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Iceland & Nantes

Thanks to a late starting semester in Nantes, France, I found myself beginning to write this post two weeks ago from somewhere in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. For the month of September, we have camped, hiked and driven around the island, detouring off the ring road and onto windy peninsulas, vast fjords, inspiring highlands and charming cities.

I travelled to Iceland before my exchange for it’s beautiful landscape, and was pleasantly surprised with much more than just landscapes. With a rich history of viking exploration, settlement (and violence), it is interesting to be amongst the Icelandic landscape and imagine just how perfect a scene it really was for the vikings. You really only need to look up images in Google to understand.

Iceland is dramatic, seemingly unaccessible, remote and barren. It’s fascinating to see the direct connection between Icelandic culture today, and how it has has been informed by the bare necessities of survival, for food, shelter and clothing.

Traditional Icelandic food consists of what the Icelanders could harness from the sea, like whale meat, shark, fish and langoustine (although lamb is also another Icelandic staple). Most of the towns around the island are still fishing villages, with local restaurants serving up the latest catch – vastly different to Australia where people are so far removed from the process of where their food is obtained from. Before the introduction of concrete to Iceland, turf houses were built using a wooden frame (often from driftwood, birch or oak, although trees here are in somewhat of a limited supply in some areas), and turf fitted around the frame – a product of a difficult climate. Many Icelandic cafes and restaurants pride themselves on locally grown produce and meats.

What really amazed me, is that most of the electricity in Iceland is produced by harnessing geothermal or hydro energy (which they call solar because it’s actually the sun which melts the ice and produces the water). Even hot water is heated geothermally, which often results in “the rotten egg showers” (yes, the showers would often smell like geysirs).

Here’s some pictures:

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And now, I am finally settled in my new place just outside of the city centre of Nantes (France) and straight into design classes. It’s a very pretty city and all stereotypes of French people being rude have diminished. I am part of an international class made up of 60 students – half French and half students from all over the world including Korea, Turkey, Morocco, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Poland, Estonia and Finland, creating a really interesting dynamic both socially and academically. Can’t wait to see what the next few months brings. Am still in the exploratory phase of the city. Will post again soon.

Jennifer Nunez
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