I always get nervous when I fly. Not because I think we're going to go down in a fiery blaze, but because I am afraid I'm going to be late and miss my flight. I've missed a flight before, and that shit ain't cheap. When we got to the Nashville airport we discovered that long term parking was closed, so we had to take it all the way out to economy. Luckily the shuttle came around just as we found a spot, so it was pretty smooth sailing. We had a layover in Phoenix where I ate a sandwich and drank vodka tonics. We boarded after lunch and I felt so much better, until they said we were headed for L.A. When I bought my Southwest tickets on Expedia they made no mention of L.A. Well, we were stopping there before heading north, the lovely flight attendant informed me. I was fine with that so long as we ended up in Oakland.
We finally touched down in the Bay Area where we had a rental car reserved. They were all sold out of GPS systems, which was a shame. We drove a Pontiac G6, which isn't a bad car at all for its type. It had some real get-up-and-go that came in handy from time to time. I booked a room at the La Quinta in Oakland, right near the airport. For a budget hotel it was pretty decent, but if you aren't pinching pennies there are much nicer places to stay. We dumped our bags in the room, then headed to Albany for our first viewing appointment at 7:30.
There was a really cute two bedroom+office there that was being shown by the couple later vacating the property. It was a lovely home in a fantastic neighborhood, but the landlord, a flight attendant, was out of town and collecting applications to phone people from later once she was back in town. I really, really wanted to have a lease signed before we headed back to Nashville, so we put that house on the back burner. It was a real bummer too, because the fenced backyard smelled wonderful thanks to blossoming trees and a wall full of unidenitified hot pink flowers.
By that time it was 8 at night, so we stopped at Cafe Raj for beer and Indian food. The food was just okay, but the service was stellar. Exhausted following too much naan, it was time to call it a night.
The next morning it was into the heart of Oakland to find some apartments for which there were appointments. It was raining like crazy; like it hadn't in a really long time. Driving in an unknown area in an unfamiliar car in the pouring down rain looking for houses you can't find is an adventure, to say the least! One place looked nice from the outside, but there was no yard for the dogs and nary a park nearby. Another place was in a really not-so-nice neighborhood. Barbed wire was everywhere you looked. We didn't even get out of the car for that one, marking it right off the list. Next there was a large 3 bedroom Victorian home that was almost never found thanks to the craziest streets I've ever driven on. You'll be driving along 17th when WHAM! the road ends and picks up somewhere else entirely. Ridiculous. And for some reason streets in California often don't have street signs. It's maddening. The Victorian house was super sweet with tons of charm, but there were car alarms going off constantly in the neighborhood while we where there. Not the most pleasant atmosphere.
After that we headed to Berkeley and parked in a paid lot. We grabbed some lunch at a diner across the street then went to use the wi-fi at the Berkeley Public Library. There were brand new listings that had gone up on Craiglist that morning, so emails were quickly written and phone calls hastily made. We went to check out an adorable blue bedroom nearby and really liked how it looked from the outside. A quick call to the landlord later and we had an appointment to see the inside at 3 p.m.
I really, really had to pee by the time 3 o' clock rolled around, so I was thrilled to be let inside the blue 3 bedroom, 1 bath home. The potty was spic and span, so I was grateful for the roll of paper towels on the back of the can, since the room was bare otherwise. After shaking the dew off the lily I was able to really focus on what a totally kickass house I was in. The first room you enter from the front door is nice and big with crisp, clean walls and a giant stone fireplace facing the front window. Off to the right is one of the bedrooms, which is just in front of the bathroom. Behind the bathroom is a second bedroom, similar in size to the front bedroom, and then the kitchen is the center of the home. There is fabulous blue tile throughout the kitchen with attractive accent tiles studding the walls. The fridge is huge and the freezer on the bottom makes so much sense. How often do you open your freezer compared to your fridge, where you have to bend down to see? The sink is partitioned into three parts with a working garbage disposal. I've never had one of those before. Oh man, and the sweet, sweet dishwasher. I haven't had a dishwasher since high school when I lived at home with my parents. I can't wait to use that bad boy. The washer and dyer have their own room with tons of storage. Then off to the side of that there is a third bedroom with a sliding glass door looking into the back "yard." I fell in love with it immediately.
"I'll write you a check right now," I told the guy showing us the place. He laughed and told me it was not about the money. He said we were the first people to see it, and that he would be fine renting it to us. He would not hold an open house or show it to anyone else. He asked us to meet him at his club that night at 9, and to bring all our stuff. I had no idea he had someone waiting in his car with him, so I was trying to show him the pet resumes I'd worked so hard on. I probably seemed like a real dolt.
We saw a couple more places after that, but my heart was set on the blue Berkeley house in the neighborhood walkable to the cafe and the Tokyo Fish Shop (incredible selection) and BART. We saw another place in Oakland which was a whole $700 cheaper, but I was uneasy about the neighborhood. Some Bay Area friends I spoke with later assured us we made the right decision in not taking that Oakland house. There were bars on the windows. (I think the exact words were, "Oh no, fuck that address.")
Right at 9 we got to his Latin American restaurant/club in Albany where there were beginner salsa dancing lessons going on. I was nervous about my not-so-stellar credit report, but having an offer letter from CBS5 helped tremendously in this case. Mr. Landlord hooked us up with a couple of cocktails from the bar - vodka for me, Jack for him - and we waited while he made photocopies in his office.
He came back out and said everything looked good. He said he'd make a few phone calls the next day, and that after that the lease would be ready to go. I asked him straight up, because I am completely neurotic, "should we keep looking?" He told me no, but even the next day I was anxious that the deal would somehow derail. We looked at some more places half-heartedly the following day, one a really nice place in a nice part of Oakland with a fenced garden, but my heart wasn't in it. That afternoon we stopped looking and went to the marina in Berkeley and walked the pier and took some photos. I looked at Berkeley from the middle of the bay and hoped against hope the house would be ours. After our park break we got back to the G6 where The Boyfriend called Mr. Landlord to see how things were moving along. No answer. Tired and nervous, I wanted to go lie down for a nap.
Once back to the hotel we found we couldn't get into the room with the key cards we had. They'd recently switched to a new provider, and they swipey thing sucked butt. The Boyfriend went downstairs to get the cards reprogrammed while I checked my laptop in the hallway outside the room. There was an email from Mr. Landlord about the Berkeley house waiting for me. The place was ours.
I couldn't sleep from excitement, but rested all the same. We went to Trio in Oakland near Lake Merritt to celebrate the lease signing, and had a most incredible meal. All the meats and dairy are organic and cruelty-free, and it has lots of French cuisine classics. Every bite was a blessing. The food took a while to arrive, as it does in any French bistro worth its weight in salt, so because I'd had a scant bit of food that day I was headachey and grumpy by the time the first course arrived. Hell, I was a flat out bitch until the brie croquette had time to register in my blood system. The pomme frites I had that night were the most superb I've ever put into my mouth, holy Lord. We'll definitely be going back there sometime.
The next day we spent time exploring our new neighborhood, checking out Games of Berkeley and 4th Avenue, an upscale shopping area where I procured my log. There was a Papyrus paper store and a phenomenal tea shop where we bought half-off darjeeling tea and sipped some delicate oolong while getting schooled by a knowledgeable tearista. I learned how long to brew good tea - 60 seconds - and how hot to go with the water for varying types of tea. While sipping from a tiny cup a sexy woman filled me in on the tea leaf basics; it was such fun. I can't wait to get a porcelain tea set that will do our loose leaves justice. After that we had CalMex at Tacubaya, then browsed the very upscale market next door that had 14 types of salt and foods I'd never heard of. I saw a $9 dark chocolate bar. I paid $3.25 for a pomegranate there that later stained my shirt.
It was nice to be able to relax after our hurry-up-and-hunt frenzy of the first few days. And I can't wait to get back to our vibrant little neighborhood. There are four dog parks within 7 miles that all offer different fun at each one. I look forward to morning walks to the train that take me to the Embarcadero, as opposed to sitting in morning interstate parking lots on the way to Cool Springs. I have less than one month left.