Category Archives: apartment living

Livin La Vida Local

The rest of the day in Montevideo with Romina and Mariela was quite fun. We joked that I was livin la vida local since Romina had a lot of errands to run and I was happy to go along with her. Mariela worked during the day so she would meet up with us afterwards.

Some of the things we did —

  • Romina had an interview and I found an internet cafe nearby
  • Romina needed to get approved for an apartment and I went to the bank with her
  • Romina had to pay her phone bill
  • Romina needed to look at an apartment (2 blocks from the beach in a nice neighborhood, $300USD/month) – my artsy shot from one of the windows in the apartment we looked at


  • I had to go to a hardware store for a converter
  • Romina took me to the old city and gave me a tour of historic Montevideo










I thought this facade was so elegant and pretty. The dark doors are simply gorgeous.









Famous theatre – we went inside for a peek before a show was to start.









And then the mate canisters…more on this later!!



Arrival in Montevideo!

I took a bus from Minas to Montevideo. With Mariela’s number in my hand, I was able to purchase a calling card. She started to give me directions to her job but then said to give her 20 minutes and she’d meet me at the bus station. With 20 minutes to spare, I took a seat, wondering what awaited me!

Mariela arrived and I was so excited to see her! It was about rush hour so we hopped on a very crowded bus to her neighborhood, where high-rise apartments, shops and restaurants greeted me. Before we headed to her apartment we stopped in a bodega for some snacks.

We walked into her building, a doorman building, and dropped my bags in Mariela’s studio apartment. She invited me to do laundry (!) in the basement of her building and shower for dinner with Romina later that evening. Once showered, I felt like a brand new person. I even borrowed a dress from Mariela that I wore out to dinner, feeling so much prettier and nicer than my backpacker clothes! I was able to Skype with my family and charge my computer. I hadn’t even been using it but the battery was drained.

I called the US Embassy to find out about an English-speaking eye doctor and they told me to call back. Thanks. Mariela started to ask a few friends about an English-speaking eye doctor and we’d wait until the next day.

Since dinner wouldn’t be for hours, Mariela made us some mate and we enjoyed some snacks on her balcony.

One shot of the balcony view – straight ahead…

View from Mariela's Balcony

A view of her courtyard below…

The view down

Mariela’s spread prepared for snacking…

Our snacks
A delicious cheese find. Sure it’s cheese in a glass. But it was GOOD!

Conaprole the brand of cheese is actually one of the largest dairy brands in Uruguay. Compare them to a Kraft, but they are everywhere in the dairy section of the supermarket.

Cheese in a Jar. DELICIOUS.

Cuanto paga?

It was a short walk from the bus station to Laura’s apartment.

I would drop off my backpack, reserve a hostel for the night and then we would set off to explore Colonia for the day.

Laura’s apartment was a two bedroom, one bathroom with an open living room/dining room, kitchen and a small terrace. She had beautiful views of the sea and it could have been in New York. Except for the price.

We chatted a bit about cost of living and she asked me how much I paid for my apartment. I told her. And then I couldn’t help but ask her the same question.

After the quick currency conversion I was in shock at the number she told me, just like she was in shock for the number I told her.

This conversation was enough to tell me to get out of the NY area quickly upon my return. It also told me that if I was asked again (which I would be asked plenty) to lower that number by a few hundred dollars to reduce the shock factor.

And speaking of accommodations, I booked a room at a hostel for that night. I let them know I would be checking in later in the day. But first, Laura would give me the best tour ever.

Lo Sentimos, No Disponible and How Fred Saved the Day!

Using two hostel booking sites, Hostel World and Hostel Bookers, I found a hostel that had great reviews. I cross checked it on and was happy with the reviews. So I packed myself up and walked a few blocks, uphill, with my backpack, still in my airplane clothes, to the hostel.

When I arrived ten minutes later, there was a sign on the door that said ‘Lo Sentimos, No Disponible’ which translates to ‘S0rry, No Availability.’

It also meant that because I didn’t write down any backup places I would be heading back to the tourist office.

You may be asking yourself, didn’t she pack a guidebook? Oh yes, I did. But it was packed away and, blame it on the jet lag and the positive thinking that I’d get my first choice of accommodations, but I didn’t even think to cross-check places noted in the book.

At the tourist office, I resorted to emailing. One place after another quickly replied to my note stating that they were full. Getting nervous that the only place that had availability in my budget was a 45 minute bus ride away, I started to wonder why this small, colonial town was so booked to capacity on a Wednesday night and I took a step back to think.

Thinking back to my half-hearted effort to find a place while I was still in the States, I decided to send another email to a Fred who had rooms available and ranked very highly on TripAdvisor. He had only had a garden apartment (that sleeps four) available rather than a single bed. The original rate he quoted me was too steep, and provided far too much space, for my current backpacker budget and solo status, so I had politely declined.

Today was different. It was nearing 4pm, and I had to hope that if he had any space maybe he could do a little better with his price. After all, I could be there as fast as my feet would take me.

I was hot, tired and growing increasingly frustrated (my own fault) as I waited for his reply. I did not have to wait long. Fred wrote back right away with a revised price for the apartment, $80, which was 25% of his original quote. Knowing that $80 would later cover at least four nights on this adventure, I chalked the cost up to a first night splurge and the much needed confirmation that I had a place, in town!, to lay my head for the night!

With my map in my hand and my backpack on my back, I walked another ten minutes and found myself in the garden of Fred’s home.

Fred invited me inside and I was pleasantly surprised, and slightly disappointed that I didn’t have travel companions to share the large space with me!

The apartment was located on the ground floor and just up a separate staircase led to his own home.

I had a kitchen, an eating area, a private yard just off the kitchen, a bed in the ‘living room,’ two twin beds in the downstairs bedroom and a full size bed upstairs. Yes, there was even an upstairs.

For $80USD it was a very nice place to start my trip. And I did have some unexpected travel partners staying the night…the biggest beetles I had ever seen. They were harmless and stayed on the floor. I hope!

A little bit of springtime

I was in the elevator earlier this week. I had picked up some Gerber daisies (aside from tulips, my other favorite) to add a bit of spring to my apartment. There was an older woman in the elevator with me and she commented on how vibrant the colors were. I mentioned that I hated winter and thought a little bit of spring would be nice right about now.

She said she livens up the dreary days with a cocktail. I then lifted my bag which held a bottle of wine. To which she told me she stopped drinking wine because there are too many calories and carbs. Sidenote: wine has carbs? Oops. She said she sticks with vodka these days.

The elevator opened on her floor. I figured she seemed like a cocktail connoisseur so I said what do you mix your vodka with?

As she walked out of the elevator, her response? “Ice.”

A Penchant for Pens

Continuing my downsizing streak, I have made heaps of progress. One of my places of progress was the junk drawer. While it’s not totally ‘junk’ I was able to eliminate a little bit. Including pens.

For some reason the boyfriend and I have a ridiculous number of pens. So I went through and downsized. I must have downsized once before because most of the pens were organized in a little bag. Of course there were still pens in other drawers, or loose even in the junk drawer.

So I took a stand. I was going to eliminate pens. I don’t like black ink, so I got rid of those. I got rid of pens that don’t write, and I got rid of pens that I don’t like their shape.

For someone so particular about her pens, we have a lot. I gave the boyfriend a chance to ‘save’ any pens that he felt were near and dear, so he rescued a few. I found the whole situation kind of funny. Pens don’t take up a lot of space, but I was hell bent on eliminating them.

I wouldn’t want to start counting pens, nor would I want to ask anyone else to do such a thing, so I am leaving the unofficial focus group to shoes, and shoes alone.

Irene Is On Her Way

The hurricane is en route and with a vengeance. Now I’m just waiting for the power to go out.

Yesterday, the town I live in issued a voluntary evacuation and a directive to get your car off the street (in another town or in a multi-level garage). Today, the town issued mandatory evacuations if you live on a garden or first floor apartment.

The boyfriend and I don’t have a car and we live on the top floor of a 13 floor building. We decided to stay.

We face the Hudson River. Thoughts of a tidal wave have passed through my mind.

It remains to be seen if we made the right choice. All of our furniture is off the balcony. With multiple trips to buy tape (hot seller!) we have taped our windows.

We’ve got a wall of windows in the bedroom and a sliding glass door in the living room. I made the boyfriend put this plastic tarp over the windows in the bedroom.

I filled a plastic crate with photo albums and other irreplaceable items. All of my possessions are in this apartment, so after human life, I have chosen items precious and after human life, irreplaceable, to me. This crate is in another hall closet. I moved out the less important vacuum and suitcases to make room.

I also took my important paperwork and stored it on high shelves in the closet. I made the boyfriend take down a gorgeous framed picture off the wall. That, too, is in the closet.

Clearly I have no idea what Mother Nature wants to do but if I have ample time to prepare I am going to ‘hide’ some stuff.

Because our apartment is high and we get wind on a normal day, I am assuming the absolute worst. I am going into this thinking that our windows will blow out and we will be spending a good portion of time hanging out in the bathroom (the only place in our one bedroom apartment with no windows) until we can move to safety.

Oh and yes, I already have an evacuation bag packed. It just has my toiletries and medicine and pajamas. I would just have to grab my glasses or contacts (whichever I am not currently wearing).

Call me crazy. I like to call myself prepared. With the rearranging of furniture thanks to the addition of balcony furniture now in the living room, my floors got cleaned. So did the bathroom since I expect that we will be spending time camping out in there in the next few hours.

I will leave you with these thoughts from my observations earlier today.

1 – If there are calls for evacuations, why do the news people show up? For our entertainment? If said power goes out, no one is watching and they are right in harm’s way!

2 – Why does the news ‘reward’ idiots with getting them on camera? Example (this is not verbatim but pretty close).

Newscaster: ‘Hey you know there’s an evacuation of all of the beaches in New Jersey?’
Idiot: ‘Yes.’
Newscaster: ‘Ten why are you here? WITH your small children?’
Idiot: ‘To watch.
Newscaster: ‘When are you going to leave?’
Idiot: ‘When I get hit with a wave’
??? They really aired this on television today. I wanted to smack this idiot.

3 – If there are mandatory evacuations and people choose to stay, they should also choose to rescue themselves. This especially annoys me with the people at the beach. Why should a first responder be put in harm’s way, the unpredictable and unforgiving ocean, because someone failed to acknowledge a MANDATORY evacuation?

That’s it for now. Am sure to have more hurricane observations once Irene makes her way to my area. I will post again when I get the electricity, that I am banking on losing, back.

In the meantime, wherever in the world you may be, stay safe.

Horrors of Hoarding

I once lived in an apartment where the tenant passed away inside the apartment. But the Fire Department couldn’t get INTO the apartment to get her out.

Because she was a hoarder.

When this lady died, or whenever she was discovered, the Fire Department showed up in droves. There must have been two or three trucks, and twenty guys. I remember peeking out the peephole to see one fireman after another, heading up the stairs and turning the corner, holding axes and whatever else they have to use.

When they finally removed her, and her hoarding, the hoarded items were left in the garbage area on the first floor.

When I say I had never seen anything like this in my life, I have to think that most people haven’t either.

There were floor to ceiling stacks, each thing was stacked inside itself, of:

Quart size containers (that you’d get Egg Drop soup in)
Half gallon ice cream containers
Magazines (from who knows how far back)
Newspapers (stacks and stacks and stacks)

It was absolutely unbelievable.

Days later we had knocks at the door asking if we wanted to be exterminated.


The plus of moving so much – me – is that it gives me a chance to go through my stuff and eliminate. I like to say I move lightly! But this woman had lived in this apartment for nearly 50 years. She had plenty of time to collect a lot of stuff…and not throw anything out.

Outdoor Space, a Washing Machine, OH MY!

I recently had a conversation with a friend and we were talking about what people in the burbs must think about city living. Like, having to take specs in order to be sure a couch will fit…not just in the apartment but actually in the building, stairs or elevator…is something people in the burbs probably never have to worry about.

Two other luxuries (luxuries to me anyway!) that people in the burbs may take for granted because I am sure they have both are:
1) Washer and dryer
2) Outdoor space

I spent so much time doing my own laundry in laundromats. Hot, steamy laundromats covered in massive amounts of lint and filled with some strange people. And who knew what had been in the carts used to move laundry from the washer to the dryer. [Good thing this was before I was skeeved out by the mere mention of the word ‘bed bugs.’]

Years into apartment living, I learned about wash and fold and I never went back. [Except to wash things that couldn’t be dried in the dryer.] And then, a couple of moves later I found ones that delivered! Yes, they picked up my dirty laundry and returned it, usually the same day, clean and folded.

Wash and fold is not for the faint of heart. One, you are giving your clothes, your CLOTHES to a perfect stranger. Two, those clothes undoubtedly include underwear so if you have a thing about strangers washing your skivvies, it could be a problem. And three, you may not get everything back.

One and two I had no problem with. I can pay you to do my least favorite chore? Sure! Three, I always wondered what would go missing. I always counted how many pieces I sent out. Problem was, I never itemized, I only counted. So unless I was looking nd wondering where (said item) was, I probably wasn’t going to notice. Sure, I have a lot of mismatched socks, but I always figured that was the cost of entry.

I did have washing machines and dryers in the basement of two buildings I had lived in. At one point I even lived above a laundromat. However, my current apartment is the first apartment since I have been back in the States where I have a washer and a dryer IN my apartment. It is amazing.

I did have a washer/dryer in kitchen of my flat in London. It was a smaller version of an old school front loader. But, you couldn’t open it until it washed and dried. So if you wanted to wash something, and hang it to dry, tough. You would have to wash it by hand because this machine just didn’t work like that. And it was great. To have a machine in my home that would wash my clothes? I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t have that luxury again for nearly ten more years.

Key takeaway #1: Make sure anywhere I live moving forward has a washer and dryer, a seemingly small, but lovely, luxury.

Apartment living can be claustrophobic at times. In fact, I once lived in an apartment that if you sat on the toilet in the bathroom and opened the door (which would hit your knees) you could see the entire apartment. And this, this was a two bedroom.

I’ve lived in a converted two bedroom (into a three) with six other roommates. I’ve lived in an apartment with two roommates where we each had our own room but the only common areas were the galley kitchen, tiny bathroom and the foyer. There was no living room…that was one of the bedrooms!

I lived in an apartment that had bars on the windows. Not sure how we’d get out in a fire. I also lived in an apartment that was wrapped in scaffolding for nearly three years. It was like having black netting draped over the windows. It never really got sunny because there was always a black haze over the place.

So now, having a balcony, even its small size, is an absolute treat.

I always said that NYC was my backyard. But that’s a congested backyard with people pushing and shoving into my personal space. Not quite the idyllic backyard of my childhood.

Now, having personal outdoor space, I cannot believe I went so many years without it. It’s truly wonderful when the weather is great, but even in the depths of winter, I always stuck my head out — because I could. And in the summer, it’s as good as you think it would be.

Key takeaway #2: Make sure anywhere I live moving forward has outdoor space, a seemingly small, but lovely, luxury.

When I watch House Hunters International, it’s all about priorities and figuring out what you can budge on, and what’s an absolute must have. I don’t want a McMansion. Hell, I don’t even need two bathrooms. I’ve lived in such small quarters for so many years that I don’t even know what I would do with the extra space.

But I refuse to budge on the washer/dryer and outdoor space. Pretty simple asks should I ever move to the burbs. City living…it may be asking a lot.

Goings on in the Hudson River

Last night, there was quite a commotion on the Hudson River.

The sweltering temperature had dropped drastically, the Hudson River had whitecaps and it was eerily quiet.

But not for long.

About fifteen boats, some big, some small, some official looking, some not showed up in my view.

The boats were traveling in a circle for a bit. At first it looked like it could have been a search and rescue mission. There were lots of horns honking at various intervals.

Eventually the boats made their way up the river in a procession. They did some more honking.

Then the boats started to go their separate ways.

I guess that was in preparation for this.

As you can see here, a boat with loads of water starting spewing water everywhere.

The boats kept moving farther and farther away from the water spewing boat.


And then it was done.

A Google News search shows nothing. My neighbor, who also watched, thought it might be a funeral procession for someone in the maritime industry.

If it was, I hope he or she rests in peace.

If it wasn’t, I’m very curious. I’ve seen a lot of stuff happen on the river, but that whole show was a first.