, the whole apartment search is not like Boston, where you have to drop a ton of money to hold the apartment.

Our first appointment was at 4pm in Bethesda, the one area we decided to look at. From our previous trip, we really liked the neighborhood, so we focused our search here.

The super deep Bethesda metro stop:

We picked up our zipcar from the Bethesda Court Hotel and drove to our hotel, the Clarion, to unload and relax a bit before heading out.

We ended up looking at around 6-7 apartments, all not quite what we were looking for and some just down right ridiculous. The one apartment that had the most promise wasn't actually available (!) and although I fell in love with it right away, it was a bit far from the downtown area. The next closest contender was right in the downtown area, but super expensive having 2 bedrooms and a nook for dining. Also, they were enforcing a policy to cover most of the wooden floors with rugs due to the loud noise created from walking on them with shoes. Hmm...

On the flip side, the worst apartment we saw had wall-to-wall carpeting. Now this isn't so bad if you're into that kind of thing, but when we say wall-to-wall, we mean carpet that went into the bathroom and covered the entire floor - gross!!! I mean come on people, what if the toilet floods...

The next worst was one that didn't have any kitchen cabinets of any kind, a kitchen that felt like it could be in the basement, especially having the washer and dryer under the counter next to the fridge and no windows.

Our hunt was not going too well.

We ate dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Friendship Heights before our second to last appointment, the only one outside of Bethesda but just in the next town over. It was a bit ironic since Bethesda is a mecca of restaurants, but this was most convenient.

Driving around we jotted some names of nice looking buildings that could have decent apartments, and before getting some shut eye, we looked them as well as some others online.

Tuesday, May 8th 2007:

So much for the alarm snoozing and getting a good breakfast before our second day of searching. I did hit the alarm, but not being 100%, I probably turned it off. Next thing we know our first appointment was in less than 20 minutes, so we didn't even get a chance to shower. Good start.

We spent our time in between appointments making new ones at the fancier places, which came with heftier rents. The problem with these places was that they all had wall-to-wall carpeting which we didn't want, so even though the location was great and the fixtures were modern, we couldn't see ourselves living there.

After seeing probably six to seven apartments, we finally struck gold on our eighth. It felt so refreshing seeing the place that it felt like there was a heavenly "aaaah" that occured when Marla (the building manager) opened the door. It had everything we wanted, plus a pool, fitness center and balcony: the wooden floors, a washer and dryer in the unit, an open floor plan with enough square footage for both an office area and living room area, a reasonably sized bedroom, and great location, not to mention all the new fixtures and appliances. Having seen all the crap apartments before it, we knew this was the one. BUT we did have two final appointments. We did leave the building with a newfound skip in our step, but we didn't want to lose the apartment in the interim, so we called back to make sure it would still be available before we even saw the next place.

Strangely enough, one of the last two apartments was eerily similar to the one we liked, and cheaper, but the natural light didn't pour into the apartment as well as the other one. The view wasn't that great either, but I did like the french doors and walk-in closet.

So after seeing a total of about 15-16 apartments, we could finally relax, knowing that we found a place we could be happy in. What totally sucked was that we both weren't feeling all that great, so we didn't really explore the area again all that much afterwards and just headed back to the hotel. We ate dinner at the Chatters Sports Bar & Grill which was attached to the hotel and watched some Everyone Loves Raymond on the big projection screen.

Wednesday, May 9th 2007

After buying a tape measure at a nearby hardware store, we gave our application fee ($70 - the total amount to hold the apartment! as opposed to Boston's first, last, security, broker's) and measured the rooms. It's going to be interesting combining 3 of our current rooms into one large common area (kitchen, living room, office), but that just means we need to get rid of a lot of our clutter which is a good thing.

Here are some photos of our apt, which was newly renovated:

click on map for a closer look

We're in walking distance to what they claim is about 140 restaurants, so we decided to have lunch at one of them - Austin Grill. Expecting American fare, I was a bit surprised to see that the menu consisted of Mexican fare, but it was delicious.

Heading back to DC to catch a train to Baltimore to meet up with the Mazur group attending the CLEO/QELS conference.


We get to our luxurious hotel, The Inn at Hendersons Wharf, located right near the water, and I take this time to get some rest and hopefully feel better before meeting up with the group.

The Mazur group reunion took place at The Red Star Bar & Grill, where we met up with the extended clan:

For dinner, both Brian and Mazur chose the Southern Maryland Crab Cakes: twin 3.5 oz cakes broiled with a light corn and fennel salad and grilled summer vegetables, while Rafa and I chose the Tuna Nicoise: grilled tuna steak over mixed greens with roasted vegetables, potatoes, Kalamata olives and hard boiled eggs, drizzled with a red wine Dijon vinaigrette - my stomach's growling just writing about it...

yummy almond caramel ice cream dessert...

After dinner, we headed over to The Admiral's Cup which had a $1 Miller Lite can special. Our table was littered with cans, and as the number dwindled to just the four of us, we looked like a bunch of alcoholics with all those cans in front of us.

We decided to venture over to where music was playing just down the street, which was an open deck bar on the third floor of a building called Woody's Rum Bar and Island Grill. We made our way to some empty tables at the far side of the deck, when we were pleasantly surprised with two familiar faces: Jon Birge & Jason Sickler, both who were attending the conference as well, sitting with other lab folk from MIT. Hello, hello.

$2 Coronas...summer is near.

With everyone starving, we headed to the Brick Oven Pizza just down the block for some peetzah - tastes so good late at night...really hits the spot. The last ferry back to the inner harbor was long gone, so the boys cabbed it back, while Brian and I walked the short distance back to the hotel. Called the front desk for a late check-out for the next morning.

And that pretty much sums up the past couple days.

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