I’m going to start by saying that this isn’t a destination review per se; the subject of the article is a private residential estate – hence no landmark in this piece. Visiting and writing about such estates is not something I’m liable to make any kind of feature out of for this blog. While there are doubtless many beautiful sims and estates throughout Second Life, I do regard Matanzas as special both because it was highly recommended to me by people I respect within SL for their judgement and observation, and it is provided by someone I’ve come to know via Twitter over the last year and who is now becoming an in-world friend as well. So this post is a little indulgent – but then, this is my blog, so I’m entitled to indulge myself now and again :).
Matanzas started life as a residential sim some time back, with those lucky enough to rent there finding it a pleasant – and long-term – home. When the sim holder announced that he was leaving SL in January 2009 and that the sim would therefore be dissolved, there was understandable upset. So much so that Skate Foss, herself a Matanzas resident since 2007, stepped into the breach and offered to take over the running of the sim.
Since then, she’s worked tirelessly with two of the nine other residents on the sim to create a stunning tropical environment open to all of her tenants to share in and enjoy – and which captures the hearts of those who visit.
The care that has gone into the sim is evident from the moment one is invited to visit: the arrival point is a wooden quay, with sail-boats moored nearby or pulled up under the shade of the palm trees. From here it is a short walk to the community dance floor and newly added cafe, where Skate and I later sat and chatted about all things SL. Both the dance floor and cafe – together with an open-air lounge beyond, are open to the residents of the sim to use and enjoy, and occasional events are held at them as well. The open spaces are appreciated by tenants and form a central part of the appeal of the place and why people come – and stay.
“There are ten lots here,” Skate tells me as we saunter past the dance floor, “But only six tenants – not that there are four empty lots; my tenants grab up any lot that is available, so the island is fully rented.” The lots themselves are all landscaped to fit with the theme of the sim, and the houses blend perfectly with the flora. Boundaries between parcels are indicated through the subtle use of “Private” notices set along the paths between them and wandering the sim, one has the strong impression that this is a close, friendly community sharing a common bond of trust and respect for one another.
The lounge itself overlooks a waterfall with flows down from the central heights of the island, where stands a rain forest, complete with parakeets, tropical rain and the odd dash of lightning. This offers various views of the island, walks to follow and places to sit. Also close to the lounge are two more facets of Matanzas that make it special – the greenhouse and the chapel.
The greenhouse, located by a small lake, cunningly hides the parcel rent boxes (tucked away inside cupboards!) while also providing a venue for events – such as a wedding reception Skate tells me about, the wedding ceremony itself being held out at the waterfalls.
The chapel is a short walk further on, and is the latest addition to the island. “One of my tenants lost his RL son,” Skate explains as we reach it. “I thought we should have a place on the island, to go, if we need to.” The chapel is tasteful in its design – whitewashed walls, sun-faded timber roof, with a simple but effective memorial inside.
Wandering across the island, the degree of care that has been taken with it is clearly apparent – be it with the sun-bleached wooden steps leading up to vantage points or linking houses to beach, the wind chimes hanging from tree branches or the careful selection of birds and flora to give the entire sim a rich and vibrant feel. If I’m honest, our tour left me feeling not a little regretful that I’m not myself a tenant there; it’s exactly the kind of place I could happily “retire” to in SL!
Skate and I finished our walk back at the cafe area, where we were joined by a parakeet while we talked about Matanzas’ development – Skate is constantly seeking ways to tweak and enhance the island as both the cafe itself and the chapel show – and Second Life in general. As we do, and as I take the opportunity to snap some more shots of the island, I’m struck by the one word that sums up Matanzas perfectly.
ETA: Skate has sent me details on Lalo Telling’s write-up on a TweetUp party that was held on Matanzas two years ago. Read about it here.