A visit to the French coast in Second Life

La Garde-Aris, May 2021: click any image for full size

Occupying just under a quarter of a Full region that leverages the private region LI bonus, La Garde-Aris is a charming setting created by Aristide Atlass. It offers a little slice of France for people to enjoy and photograph, and which has little twists of humour about it – including in the About Land description.

Drawing inspiration from the coast of Provence, the historical province of south-eastern France and home to the famous city port of Marseille, La Garde-Aris presents a richly detailed setting that presents a small coastal town nestled under high cliffs that has perhaps seen the traditional income brought to it by fishing the local waters to the more lucrative – if possibly as seasonal – tourist trade.

La Garde-Aris, May 2021: click any image for full size

From the smart little beach and waterfront shops through to the market square and the cobbled roads that wind around the buildings and climb the hills to one side of the setting, this is a place brought to life by the local “inhabitants”, static and animated NPCs that can be found throughout, lazing on the beach, exploring the marketplace, shopping, taking a run, and so on.

Some of these characters would appear to be local, but I’d say that most are likely casual visitors, people who have arrived along the road that emerges from a tunnel to one side of the parcel.  This ends at a little car park sitting a short way back from the beach and overlooking a little fisherman’s cove into which a fishing boat is chugging, whilst nest hang to dry on the shore.

La Garde-Aris, May 2021: click any image for full size
The car park itself is witness to the arrival of a young couple clearly here to enjoy some surfing, and a family who have arrived by camper van.  Further down the road, a tour bus has pulled up alongside the bridge leading up to what might be the older part of town, allowing its passengers to explore up there, or head across the road into the bustling square with its open market, shops and little café-restaurant.

The older part of town is dominated by the round tower of an aged fort, a place that offers a good vantage point for looking across the town. Directly below it, on what looks to be a terrace of more recent origin – or perhaps a part of the fort that has been newly dressed with stone, a jazz band plays and visitors can enjoy a dance.

La Garde-Aris, May 2021: click any image for full size

It is here, as well, that some of the humour evident in the setting is apparent – the studio gallery alongside the old fort is called L’art te Chaut, which appears to be a little play on a popular edible variety of thistle which sometimes has the word “French” put in front of it. Close by, the converted chapel offers a rather interesting compendium of book titles –  although I confess it’s the first time I’ve visited a reading room that includes a dance pole…!

Across the length of the town, and facing the fort and the raised buildings alongside it, is a large villa, a stand of cypress trees separating it from the town. Of Tuscan design (well, Provence is bordered by Italy to the east), the villa may look to be private, but is in fact open to the public as well, and is furnished throughout and is named for the local “historical figure”, Chevalier de la Frite, who features in Aristide’s Picks write-up for the town.

La Garde-Aris, May 2021: click any image for full size

Colourful and with a lot going on when it comes to the NPCs, La Garde-Aris is a charming, easy-going visit – although the region as a whole can be occasionally heavy going for those running with things like Shadows enabled in their viewer and a high Draw Distance as a couple of the other parcels on it have a lot going on, textures-wise), so it might be advisable to tone the latter down if you find things a little bumpy.

With thanks to Shaun Shakespeare for the pointer.

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A tropical paradise in Second Life

The Sim Quarterly: Krak Bak Caye, May 2021

Come with me on an ocean of blue,
Where the Sun always shines and there’s nothing to do.
Where the water is warm and there’s nothing to do,
Will you come, will you come, with me?

OK, so Roger Whittaker wrote those words in reference to the beaches of his beloved Kenya, but they hold true for many a tropical paradise in the world, including Caye Caulker, the 8 kilometre long limestone coral island off the coast of Belize.

Those who have had the good fortune to visit Belize will know that it can be a place to escape the world and its worries, offering the visitor every luxury and opportunity for unique experiences (ever dreamed of renting a waterside cabana where each morning, the dolphins arrive and call for you to come and swim with them?).

The Sim Quarterly: Krak Bak Caye, May 2021

For those who haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Belize or its islands – particularly tiny Caye Caulker – then from now through until later July, then can visit it in spirit, thanks to the latest installation to arrive at Electric Monday’s Sim Quarterly. This is because the region has been gloriously transformed into the island of Krak Bak Kaye, inspired by Caye Caulker, to offer the chance of glorious escape.

Come with me finding tropical fish
That dance on the sea, whenever you wish.
At the end of your line is your supper-time dish,
Will you come, will you come, with me?

The Sim Quarterly: Krak Bak Caye, May 2021

On arrival at the landing point above the region, visitors will be offered a tourist brochure in the form of a HUD, and have the choice of taking two “flights” down to the island via floatplane Just click the signs next to each aircraft to be teleported to the beach or to the little Main Street that captures the essence of the older parts of Caye Caulker Village (admittedly, as the island has gained popularity, so has the number of hotels grown around the settlement, which has expanded well beyond what it once was).

From either point of arrival, visitors can roam freely and enjoy any of the opportunities the island offers: wind surfing, boating, fishing, swimming, diving Via the deep lagoon that sits off-shore – so be sure to pack your swimsuit when paying a visit!

The Sim Quarterly: Krak Bak Caye, May 2021

You can watch the weary world turning on its own.
Let somebody else pick up that silly telephone.
You can stretch yourself and laugh in the morning Sun.
You can smile, you can take a boat and sail for a while.
You can smile!

Gentle on the eye and the computer and rich in authenticity, Krak Bak Kaye is a perfect getaway – so why not book your ticket today?

The Sim Quarterly: Krak Bak Caye, May 2021

Lyrics to Come with Me by Roger Whittaker, from the album Roger Whittaker in Kenya (1982).

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Enjoying a touch or Ireland in Second Life

Craggy Island, May 2021 – click any image for full size

Craggy Island, designed by Mishi (Mishi Masala), sits on a Homestead region as a “peaceful and picturesque island off the coast of Ireland”. It’s a place people are encouraged to visit for the views, to unwind and / or for the craic (gossip / new, presumably of the local variety!). It’s also a place Shaun Shakespeare pointed me towards by way of a landmark he dropped into my lap, so I donned my hiking boots and headed off to take a look.

Almost completely encircled by the green hills of an off-region surround, Craggy Island is a genuine delight, offering as it does not so much a sense of being out on a little island somewhere, but perhaps a place within the rural regions of Eire; From some angles, I felt is if I might be in Galway, perhaps Connemara, not far from the coast there. But then on swinging my camera around to look in another direction, the view brought to mind County Kerry, perhaps not far from Derryfanga – a feeling heightened by the simple expedient of positioning my camera so the intervening Linden Water between region and the peaks of the surround was masked from my view.

Craggy Island, May 2021

Undulating gently, this is a setting that is easy on the eye and a quiet delight to explore (the sussuration of waves duly noted!), the scattered buildings sprinkled across the moor-like landscape encouraging the feet to wander.

The landing point sits just a handful of paces from a thatched roofed pub – a place that has attracted the attention of one famous visitor! It is a natural place to wander towards, given the track the meanders towards it from the landing point, but turn the other way upon landing, and the stubby spire and slate roof of the local church might equally attract your attention as they peek over the lip of a small rise in the land, the smoke rising from the chimney of a house beyond it also encouraging feet to head in that direction.

Craggy Island, May 2021

But really, where you chose to roam makes no difference: you’re going to come across something worthy of your attention whichever direction in which you strike out.

To the north and east sits a farm that appears to be focused on rearing sheep and pigs – although a recently ploughed field close to hand suggests a modest crop of some short might also be cultivated. Away to the south and west, the crofter’s cottage with smoke rising from its chimney appears to be focal point for cattle and goat rearing. Or perhaps they are both part of the same farm.

Craggy Island, May 2021

Between them, the land rises and falls in gentle slopes and folds, places to sit nestled here and there, a small loch puddling the land, its calm surface home to a small mist. Horses wander more freely than cattle or sheep – which appear to keep close to the respective farm buildings, whilst a Romany caravan offers a particular retreat for those wishing to escape. Throughout, little tracks start here and there, wind along the grass for a while and then vanish, as if teasing those that follow them.

Needless to say, opportunities for photography abound throughout the setting, and if you have a wearable horse, this is a place that also offers the opportunity for taking a ride over its moorlands or along the low-lying areas of the coastline.

Craggy Island, May 2021

Watched over by the vigilant eye of a lighthouse and set under a hazy, late afternoon sky, the charm of Craggy island certainly lives up to the promise of céad míle fáilte.

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LeLoo’s little town in Second Life

El Pueblito at LeLoo’s World, May 2021 – click any image for full size

LeLoo’s World is a place we’ve frequently visited over the years. Occupying a quarter Mainland Full region and held by LeLoo (LeLooUlf), it always offers some for the seasons as the year turns, and on May 1st, LeLoo re-opened it for spring 2021 with a trip into what might be Old Mexico.

A little Pueblo nestled in the middle of a forgotten desert patch. A place to wander as you take in the deserts beauty and simplicity.

LeLoo, describing her latest  quarter region design.

El Pueblito at LeLoo’s world, May 2021

El Pueblito, which might be translated as “Little Town”, offers a box canyon setting in which a little corner of forgotten Mexico, a place where the horse is still an essential form of transport and Spanish-style haciendas sit alongside adobe buildings that carry within them a strong pueblo heritage.

Caught between the high walls of the canyon and sitting on the sands that have flowed in from the broader desert, is a ranch that appears to specialise in rearing horses. From the water towers and the growths of cacti, juniper and Joshua trees, it’s clear that there’s a sub-surface aquifer close to hand, helping to give life to this little corner of Somewhere.

El Pueblito at LeLoo’s world, May 2021

To the south, the sand gives way to a paved market village, a wall spanning the throat of the canyon helping to keep the sand from being more widely spread across the cobbles. This market offers a range of indoor and outdoor stalls and shops waiting to tempt casual browsers who may be in search of something a little different. The presence of this little market suggests that while this may be Somewhere, it is not so far off the beaten track it cannot attract tourists.

As with all of LeLoo’s designs, this is not a place that requires heavy descriptive prose – it is a place to be explored and savoured. And again, as with LeLoo’s designs, it is one rich in details waiting to be discovered, and places to sit and appreciate the view and the comings and goings of visitors.

El Pueblito at LeLoo’s world, May 2021

Most of the latter are outdoors – although if the heat and Sun get a little too much, there are some indoor spots to be found as well – such as the caravan that has managed to perch itself up on the rocks across from the main hacienda,  which in turn forms the landing point for the setting and offers a refreshing glass of lemon-flavoured water for those need it.

Simple and elegant, photogenic and restful, LeLoo’s El Pueblito is another delightful location created by LeLoo.

El Pueblito at LeLoo’s world, May 2021

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Sharing Memories of Us in Second Life

Memories of Us, April 2021 – click any image for full size

Occupying a quarter of a Homestead region that goes by the same name, Memories of Us is a corner of Second Life that Shaun Shakespeare (once again!) pointed me towards as a place to visit.

Designed by Candi McCulloch (Candi Melune), this is a setting that is easy on the eye, centred on a lake ringed by land that is mostly low-lying, but which does rise to the north-east, where broad waterfalls feed a stream that in turn curves its way around to feed the lake.

Memories of Us, April 2021

The landing point sits alongside an open field, where a lean-to stands and what looks like a Romany camp site has been established.  From here, a path winds its way around the lake, and visitors are invited to follow it on foot or by bicycle – although by warned that as the path does climb into the north-side uplands, getting all the way around on two wheels might be a little difficult! Those who have wearable horses are invited to use them and ride the path if they wish.

As well as the camp site, there are various places to sit waiting to be found, ranging from an old camper trailer to picnic tables and benches at various points around the setting, as well as the more esoteric – a blanket suspended from the branches of a tree or an upturned rowing boat on the lake’s shore.

Memories of Us, April 2021

Those who would like to spend time on the water can do so via the rowing boat that is sitting on the lake. Oars will be offered on sitting, so you can row yourself/ves out into the middle of the water, and the rezzer will leave a further boat for others to use. Note the boat you’re in will de-rez after you stand up.

Memories of Us is a simple, natural setting that really doesn’t need much in the way of exposition as it speaks for itself. There are one or two little points where the landscaping could do with a small amount of tidying up, but nothing that actually glaringly pokes you in the eye. Certainly this is a place where time can be whiled away peacefully – just be sure to have local sounds enabled to be more fully immersed!

Memories of Us, April 2021

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Encountering Writer’s Block in Second Life

Writer’s Block, April 2021 – click any image for full size

Over the weekend, Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova) graciously invited me to visit his latest region design utilising his home region of Solveig ahead of him opening it to the public at large; and I say without reservation that it another absolutely stunning build that cannot fail to engage and captivate – one with the most fascinating (for me) titles: Writer’s Block.

Anyone who has ever seriously spent their time writing either for pleasure or for a living will be familiar with the idea of writer’s block – the inability to come up with original ideas, or to productively put pen to paper / fingers to keyboards.

Writer’s Block, April 2021

Contrary to the (sometimes flippant) proclamations of some noted authors that writer’s block doesn’t exist (after all, doctor’s don’t get “doctor’s block”, do they?) writer’s block can take a wide variety of forms, some of them very definitely the result of physical disorders (agraphia). Others can equally be purely psychological and / or self-inflicted.

Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card, for example, notes that his most frequent form of his writer’s block is the result of knowing, subconsciously or consciously, something he’s written isn’t “right” in some way, be it in terms of character interaction or action, plot narrative or turn, or something else. It prevents him moving forward with a story until he has gone back, located the issue and worked out how to correct it. For others, it can come down to a loss of inspiration, simple distraction or even an over-abundance of ideas.

Writer’s Block, April 2021

Lex’s Writer’s Block offers a personification of much of the latter. As with his previous designs, this is an incredible landscape of vignettes and objects that, whilst offered within a contiguous landscape that brings them together, whilst they also stand as potential individual statements of ideas and narrative; exploring them is very much a tour through the mind of a writer / artist.

Writer’s Block, April 2021

Symbolism is – as with all of Lex’s designs – to be found through this build, and starts at the landing point, where sits an oversized manual typewriter. It is slowly being overcome by winding vines and thus speaks the the longevity that can genuinely occur with writer’s block. Pages rise from it, either blank or repeatedly printed with the image of a flower – both of which speak to two of the most recognised forms of writer’s block: the inability to get started with writing something, or becoming obsessively stuck on a particular aspect / passage / piece of writing to the point – as with Orson Scott Card, above.

Beyond this is a richly diverse landscape, a walk through the mind of a writer. Buildings stand as half-finished stories or unfinished plots that lay crumbling in the wilderness of the imagination; those that are complete, stand with empty rooms, signifying the structure of a narrative that awaits the décor of the plot and the presence of characters.

Figures human and fantastical, stand and sit as the personification of characters; the interactions between some suggest the waltz of possible interactions they might come to have within their tale; the pose of others personifying the sense of loss of creative vision or the weight or anguish of being unable to complete a story.

Writer’s Block, April 2021

Elsewhere, a flight of butterflies passes over the landscape like the flutterings of a half-considered idea, whilst feathers from angel’s wing speaks to the ephemeral nature of such ideas, so easily scattered on the winds of everyday distractions. Meanwhile, the ground offers paths – some obvious, others far less clear.  For the visitor, they offer routes of discovery within the region; symbolically they perhaps reference the ease with the writer’s thoughts can wander in distraction from the task at hand.

Writer’s Block, April 2021

As is the way with Lex’s builds, the symbolism throughout Writer’s Block is stunning – but so too is the sheer artistry and the detail.

Lex has a marvellous talent from mixing ideas of scale, as anyone who has visited his previous designs will know. Here, “life-size” buildings share the space with giant carved figures, their contrasts blended through the use of trees and the rise and fall of the landscape itself.

Meanwhile, the smaller details offer both tales of their own that might be both threaded into the overall theme for the region, and also stand as suggestions of narratives waiting for our own imaginations to unwrap. These are incredibly diverse – from the statue of Freddy Mercury standing within a semi-walled garden or the little cottage that comes with mortars ranged in the front garden and the wrecks of a tank and armoured vehicle that flank it.

Writer’s Block, April 2021

I have said this before  – and will doubtless say it again in the future; Lex Machine is one of the finest creators of region settings in Second Life today; his work never fails to stun and amaze in its breadth and depth. When building regions, we all pour something of ourselves into them – vision, ideas, wishes; but Lex does something more. Each of his designs invite us to witness not only his creativity, but take us on a journey through his imagination and to share in his thoughts – be they on subjects such as the global pandemic, his love for his partner Anastasia or his own psyche and outlook.

Writer’s Block is a continuation of all of this: breathtaking in scope and presentation, it is a must see for anyone familiar with Lex’s work. And if you haven’t visited his designs in the past, it makes for an excellent introduction – just be prepared to become a fan of his work!

Writer’s Block, April 2021

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