4 Days in Stockholm – A Review

“There’s a black hole deep inside of me, reminding me
That I lost my backbone, back home, somewhere in
Stockholm…”

Avicii anyone? To be honest there’s a small part of me that feels like the major reason I visited Stockholm was to use those lyrics in an instagram caption (I’m 80% joking).  

I flip flopped between making this post a summary of my 4 days in Stockholm, or about something unrelated with little anecdotes about the city thrown in here and there. You’ll find I chose a bit of both.  

June 27 was my travel day to Stockholm. After a fire in one of the tunnels at Stockholm Central caused my train to be delayed by 2 hours, I finally arrived at my hostel. Location wise, it couldn’t have been any better: dead smack in the middle of Gamla Stan (Castanea Old Town Hostel, for anyone wondering). I went grocery shopping that evening, which gave me a small taste of the cobblestone and shop-lined streets. As I walked back with my grocery bag (I’ve already mentioned that cooking your own food saves you so much money right? Because it saves you SO MUCH MONEY) I felt ready to go exploring the next morning. 

Or so I thought.

Because there was one big fact that I didn’t realize: Stockholm is huge. Like, really fricking big. Compared to Oslo, a giant of inhumane proportions.  

“Shit…” I whispered as my small map unfolded…and kept unfolding, until a picnic blanket lay in front of me (Ok a bit exaggerated but I needed metaphor…).  

So day one was…very basic. I walked around the Old Town and took refuge in a cafe afte realizing I had no idea what I was doing nor looking at. As I walked back to my hostel I remembered that one of their billboards had advertised walking tours around the old town. Just my luck, they were also free to join and started in one hour.

That was a good choice on my part. I got to see the narrowest alley in the Old Town, the oldest street, the oldest restaurant, and the famous Stortorget and it’s buildings.  

Day 2 was a bit more organized. I went for coffee at a local roasters with 2 girls I had met the night before, got a take-away falafel lunch, then walked over to take the ferry to Djugården. On Djugården I made my way to the Rosendals Trägård; the site of gardens and a cafe that focuses on sustainable practices and locally grown food. Afterwards, one of the highlights of my trip, Vasamuseet (the Vasa Museum). It’s hard to put into words my feelings as I stared up at this enormous ship…awe, mainly, but a huge range given the history this vessel holds. For those who don’t know, in 1628, the Vasa made her maiden voyage…only to sink after 1500m due an eveness of weight (too heavy at the top and not enough weight at the bottom). Many died on board, and thought she was ost at the bottom of the sea  forever. In the 1970’s she was pulled from the ocean and preserved; the first attempt of it’s kind. The museum was fascinating because the science of how she was recovered and preserved is described, and is still ongoing (For exmaple, all the bolts holding her together are a specially created stainless steel, and the museum is climate controlled to prevent any changes in humidity). Anyone who knows me knows I fear deep water and those creepy diving suits that look like robots…guess what one section contained.  

The next day I still had use of the 24hour transit pass from the day before, so  made my way to the Historika Museet, the Swedish History Museum, expecting to maybe spend an hour or so. But, in a theme that followed me throught Sweden, it was way bigger than expected. I ended up spending 2 hours there and could have easily spent more, given that it contained everything I needed to get my Swedish history on fleek. A giant timeline from the 1100’s to present, an exhibit in which religion and contemprary art met, and a giant gold rooms featuring a total of *kg of gold and silver artifacts. I also walked to the public library to take photo of their rotunda style main floor.  

And day 4 was a reunion with a friend I met in Taiwan 3 years ago. We went and walked around Naturhistorika Riksmuseet (the Swedish Museum of Natural History), laughing at the incorrect English translations and spellings, because we are cruel, cruel people. We also got to explore the public art on the Swedish metro system, something I had been curious about but wasn’t sure whether I’d have the time to do it.  

So it took a day to get my bearings, but I feel really good about my time in Stockholm! I could have easily spent another 3 days to explore different districts, get out for a hike or to visit Uppsala, and do something like a food tour. I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to come back.

Below are my recommendations/suggestions if you’re planning to visit or find yourself uncertain at what to do like I did at first!  

-Cook your own meals! I opted to not buy breakfasts or dinners and so mainly bought lunches. It’s incredible how expensive eating out is in Scandinavia.
-Mazimize use of your 24 hour transit pass. Taking 3 journeys more than 1 hour apart already makes this pass a good deal. Whether it be the bus, tram, metro, or ferry, you can see a lot and do a lot by travelling throughout the city!
-Free museums! I was shocked at the amount of free museums in the city. I went to the Swedish History Museum (Historika Museet) and  Museum of Natural History (Naturhistorika Riksmuseet), but the Modern Art Museum, Nobel Museum (on certain days), Nordic museum (Tuesday or Wednesday evenings), and Swedish Viking Museum are all free.
-Free Walking Tours! A great way to get introduced to the city and learn the history. I went with Free Tours Stockholm and you can tip the guide if you think they did a good job, but they are free to join and nobody forces any money out of you (LINK).
-Vasa Museum: As opposed to my regular strategy of getting there right at opening time, I actually visited at 3:30pm on a weekday afternoon, and I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. The tour groups and crowds were few and far between, and it was really calm inside. If you’re not a morning person, go in the late afternoon to avoid crowds. When you’re there I recommend watching the introductory film before starting your exploring for a background on the history of the ship.
-Chill out in a cafe with a kanelbulle (cinnamon bun). That’s all I’m saying.  

Until next time! Next stop, Copenhagen!

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Kanelbulle = cinnamon bun. Aka my diet the last 4 days…

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Exploring Gamla Stan

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Stortorget

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Taking the ferry to Djugården

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Rosendals Trädgård

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Gift shop in the garden

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I wanted one but it’s probably for the better that I didn’t buy it

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Stockholm views

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The Vasa in 98% of her original glory

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The BEST. 3 paragraphs of Swedish = 1 in misspelled English 😂

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Exploring the subway art

3 Days in Oslo – A Review

Well, Oslo, I hate to say this…but after 15 years of waiting to visit you, I look back and realize 1 day was all I would have needed to have my fill of your city centre…

This is not to say I hated my time here. on the contrary, Oslo is a gorgeous city with an amazing public transport system and everything within walking distance of one other. That latter point though…turns out to be a pro and a con. After walking to all the sites of interest on Saturday (Opera House, City Hall, Royal Palace, the *Sculpture park), I returned to my AirBNB a little dissapointed. Day 2 thankfully was all about redemption. The Viking Museum and island hopping were exactly what I had imagined when I saw myself in Norway. However, day 3 would turn out to be another drag, as the food market I had been so excited to visit was closed on Mondays. ONLY on Mondays (Of course). I had a nice walk around part of the city with some gorgeous houses, and took a bus to an aamzing viewoint os Oslo, but these 3 days have left me wanting more.

Any reason to return, of course. I want to see Bergen, and of course hike the gorgeous Kjeragbolten fjord. 24 hours in Oslo city would have been plenty of time to see the main buildings of interest, the Viking Museum, and go island hopping. And maybe get to the food markets for a lunch or dinner. But now I know! And this trip is as much about learning as it is about visiting new cities.

I plan to write a post about saving money in Europe, but one thing I want to say right now (to add another voice to the already millions preaching the same thing) is COOK YOUR OWN MEALS. Grocery stores are amazingly cheaper than even pre-made meals at corner stores, plus you control the ingredients of what you make.

In conclusion, next time around Noodles is heading going NORTH. Oslo city will be powered through in a day (If you’re really into museums though and invest in one of the Oslo passes, though, it can definitely be worth it to spend more than one day in the city centre, based on how tiring it can be to jam pack your day with exursions.  

Until next time! Next up: Stockholm!

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Highlight of the trip by far: The Oslo Viking Museum (Pictured: My awkward pose and the Oseberg Ship)

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Old ruins of a 12th century monastery on the island of Hovedøya

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Gorgeous views from the island of Gressholmen

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Wooden houses along the street of Telthusbakken

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More views! This was the view that apparently was the inspiration for the painting ‘The Scream’

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.