Sunday, July 30, 2006

Rebuilding my life in Toronto

It was nice to see some familiar faces when I arrived at Montreal’s PET (Dorval) airport. I dropped my luggage into the rental Buick Allure, which has the interior cheapness of a Geo Metro. They dropped me off at my sister’s, which I use as my base while in Montreal. Her place has almost everything I am looking for in an apartment: nice open kitchen, bright with lots of windows, stainless steel appliances, etc etc. After chatting with my sister and her housemate, I went to bed a little too early, around 10pm.

On Friday, I woke up very early with only one mission in mind: finding an apartment in Toronto. I also activated a prepaid SIM card for my cell phone, as well as deposit some massive tax return cheques which had been sitting in the envelopes for some time. I used the following websites during my apartment hunt:,, and All day Friday, I paged real estate agents and fixed some 11 appointments for viewing on Monday. Friday night, I had dinner with my parents at a Greek restaurant in the Greek district. This particular restaurant is said to rival the best, such as Milos, but at half the price. The chef did deliver decent food but in my opinion, could not match the finesse and exactitude of Milos. The chef is reportedly an ex-Milos, but that fact remains to be established.

On Saturday, I did much of the same: looking at apartments online, and researching different topics such as which telephone/internet/cable TV company to sign up with and other similar information. By Sunday night, I had 3 more appointments, which brought the total to 11 on Monday and 3 on Tuesday. I hoped that it would be enough to find the “perfect” condo. I only looked at condos which were walking distance to Bay Street, which is where my office is located.

Late afternoon on Sunday, I flew to Toronto and had dinner at the Wyndham Bristol Palace airport hotel with my Dad. I then took a cab to the Intercontinental downtown and checked into my spacious room, which had the dimension of most apartments I am looking at. On Monday morning, I started at 9am with a visit of “Radio City”, a midtown development. The pictures on the ad were very nice. I was immediately disappointed with the size of the unit when she opened the door. The finishes were nice, but there was no way I could fit my living room and a dining table. A double bed would have been a stretch in the tiny closed bedroom.

I rapidly expressed my disappointment to the agent, but she did not have anything else to show me. I had some time before my next appointment so I stumbled onto a brand new rental community in a brand new building: the Jazz. The units were brand new, bigger than Radio City, and the location was very good. I was happy to have a backup plan should all other visits be unsatisfactory. I spent the rest of the day looking at apartments which all had some major issue, such as too small or ugly kitchen. By the end of the first day, I had visited 10 apartments (1 agent did not show) but only 2 of them were considered seriously.

On Tuesday, I had a few visits but only two were mildly interesting. I didn’t plan to spend much more time in Toronto, and knew I had to move rapidly to secure an apartment, so I decided to make an offer on a one-bedroom apartment in the Pinnacle, a brand new building about 5 minutes from work. The unit was fairly spacious, but over my budget and with a pretty poor kitchen. My bid wasn’t sent by the agent until the next day, so I waited around at Jon’s place all day and played Grand Theft Auto San Andreas on the Xbox all day. By the end of the day, the agent informed me that a decision has not been made, and that there was a competing offer for the same amount, but with the lease starting 15 days before my offer. By that point, my irrevocable offer became revocable, so I decided to look through the ads one last time while Nathan and Jon fired away at GTA. I found two new ads in the Toronto Star website, one of which seemed absolutely perfect for my needs. Here is the ad as it was published online:

65 Harbour Square, Live on Torontos fantastic waterfront! Best condo building in the city! 1 bedroom, fantastic designer reno, new kitchen, stainless appliances, granite bar, cable, drapes, hardwood floors throughout, walk-in dressing room by Organized Interiors, locker, high floor. Very upscale building, free bus service to Loblaws, Kensington, Bloor Street, etc, beautiful 7th floor rooftop gardens with BBQ's and large indoor pool, gym, private lounge/bar, restaurant, movie & bridge nights. 416-XXX-XXXX

The pictures accompanying the ads made the unit seem even more attractive. When I visited it the next morning, I knew this was the one. The owner, a 82 year-old gentleman, show me around this very luxurious 20 year-old complex. It is located about 7 minutes on foot from work, very close to several grocery stores, includes parking and utilities, has a nice gym which I actually intend to use etc. The only two minor problems were that the unit doesn’t have ensuite laundry, but laundry rooms are available on every second floor, and there is only a French Balcony, which is basically a door but no balcony. Otherwise, it has a beautiful stainless steel kitchen, a huge walk-in dressing room, a hotel-like bathroom, a spacious living room and floor-to-ceiling windows.

I told the owner that I would take the unit immediately. I offered to show him my letter of employment and credit report, but he said that in 25 years renting apartment, he’s always made a gut decision on people he trusts, and has never gone wrong. He turned down my documents and agreed to draft up the leasing agreement. He then drove me to the RBC Main branch so I could get a draft for him, and Voila! I had my apartment. I booked flights for Florida as soon as I returned to Jon’s, and we ordered Chinese food and played the addictive GTA game all evening.

On Saturday morning, I had brunch with Jon at the Golden Griddle. I then returned the nice Audi A6 we had rented at Hertz, and I flew directly to Fort Lauderdale. I had a simple pasta dinner watching championship poker, and chatted with a friend of the family for a while, before going to sleep. I will go through all my boxes and decide what needs to be shipped to Toronto and what can stay behind. I will also buy a flight ticket to South America today to catch up with Leo and Tapan. I intend to leave on August 2nd to Buenos Aires, and fly back on the 15th from Santiago de Chile. It appears the adventures are not quite done yet this year.