08 November, 2007

The Apartment Search....is Over

Which one of these places is our new flat????? Read below and follow the picture link at the end to find out....

Part of the agreement to move to Luxembourg was that my company would put Paula and me up in a corporate apartment for 2 weeks to give us time to get settled in and to find a more suitable permanent apartment, or flat as it is called over here. We were lucky enough to have the services of a co-worker at my firm, Sami, who set up all the appointments, took to us to each to show us around and to help interpret the lease terms as they are all in French. The first flat we looked at was a one bedroom right in the heart of the City Centre above all of the cafes, restaurants and bars. The square below is a really nice area and great for people watching, eating, drinking and shopping. Amongst all of the cafes and bars there is a McDonald’s and a Quick. Quick is basically a Belgian version of McDonald’s so nothing special there. There is also a Pizza Hut and Chi-Chi’s in the same area. The kind of places you try to get away from when living away from the U.S. but it seems like they are everywhere these days so we just have to deal with it. Besides, after eating pork knuckle and all sorts of sausages for awhile, a nice greasy and cheesy pizza is a welcome change. The cool thing about McD’s and Quick is that their French fries are called pomme frites, the way they should be named as they are not really French but rather Belgian in origin. They also come with mayo on the side to eat like the Belgian’s do.

Anyway, back to the flat hunt. The first place in the middle of the Centre was nice, tile floors, good windows onto the Centre and a back alley. There was even a washer and dryer in the kitchen. Overall the place was pretty much all positives but there was not parking included or near the place and based on the area it was in, it would have been difficult to park late at night after work. The next 2 places that we looked at were only a few blocks from my office and in a brand new building still under construction. The first was a one bedroom that was great and in our ever expanding price range. There was parking included, a plasma tv with satellite and over 200 channels. The second place was a bit larger and was over two floors. It had a loft for the main bedroom and an area for a spare bedroom but it was over €2,000 which is a bit expensive. That price translates to almost $3,000 which is crazy for rent of a 1 bedroom but Luxembourg is an expensive country and the cities surrounding the heart of Luxembourg City are very expensive. One of the perks of being the richest country in the world I guess.

Over the next week we looked at 3 more flats in 3 different neighborhoods including Strassen, Kirchberg and Bonnevoie. The apartment in Bonnevoie was decent and had more space that any of the others but each room was down a different part of the hallway, each closed off by a door which made it feel very closed off, despite its size. The kitchen was really nice but closed off as well. The bathroom had 2 sinks and very nice enclosed shower that had about 10 shower heads and possibly a phone but overall the place just had a weird vibe to it and there was someone still living in it so we had to look at all their crap still in there. It was also near the train station which is a noisy area and not as desirable as some other areas.

We ended up picking a nice one bedroom apartment in the Strassen section of Luxembourg which is about 10 minutes outside of the City Centre but on a bus route so very easy to get to. The best part is that the town is about 15 miles from the border of Belgium. The apartment is on the 1st floor which is really the 2nd floor by U.S. definitions. When you walk through the front door there is a nice little hallway that has a cabinet to store stuff in and a mirror to make sure everything is on straight before leaving for work. To the right is part of the bathroom. I say part because through this door is a nice sized cabinet, sink with storage and a shower/bathtub. There is even a cool little towel rack on the wall that is heated to dry your towels. You may notice that I didn’t mention a toilet. That is because it has its own separate room. On the left hand side of the main hallway is a little room with just a toilet, a mirror and a little sink. More than enough room for what needs to be done in there but the sink is about the size of my hands when washing and the sink only runs cold water. Right outside this little room is a storage area for misc. stuff (beer and cat food).

The main part of the flat is closed off from the hallway by a wood and glass door which is sort of odd. When shut, it is like you are peeping into someone’s house. When you open the door you walk right into a wide open floor plan that going clockwise from the left has our kitchen, dining room and living room. The bedroom is off to the right in a separate room.

The kitchen is pretty darn nice and has all the appliances included. The landlord also included new utensils, plates and glassware so we didn’t have to send ours over or buy new ones. There was also a complete set of pots and things like a coffee maker (for Paula), a toaster, rice cooker and microwave. The oven and fridge are a bit smaller than what you are used to at home but you get used to it and buy things accordingly. And although the oven is smaller, that does not mean that it cooks at a lower temperature. In fact it seems to warm quicker than we are used to. That, or we just can’t figure out the temperature levels yet. One of the better parts of the kitchen would have to be the eat in area that is right inside the main living space door. This surface can be used for food prep or eating as there is probably space for about 4 chairs here if needed. It also serves as a good starting point for our cat Molly to jump on and start her walk over the kitchen countertops. The stove is built into the countertop and has the burners below the surface so it is each for her to walk right over. She will stop that practice when she walks over a hot grill she can’t see and jumps a few feet in the air after scorching her paws.

Behind the kitchen is the dining room which is all part of the open floor plan so there is no wall. You can see TV from anywhere in there which is cool. The living room right now just consists of a glass dining table that could probably fit 6 if needed. There is also a funky old lamp in the corner that will go as soon as we can find a replacement at Ikea. Next to the lamp is a stand alone freezer which is much larger than what we usually have attached to our fridge back in the U.S. In talking to our landlord they included this as the freezer would not fit below the fridge so they added a larger unit by itself. Good for us. Next to the freezer is a glass case that is full of different glass and crystal glasses and objects. We are not really sure why it is there but it is. We have no intentions of using the items, we just hope that our cat Molly has not intentions of breaking anything in there. She walked into the bottom of this display case the other night as she thought it was clear. That was funny to see.

The living room is made up of a large sectional couch and a similar style chair on the other side of the room. There is thankfully a decent little TV with a DVD player, satellite box and VCR included. We have some English speaking channels right now (CNN and MTV Europe) and hope to get a satellite card very soon so we could at least pick up some UK channels. We purchased Season 7 of Seinfeld over here so we could watch it on our DVD player. Most if not all U.S. DVD’s don’t work here as they are coded for a different region and you can only play certain DVD’s on certain players. We just remedied that by purchasing a cheap DVD player that places discs from most regions so as of now we can play all of our U.S. DVD’s and also any European discs we buy while over here. That was the best 30 euros we have spent so far.

Another nice think about the apartment is a set of large windows in the living room that open. All 3 of the windows open from the side and one of them also tilts forward so give some fresh air without having the window completely open. As windows here have no screens, having the windows completely open with a cat would not be a good idea. All the windows in the apartment also have blinds on the outsides of the windows that can completely shut off any light into the flat which is nice and bad at times. If you don’t have an alarm set in the morning, you may not wake up. Trust me.

As you may be able to see from the pictures of the living room, when we moved in there were funky little head and arm rests all over the couch and chair (12 in all!). They had an awful pink tulip design on them but we quickly put them in storage.

The last room in the flat is the bedroom and it is good size. When you walk in there is a little chest with some needed drawers and a good sized mirror above it. There is also wood flooring and a wall of three different cabinets that each have hanging storage and shelves as well. Much needed for the amount of clothes we have together. Plus the way things are setup, it gives Molly a nice area to walk under my hanging suits so she could cover them in her fur before I head off to work. The bed is rather large, probably a king by U.S. measurements. So as of now we don’t have sheets to fit the bed completely and finding the proper sheet sizes and styles here can be a real challenge. Fitted sheets are not that common and if you find one, it is probably just in white and no other colors.

Check out more pictures of our old and new flats below...

1 comment:

Bryan said...

Now wait a minute, you tricked us. We thought they were flat pictures, not cat pictures, heheh!