Another eye-opening experience - trying to find an apartment in this happening city. There are about 80,000 people living in Galway, I'm told, so it's roughly the size of the town of Napa. There are a lot of U.S. companies that have set up manufacturing sites here, plus a bustling university, so lots of new residents coming and going. Here's some more background information about Galway: http://www.travelireland.org/galway/.
The housing market here is hot, unlike Northern California. Our leasing/relocation agent, Rosarie, arrived around 10 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, to meet us at the hotel. She said she was thrilled to have four different apartments to show us, one of which was a townhouse. All had two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. (That news made our day already.) We had a cup of tea (we are adjusting well to their traditions) and then hopped into Rosarie's car (I almost got in on the wrong side, as the driver sits on the right here). Our first stop was in Salthill, about 1 mile south of Galway city centre. http://www.travelireland.org/galway/salthill/index.html
This apartment, located in the Baily Point complex, was remodeled in a contemporary, sleek modern style - and had a large terrace with sea views of Galway Bay. Stunning! And Ireland's longest promenade along the seashore was right across the street. Plus there is a little shopping area down the street in Salthill with pubs, wine shops, restaurants, internet cafes, grocery stores, etc. The apartment was a little small, but very nice. It totally exceeded our expectations. We were expecting tiny apartments in charming, ancient buildings with no dishwasher and old decor. We were thrilled.
Next we visited the townhouse; it was in a gated area on Taylor's Hill, a very affluent neighborhood, we were told. It was three stories with a spacious kitchen combined with separate living room and dining room on the first floor, two bedrooms, two baths on the second, and a loft upstairs for an office. The interior design was impressive. Very modern, contemporary and high-end. From a design standpoint, it was nicer than any place either of us had ever lived. But there were no seaviews or a terrace - it was less than a 10-minute walk down to the water, though. And a really nice gym was around the corner, just 3 minutes' walk away.
We then visited two apartments near city centre. The first was on the docks, right off the water - but it needed serious updating - kitchen, carpets, furniture, etc. We passed. The next was nicely decorated, fully remodeled with sleek modern furnishings and kitchen appliances - but no dishwasher. And it overlooked an oil refinery. We decided the city centre would be a little too noisy. And there were three showings of this sleek apartment scheduled that day, so it would be gone within hours. We let it go.
Over lunch on Quay Street (pronounced "key," the made hub of shopping, dining, activities here in Galway), we decided to make an offer on the townhouse. It was so nice and spacious, and only a short walk to the water. And it was a little closer to city centre. (We are keeping in mind that we only have one car, and I'll have to walk, bike or bus everywhere when Damon's at work.) We soon learned that there were several people interested in the Taylor's Hill townhouse, and the agent and owners are very fussy regarding to whom they rent. Their agent told our agent she would be meeting with the owners on Wednesday to select the tenant. We grew anxious (me more so than Damon, of course). Could we have been nicer during the showing? Should we have dressed more professionally? Should we send over a bottle of wine and a thank you note? (That's Lisa thinking....) Should we wait it out? Will we lose Baily Point if we do? It was already past 5 p.m., so all we could do was hurry up and wait.
The next morning, we decided to go walking around town. Finally, at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, we learned that we didn't get Taylor's Hill. Could this be because we are Americans? Our first sign of discrimination, thanks to our lovely foreign policy and a president that is detested worldwide? Who knows. Our agent was never able to find out why. She said she'd start searching the databases again to see if anything new turned up. She said she called Baily Point to make the offer, but had not heard back from the agent. With no calls as of Wednesday evening, we realized that we'd probably lost Baily Point too, and now there was nothing available. Would we be living at the Radisson for the next few months? We had been enjoying the outdoor jacuzzi, work-out room and sauna, but eating out every meal was getting old. It's a strange feeling to know that you are now a resident here, but you still feel like you're on vacation - or will this change when we move into an apartment and start a normal routine? Maybe I will always feel this way, as I still can't believe we are living in Europe.
On Thursday morning, our agent called and said she had two more apartments - neither had been listed yet - which we could see before the feeding-frenzy of potential renters occurred. The first was in the same building overlooking the oil refinery (Damon was not enthused, but it did have an dishwasher). The second was near Baily Point. On the way to the first apartment, we learned that Baily Point was still on the market, and it was ours if we wanted it. All of the anxiety melted away: whatever we saw that morning, we knew we could still have the little place with the seaview terrace that we liked very much. The first apartment was bigger than the last one we had seen in this building; it was a corner unit. I liked it - except for the out-dated furnishings. The street-level noise was too loud for Damon. The other agent showing us the property suggested that we go see the second apartment down in Salthill; she said it was vacated yesterday and not yet cleaned, but worth a look. We rush over to Salthill to Ocean Towers, condos/apartments just north of Baily Point. This was a second-floor corner unit, and it had been recently renovated. We walked in and were hooked - a covered balcony with seaviews, modern kitchen with all appliances, beautiful living room, separate dining area near kitchen, two baths (one with a tub), and two bedrooms - one with a seaview. We looked at each other, then at the agents and said, "We'll take it." Everything always seems to work out for the best. We actually prefer this apartment over the one we were turned down on, and it's a block from a gym that overlooks the sea. It's a little farther of a drive for Damon, but his commute will probably be around 20 minutes - far less than the one hour he drove each way back home. He just has to leave for work around 7:45 a.m. to avoid traffic.
We are hoping to move in on Monday, the day Damon's starts work at Medtronic. Alas, Lisa will be in charge of the move, sans car.