The True Solo Travel Starts

My week and a half in England has come to an end, and this post finds itself being written in my AirBNB in Lillestrøm; a 10 minute train ride from the centre of Oslo.

England was HOT. I don’t mean warm, or sunny…really frickin’ hot. 28-30 Celsius and really humid. I kept joking back in Vancouver that I was going to melt while in Thailand. But the fact that I survived that abnormal weather spell in the UK has made me a bit more confident in my non-melting abilities.

I last visited England 5 years ago, when hair was shorter (no you’re not seeing pics) and I had just completed my first year of university. Going back 5 years later, solo this time, was a good way for me to start off my travels. Seeing and staying with family made the beginning of my adventures seem a little less daunting right from the get-go.

So a bit of a recap…I wore leggings on the plane, thinking oh how smart I was to wear something stretchy.

Then we landed in Heathrow where it was 24 degrees. Then I took the tube which felt like 35 degrees with no air circulation. Thank goodness I was only on it for 45 minutes. I (surprisingly) remembered which line to transfer to and thus arrived at Euston station with time to spare. The countryside that whizzed by while taking the train to Chester seemed familiar as well. As I walked around the city of Chester the next day, I was surprsied again at how much I remembered from my previous visit.

Everything else was new.  Beeston Castle, Llandudno in Wales, Liverpool, and a day trip to Birmingham all presented new sights to see (and preserve, with my new camera that I’vebeen dying to use for travel photography since the moment I’ve opened it). Prior to flying out of Gatwick to Oslo I had the chance to spend a few hours in Oxford, somewhere I could easily spend a day or 2 (next time! Any reason to return).

There’s loads more places I have yet to cross off my “to-see” list for England: Bath, Bristol, Dover, Kent, Stratford-upon-Avon…and everything in between.

Completely unrelated, but I’m quite happy with the style of photography I post on my instagram page now. I’ve figured out a way to make my photos have a consistent look, and if you’re curious feel free to check out my profile @noodleyhsiung (hopefully this gives an answer to why my hashtag for this trip is #sendnoodsaroundtheworld).

I just finished my first day in Oslo…consisting of way too much walking, having to sneakily shimmy out of stockings when I realized it was way warmer than I realized (that’s gonna be a recurring theme here, I can already tell…), and spending way too much on lunch ($24.00 for a  panini and smoothie…whyyy). Thank goodness I bought groceries for breakfasts and dinners which almost totalled the same amount as one meal. Norway I’ve wanted to visit you since I was 9 years old and this is how you welcome me? Aiya.

Until next time!

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Black and white architecture, characteristic of Chester

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Llandudno is full of gorgeous pastels. This green was hands down my favourite!

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Looking over Birmingham from the Library (lots and lots of construction…)

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Oxford! Can you feel the elitism wafting through your screen?

Back to the Present

It would seem that unless an event of importance occurs that this blog remains untouched until the next monumental occasion in my life (OK yes my last blog psot was about shopping but you know what I was super proud of myself for cheating the system).

So what’s up with this new period of activity?

Well…I’m sitting in YVR as I type this…about to fly off to London…to start 6 months of travels around the world. Quite literally, as I travel Eastward with a few detours North and South every now and then.

Things don’t always go as planned, and you can only plan for so much. Two things this trip is meant to teach me (AKA I’m too impatient and plan things too far in advance Nathalie stahp).

For those who happen to stumble upon this site, or those who are unfamiliar with the fact that I lightly dabble in blogging, welcome. By all means, please read over the cringeworthy posts of Nathalie Past. They’re…something, that’s for sure.

But I’m also treating this as a way to get back into writing, something I used to hold near and dear but have forgotten slowly as I traded the creativity of words for the creativty of music and the writing of a scientist. But with 6 months ahead of me of who knows what, this is prime opportunity to once again…

Damnit all I have no idea how to finish that sentence so screw it (yes I do this a lot yes I think I’m hilarious but you’re the one reading this all the way through SO PLEASE CONTINUE TO VALIDATE MY HUMOUR).

I thought very long and hard about the hashtag to use throughout this trip. As I write this I’m still struggling, but by the time I post I trust myself to have settled on something very fitting and food related (those who know my nickname will understand).

Until then…,

N

Aritzia Warehouse Sale 2016: How to Live to Tell the Tale

I kid, I kid; but hey, where’s the fun if I can’t try painfully hard to be a little bit funny?

This was the first year I went to the annual Aritzia Warehouse sale in Vancouver, also known as:
Better-than-Christmas Day
Maybe-if-I-ignore-my-bank-account-after-it-won’t-be-so-bad Day
People-line-up-at-3am-for-a-7am-opening Day (If you don’t beelive me, see this article http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2015/09/aritzia-warehouse-sale-photos-2015/)

(Disclaimer, I don’t know if it actually officially goes by the 3 names above).

For 5 days over the Labour Day long weekend, lovers of the Vancouver retail store head towards the Convention Centre, cards and cash in hand, and a determination to grab one of those oh-so coveted blanket scarves (shameless plug: I bought one. It was the top of my to-buy list and I found one and am now a better person because of it. True story). The mark-downs are (in my opinion) significant enough that if you love their clothing but find regular and “sale” prices inadequate, you will be happy here. The most expensive thing in my closet prior to this sale was a sleeveless black blouse from Aritzia which ran $70 at regular price. I’ve heard that past sales had more significant markdowns, but if you’re me (which would be a little creepy, fyi…) and are using the sale as a chance to score some deals, you will succeed so very hard.

My purchases were as follows:
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Top Row: Community Poeta Sweater Dress, Talula Cadogan Dress, and Wilfred Free Phillipa Jacket
Middle: One teaspoon Bleu Milke Hoodlums, Wilfred Tapestry Rectangle, Wilfred Free Blanket Scarf, Babton Bastien Shorts, and TNA Sea to Sky Sweater
Bottom: The Group Javier Sweater

These 9 items retail for more than $1100 (BEFORE taxes), and I paid just over $500 after taxes at the warehouse sale. I won’t post the indivudal prices and markdowns for everything, but feel free to message me if you’re curious. 🙂

My More Detailed Breakdown

 

Community Poeta Dress

Community Poeta Sweater Dress. Retails for $165.00, bought for $74.99.

A sweater dress was second on my to-buy list. I found this within the first 20 minutes of my arriving in a dark charcoal (Pictured is a lighter grey), and grabbed it ASAP. It fit wonderfully, felt amazing, and was discounted enough that I didn’t hesitate at all to purchase it. I’m even more excited for fall when I can layer this with coloured tights and my grey ankle boots.

 

 

 

 

 

The Talula Cadogan Dress is a glorious shade of maroon (one of the main reasons I snagged it); and the cute ribbon by the collar can be tied up or left loose. Its fabric is loose and breathable and perfect for layering with a small waist belt over leggings.

 

This Phillipa Jacket by Wilfred Free was marked down from $165.00 to $74.99. One of the main reasons I grabbed it was its length; I’m 5’4 and find that a lot of jackets I try on hit an awkward part of my hips and make my body look disproportionate. The Phillipa is a perfect length for my body type, super comfy and soft, and the neutral greys will balance out should I choose to pair it with something more colourful.

 

One Teaspoon Bleu Milke Hoodlums

Less discounted than other jeans, that’s for sure. But when it came time to put them into the rejct pile I just couldn’t bear to part with them.

These Bleu Milke Hoodlums are part distressed/part boyfriend/part skinny jean and have a very unique look about them, which makes them stand out among the rest of the distressed jeans Aritzia sells. As soon as I got home I tried them on with a loose t-shirt and ankle boots, and now am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to wear the very same outfit out for actual people to see as opposed to just my reflection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left, the Wilfred Tapestry Rectangle in a beautiful mosaic of every colour autumn encapsulates. On the right, the famous Wilfred Free Blanket Scarf. There are no words to express my joy at having these two scarves in my possession.

Babaton Bastien Short

These Babaton Bastien Shorts were marked down to $39.99 from $95.00.

I love high-wasted shorts, but only found this fact out…two months ago. Not a very long amount of time. But now I seem to be making up for lost chances with these shorts that can easily be dressed up or down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TNA Sea to Sky Sweater
The Sea to Sky Sweater has not left my body since I came home with it yesterday. This was the first item I spotted when I walked into the sale, the first in my bag, and the first that I knew would be coming home with me. Mine is shades of cream, dark grey, and white as opposed to the one pictured here. Sweaters were a general to-buy for me and I left more than satisfied (and to answer your question, yes; all these jokes about taking it home and leaving satisfied are innuendos HAHAAHA I’m so funny).

 

 

The Group Javier Sweater

When I grabbed this cape sweater, there was no price tag, no sale price, and no tag on the inside except for a small neck tag reading “Peninsula”. After googling Peninsula sweater, Peninsula cape, and Peninsula clothing, my search bore no fruits as to what brand this was and what it retailed for. By chance, I stumbled upon a youtube video about someone’s finds at this year’s sale, and lo and behold, the first item shown was this. May I present, The Group Javier Sweater. Marked down to $49.99 from $195.00, this soft cape sweater rounds off my Hoodlums, T, and booties outfit.

 

 

 

If You Go…

Some tips/tricks/food for thought:

1.) You don’t have to go early to score good finds.
I went at 4:30pm and scored everything on this post. Were I richer I could’ve bought a LOT more. Furthermore, I didn’t even get through the entire sale area, so if you’re someone who meticulously sorts through every single rack I guarantee you will find a handful of goodies your size. I’m a XS-S depending on the clothing item and there were lots of those sizes left. I also only spent about 2 hours total shopping. They restock daily so once an hour or so they bring about a dozen racks of new items onto the sale floor.
Plus, wouldn’t you rather wait in a 10-minute line as opposed to a multi-hour one? (I kid you not; Vancouverites are notorious for waiting HOURS in line for the Aritzia Warehouse Sale before doors even open).

2.) Scour the floor and changing room racks.
The only reason I found my blanket scarf is I just happened to peek into an abandoned shooping bag in the changeroom. Things are rejected like no tomorrow during the sale, so take a few minutes to look at what others don’t want and you may find yourself lucky. My Talula dress was taken from the racks of clothing waiting to return back to the sale floor.

3.) Bring a water bottle and light snack, but make sure they fit in a small purse.
If you plan to spend your time here, stay hydrated. Bring a small granola bar or other snack to eat to keep your energy levels up. There’s a mandatory bag check before you enter the sale area, but if you have a small purse they’ll let you right in. No backpacks, large bags, or totes.

4.) If you like it, grab it.
4:30 wasn’t too crazy, but if you like something the chances of everyone leaving it be until you make up your mind are slim to none. Grab now, decide later.

5.) Wear clothes you can easily take on and off.
Changing rooms are basically a giant tent with multiple mirrors. I wore a tank top, sport shorts, and slip on sneaker flats. I get hot very easily so forwent on sleeves and pants; a good choice since lots of people = lots of body heat (another reason I was thankful for my water bottle).

6.) Check the price tag.
For two reasons; the first is sometimes the same item can be two different prices, so keep your eyes open. The second is maybe that sweater you saw isn’t discounted enough to make it worth it, and that’s totally A-OK if you decide to not purchase it.

7.) Keep alert.
I had good luck by having super nice people next to me who were more than happy to watch my stuff while I ran over to check someone’s discarded clothing pile. But I have heard tales of other shoppers just going through your bag while it’s on the ground, so keep it close. Keep valuables on you at all times, as it gets very busy between clothing racks and in changing rooms. Sometimes the workers will be clearing clothes off the floor and may accidentally grab something that missed your bag, so be wary of that.

8.) Know your size before you go.
This saves you a lot of time. I was fortunate enough to be walking by an Aritzia a few days prior to the sale, and stopped in to try on some jeans and sweaters to get an idea of my size. This was helpful for jeans especially since they’re not organized by size due to the hordes of people grabbing at them. The Aritzia size guide on their website is also helpful and true to size; I fit between an XS to and S on the guide, and as stated previously my items are all either XS or S.

9.) Edit your bag before checking out.
Find a section of floor off to the side. Take everything out. Think: Did this look good on me? Did it actually, or is it wishful thinking because I just really really want _____ brand? Any defects? Do I really want to pay this much for this? Etc etc etc.
Once your final edit is done, you go pay, go home, and then try everything on again in your own room. Congratulations! You survived!

My verdict? More beneficial to go later in the day. I found everything on my to-buy list, and had a lot of fun! I would definitely go again, and found the discounts worth it. What was your experience and shopping haul like?

Carry Your Will

Two songs, both by the American band The Mowgli’s:
“Carry Your Will” and “San Francisco”.

Two lines from each song:
“Treasure this ’cause when it doesn’t last you’ll wish you had.”
“I’ve been in love with love and the idea of something binding us together, you know that love is stong enough.”

These two songs came on back to back the day a really close friend went back home. Reading them and thinking (and if you know the songs, knowing that) the first one is quite sad and the second is quite happy may have you thinking that this doesn’t make sense. Someone close to you leaving is always sad.

Well, it’s both. To me. These two songs capture the exact emotions I felt that day, and that I currently feel.

“Carry Your Will” speaks of treasuring all the memories you have and experiences that you go througn within your life, and to not take anything for granted.
Here in Taiwan you almost need to meet people with the expectation that you’ll soon have to say good-bye. For a summer student such as myself this holds true 100% of the time. Within one month of meeting two amazing people they had to fly back home. But because of the amazing times we had together, I don’t have any regrets and don’t feel as sad remembering the good times we had.

“San Francisco”…where do I even begin here…this has been one of my favourite songs for a good year now. It’s about community, about helping and loving everyone in your community, about everyone loving everyone. It’s so easy to say that but after my ten weeks in Taipei I can say that it’s true. I am in love with all my friends and hanging out with my friends and making plans with my friends. I don’t need anything more than that. Say what you will, it’s true. This kind of love makes me happy.

As I prepare to return to Canada I’m still in a state of disbelief that these last two and a half months managed to stimultaneously be the longest, shortest, and best two and a half months I’ve experienced. How lucky I am to have received this opportunity to learn Mandarin, connect with my Taiwanese family, travel, and meet some of the most beautiful personalities this summer.

With this, the final tag of “Nat in Taiwan” comes to an end.
Thank you, Taiwan.
Thank you, everyone.

The Most Unexpected of Saviours

Humor me a second:

It’s hot. Not just hot. The type of hot where even just walking into a small patch of sunlight for a few seconds feels like a burning pain on your skin. You can’t escape the heat and it swarms around your body like an angry group of wasps.

Not just hot. Heavy and humid. The absolute best combination ever (Sorry sarcasm doesn’t translate too well when typing).

You’re out of water and dying for a drink. Something sweet. And cold. Sweet and cold. As the sweat beads down into your eyes you catch a glimpse of something green, orange, and red. Could it be…?

Wait what...?

Wait what…?

With your last remaining bit of strength you drag yourself across the street and-

*Ding*

The cool breeze of AC washes over you.

I CAN FEEL THE AC FROM HERE

I CAN FEEL THE AC FROM HERE

Sweet relief takes form in 7-11’s here in Taipei. They are on every corner. They are the Starbucks of Taipei. If I stand at the corner of a major intersection and take a 370 look around me and don’t see any 7-11’s I get concerned.

Now before all the “But Nathalie we have 7-11’s here in Vancouver” starts let me just say these are no homeless-riddled-is-this-where-drug-deals-go-down-and-people-die” 7-11’s like back home. These are a godsend.

Cheap. Great selection. AND AC (THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER). Just last weekend I bough two individual pieces of whole wheat bread, two bananas, two onigiri, and a black tea drink for $150 NT. That’s $6 Canadian (I’ll wait while all your minds explode). Here’s a little taste (Haha there’s food in 7-11’s and I used the word taste ha ha (Nathalie stop (NEVER))) of the beautiful 7-11’s here in Taipei.

$1 each. What is life?

$1 each. What is life?

Gotta be healthy, you know!

Gotta be healthy, you know!

Mmm carbs

Mmm carbs

THIS STUFF IS THE BOMB DIGGITY

THIS STUFF IS THE BOMB DIGGITY

Beer. Here. Yes.

Beer. Here. Yes.

Do you need anything? Snacks? A condom? (Hashtag Mean Girls reference)

Do you need anything? Snacks? A condom? (Hashtag Mean Girls reference)

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You want milk? HAVE ALL THE MILK.

Embracing the Fatherland

It has been just slightly over a month since I first landed in Taipei an exhausted confused and slightly homesick traveller with absoutely no idea what the next ten weeks had in store for me. The first brush of wind I felt was heavy and humid and at 5:30am my body was tired and hungry and overall not impressed.

But holy moly; part of me would love the opportunity to reassure my past self that the next ten weeks will be the best of my life. The other part says “No way” because a huge part of this experience has been all the wonderful people I’ve met and excursions that are still so vivid in my memory.

It’s funny; even though this exchange has been at the top of my “to-do” list for over a year I still never really accepted that I was leaving home until I left my mom at the gate of the airport.

And to put it simply, I’m thriving. Sarcastic, sardonic, cynical me is thriving off of the constant flow of people that I meet every single day. Back home I would vehemently insist that I couldn’t stand to be around loads of people all the time and that my being alone was necessary for my survival.

Now if I don’t have plans with people for one day I feel lost.

Granted, travelling personalities have been easier to get along and converse with than most (MOST NOT ALL) people back in Vancouver. The shared goal of experiencing a foerign part of the world leads to easy conversation. I’ve met up with friends I made in a different hostel, still go back to Eight Elephants, and have already had to say goodbye to a best friend I made in less than a week and knew for less than three (Seriously, when the heck does that ever happen?).

I feel as if it would be pointless to list off all that I’ve learnt not only because it’s so much but also because a different personality could be in my exact same position and have gotten a completely diffeerent experience than me. There’s so much I want to say about Taipei and myself but writing in  blog post really wouldnt do it justice. I’ll instead end off with the following:

Is it possible to feel as if your personality has matured?
Because mine has. The combination of studying my heritage language and meeting the most phenominal people has changed a perspective or two of mine – something that has surprised stubborn little me.

Taipei Masterlist Pt 1

I must apologize in advance because this post probably won’t contain as much dry humor as previous posts (*Gasp* But Nathalie whyyyyyyyy). The reason for this is that I just want to give a basic list and description (Yes there will be pictures don’t freak out) of all the sights I’ve seen around Taipei so far. Even though I’ve seen so much there’s always (And probably always will be) more for me to discover around Taipei. *Apologies because I don’t have photos of the first two things on this list. If you have the time I strongly encourage a Google search of the temples because they are simply stunning.

June 21: Taipei Confucius Temple                  
The Taipei Confucius Temple was built in 1879 during the Qing Dynasty. During Japanese occupation of Taiwan the temple was destroyed. However in 1930 Wang So-Shun rebuilt it. I was lucky enough to get to see the interior of this magnificent temple, which only opens it’s doors twice a year. During this day (June 21) students gathered to pray for god luck on their examinations.

June 21: Dalongdong Baoan Tample
A Taiwanese Folk Religion Temple located close to the Taipei Confucius Temple with absolutely beautiful exterior adornments. June 22: Wulai Wulai is a gorgeous rural district in the South of new Taipei City. I went on a trip organized by the hostel I was staying at and was in complete awe of the colour of the water and the mist rising from the surrounding mountains. I walked around the town and got caught in a rainstorm while hiking a path called “Lover’s Trail” alone (HAHA IRONYYY).wpid-img_20140622_140610.jpgwpid-img_20140622_172107.jpg

June 26: Shilin Night Market and Taipei 101 I was lucky enough to get to meet up with my friend Sophia who took me around Taipei for the day. We walked around a local shopping district before heading towards the Shilin Night Market. There we had  雞排 (Ji pai/Chicken steak) and 臭豆腐(Chou dofu/Stinky tofu). One thing I’ve noticed about Taipei is that not only is bubble tea a huge deal, so is juice. Fruit, mixed, milk, you want it? You got it (My jam (HA) is 芒果牛奶: mango milk). The highlight of this day was definitely Taipei 101. I absolutely adore looking down on cities as they’re lit up at night and getting a 360 view of Taipei was a blessing. A free audio guide was included in the ticket and so I got my fact fix and beautiful view quota of the night! wpid-img_20140626_223922.jpg wpid-img_20140626_200902.jpg

June 27: National Palace Museum I’m just going to say it now: I’m a museum nerd. I love museums. I could spend all day in museums. As soon as I found out the Palace Museum housed one of the largest collection of Chinese artifacts I knew this was at the top of my “to-do” list. I got there as soon as it opened and immediately found my way to the old books collection. There was also an entire floor dedicated too Chinese calligraphy and drawings which I got lost in for another hour. The third floor holds the most famous items: the jadeite cabbage and meat stone. While the cabbage was away on tour in Japan I braved the crowds of tourists (Wait, that’s me too, right?) to view the very small meat stone. Also amazing was the ivory carving collection, some with such fine minute detail a magnifying glass was required to see it in all its glory. wpid-img_20140627_014900.jpg

June 29: Maokong Gondola You have not lived until you have had oolong tea on a mountain overlooking gorgeous, tranquil scenery. That is all. wpid-img_20140629_150354.jpg

July 6: Teapot and Banping Mountain A gap in the adventures as classes start. There’s a story to go along with this day trip! This hike was beautiful, gorgeous, amazing…need I go on? The views were unbeatable and we were blessed with nice mountain breezes and cloud cover every now and then. But on the way down, disaster. Half our group (Me included) split off to take a short cut back to town. This short cut turned out to be a very untidy “path” through the bushes with markers every now and then. After 1.5 hours (When we supposedly should have been back in town) we had scraped a good proportion of our bodies climbing over rocks and under branches from following a river. Slowly accepting that we were lost, we made the decision to keep following said river. Another hour and we were getting close to complete mental and physical fatigue. We managed to find a different way down after hitting a section of river that we thought would be impossible to cross, and after another half hour we were back in civilization. That was one of the single moments of great relief that I’d ever experienced in my life.  

So that’s that! I have so much more to see and now I’m terrified I won’t be able to get it all done…but I’ll try my best. Here’s to minutely planned sightseeing schedules!