Just before the New Year, Gnaaah Xeltentat kindly sent me a personal invitation to visit the latest iteration of Florence, his Homestead region, which has once again been given a new look by Iska (sablina), assisted by Tippah.
At the time of my last visit, almost a year ago (see: Spring at Florence in Second Life), the region had just been given a clever re-working by Iska and Tippah that offered a new twist on the layout originally created by Minnie Atlass in 2020 (see: Witnessing Florence at Low Tide in Second Life). For this iteration, however, the region has been completely redressed by Iska, who has drawn her inspiration from a location in the physical world; the Salin d’Aigues-Mortes (salts of Aigues-Mortes), Camargue, in the south of France.
A natural wetland sitting between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône delta, it is home to what are regarded as the largest salt water marshes in Europe, one designated a Wetland of International Importance. It is also noted as an Important Bird Area, being home to over 400 species of birds (including being one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo). And if that weren’t enough, the area is also the one of the largest producers of salt in Europe, producing around 500,000 tonnes annually.
Whilst relatively unknown outside of France, the salt marshes are a popular destination for the French – the rather vicious local mosquitoes notwithstanding ; the result of both the richness of the birds and wildfowl in the area, and the natural pink colouring to the waters of the marshes.
The latter is due to the microscopic algae, Dunaliella Salina (the same algae that gives flamingos their pink colour) which is common in high concentrations of enclosed salt water environments such as the waters of the Camargue. As the algae grow, they synthesise beta-carotene (which also gives some fruit and vegetables their red/orange pigment) to protect them from the Sun, and it is this that makes the water in the marshes appear pink.
All of this is encapsulated in the new design for Florence in a simple, elegant layout that has much to attract the eye and camera. The landing point is located alongside a collection of 31 rectangular salt tanks, representing those used by the Salin Group to “farm” salt from the region. To the east, but close by are three high peaks of salt, representing the massive tables of salt that tend to be a feature of the region as the salt is gathered and dried..
To the west, the land forms more natural bodies of salty water, sand / salt bars between them helping to form paths, and the waters being enjoyed by flamingos and other waterfowl whilst other birds fly overhead. Along one of the “sand bars” there sits a little artist’s retreat, its flat roof offering a good look-out point, while a wooden deck extends out into another pool, offering a further place to sit – or from which to fly a kite.
Crossing the region from east to west is a set of rail tracks long which flatcars of salt can be rolled, a rutted cart / vehicle track paralleling them. A bridge from here spans a water channel to reach a larger dry landmass, home to a lighthouse and the local hotel. The latter also reflects the relaxed nature of the area: unsupervised access to the salt lakes in Camargue is not permitted; visitors are expected to stay locally and join one of the guided tours offered by foot or bicycle – or, for those who like a little more comfort – in a 75-minute train ride (perhaps again reflected by the presence of rail tracks in the region).
Also to be found in the region are horses, emblematic of the Camargue horse, an ancient breed of horse of unknown origin and indigenous to the region, believed to be one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world. These hardy little horses live in semi-feral conditions and are the traditional mount of the Camargue “cowboys” who herd the black Camargue bulls. The latter are also represented in the region by a pair of cattle.
As well as getting around on foot, the region offers a little motor boats visitors can putter around it, motoring along the water channel, or out to the little island that sits on its own, or around to the western side of the region, and the cover that awaits to one side of the hotel.
It is clear that a lot of care and consideration has gone into the creation of this setting such that it offers a good suggestion of the Camargue salt marshes whilst also being a very individual region design even if one does not reference them. There are multiple places to sit – outdoors and in, and – as noted – numerous opportunities for photography. But don’t take my word for it – get your 2022 off to a non-snowy start and pay a visit yourself!
My thanks again to Gnaaah for the invitation!
- Florence (rated: Moderate)