It’s hard to keep a good thing down – or so the saying goes – and such is the case of Elvion, the homestead region designed by Bo Zano (BoZanoNL). Having closed towards the end of September 2020 not long after making an initial return to Second Life (see Elvion’s return to Second Life), the region was missed by many. So the news that Bo has re-opened it at a new location and with a new layout, has been good news to many – including myself.
Admittedly, it took a few days for Caitlyn and I to get over and see it for ourselves (thanks to Miro and everyone who pointed towards it), but we started the week by wandering the region and found it to be – as ever – an engaging outdoor setting with a lot to appreciate.
From what was initially something of a fantasy setting in the form of an elven retreat (see: Elvion: an elven sanctuary in Second Life) sitting within a quarter region, the setting grew over the years to take up a full Homestead whilst also moving to offer more of a feel of the great outdoors rather than staying strictly wrapped in a fantasy theme.
This is very much reflected in the current iteration for the region. Bounded by high peaks along its southern side that feed a broad ribbon of water from falls that drop from their snowy uplands, the majority of the setting is given over to a low-lying landscape cut by a shallow stream.
The latter rises – quite literally as it rolls up-slope, suggesting there is perhaps still a hint of elven magic here – from the broader body of water to run diagonally across the grasslands before splitting to create a small island to the north and east that’s home to horses and a hammock.
There are only two structures on the island: a stone pavilion sitting among the trees and a large house with a touch of fantasy about it sitting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the grass and streams, and which is reached by stone steps. Comfortably, if lightly, furnished, it offers a quiet retreat for those wishing to relax indoors.
For the rest, the land sits as a haven for wildlife, some of it easy to find in the form of deer, stags and waterfowl, the rest might take a little finding – so do keep any eye out for Curly (not sure if the other Stooges are around or members of the Rat Pack, as once was the case; we didn’t come across them during our wanderings). Together with the domesticated animals, they present a rich of life across the region.
Caught under a grey sky and with mist creeping between some of the trees and over the water, this new Elvion carries with it the spirit of previous iterations whilst remaining somewhere new to explore. The latter can be done so on foot or via wearable horse – just be prepared for a lot of opportunities for photography to present themselves to you.
Mystical Isle, a full region boasting the private island land impact bonus, is the work of Elmer Bellisserian with the landscaping assistance of Aurila Tigerfish. Having recently (I believe) opened, the region describes itself thus:
One of the latest Destinations for Merfolk, Elves, Faeries, Petites and their Admirers! All are welcome to explore this underwater and mystical wonderland. Great for dancing, photography or just hanging out and relaxing.
And the region certainly offers a lot to take in – although for those who enjoy roaming Fantasy Faire each year, it might also set some bells ringing.
I say this because the core of the region not only comprises elements created by the master of fantasy design, Elicio Ember (of Cerridwen’s Cauldron fame), who has provided many a Fantasy Faire region build but because Mystical Isle presents a strong echo of one of those designs in particular: the 2016 Otherworld build.
Surrounded by off-sim hills, the region presents a central island from which rise great pillars of granite-like rock, five stout legs on which sits a broad table of rock, spread with a lush green cloth of grass over which water flows and a giant tree of life rises still further into the sky.
Hemmed by sandy beaches, this elevated platform stands over waters rippled with a hundred colours, the waves reflect an ever-changing view of a world that lies beneath them; world hinted at by exotic flowers an other-worldly structures that break through the water’s lens, beckoning people to come and explore.
As with Elicio’s Otherworld, the landing point for the region sits within the roots of one of the great pillars. Here, within a high-ceiling cavern, visitors can obtain a mertail and AO should they need them and then plunge into the waters to explore the world that lies beneath. Or, if preferred, they can climb the crystalline stairs that promise passage to the world above.
Below these waves lies a fantastical garden of strange flowers rich in colour through which wind ancient paths suggesting this place had once been above the waves. Here, amongst aquatic life that ranges from fish to orca to crustaceans and reptiles, lie the structures that poke their canopies above the water. They sit as places where merfolk can gather an dance and play, whilst the wreck of a galleon presents a hideaway for those wanting a little quiet time.
The taller of the two structures raises around half of its height out of the water, its ornate columns and arches surrounding a pool of splashing water fed by mollusc-like fountains. An arched walkway extends landward from it, but does not quiet connect to the feet of the great pillars, so requiring a little wading to move between the two.
Along the beaches can be found decks places to sit together with a variety of single-room cabanas and huts – all of which appear to be open to the public. Also to be found tucked into the lee of the rock pillars is a house that stands apart from he rest, caught as it is with snow on its roof and porches, a fire blazing in the hearth inside.
Reached via the crystalline stairs from the landing point as they pass by way of platform and sinuous spiral, the table-top of the setting is richly thatched by oak and fir, the hewn-out trunk of the tree of life rising from their heart, the tunnel through it pointing the way from the stair top to a great pavilion sitting alongside a broad pool of water fed by falls dropping from basalt columns and watched over by winged stags.
This is the land of elves and fae, where paths wind through trees to glades and pavilions, the ways lit by lanterns; a forest where not even the darkest of nights can threaten thanks to the list strung in branches and the great crystal lights dripping from the massive boughs of the tree of life. There is also much to discover here, from the exotic plant life to the pavilions and wildlife and mystical glades, through to the various places to sit and share, be they a camp site or a canopied bed or simple stone bench (to offer but three).
Whilst offering that echo of 2016’s Otherworld, Mystical Isle nevertheless is unique and engaging in its presentation and design, offering a lot to see and appreciate. And in you don’t fancy walking, keep an eye out for the teleport disks that offer the means of hopping between locations.
Archetype11 Nova, currently using the name Lex Machine, recently opened his latest region design on his Full private region of Solveig. Entitled The House That love Built, it is once again a most eye-poppingly imaginative design that completely captures the visitor’s attention and holds it with a fascinating mix of art nature, the expected and the unexpected that is both marvellous witness and difficult to describe.
With his previous two builds, Archetype11 presented vistas that were incredibly visual, rooted deep in the imagination and with a recognition that in Second Life, expression can more-or-less free-form – but which also carried something of a massage to fit the times in which they were built (see Inside mR J’s HoUsE in Second Life and Isolation’s Passengers in Second Life). That House That love Built also carries something of a theme, but one that comes from an altogether different direction.
It’s not usual for me to do such a build … Ana [his SL partner, Anastasia Nova] challenged me to show love with a build; this is the result. it was outside my comfort zone.
– Archetype 11 describing The House That Love Built
The result of this is an incredibly diverse build in which can be found so much that, despite being so varied in content with new scenes seeming to open up at every turn, nevertheless clearly carries the themes of love and sharing throughout.
Spread across a rolling landscape rich in trees, flowers and grass, these scenes may at first appear to be chaotic, or at least random, in placement and tone. Gigantic figures here, a house on the water there, cars either wrecked or being repaired lie scattered about; an overgrown yard, a barn decorated in expectation of a wedding, an old school house, rivers of bright flowers winding through the the rich green of the grass, and blossom hugs the branches of trees to contrast with the greenery of others.
When first seen, the theme of love may be hard to discern; but it is there, perhaps most clearly in the barn that awaits a wedding, a clear sign of the joining of two lives into a union borne by love and affection. But so too can be it found elsewhere, such as within the house over the water. Lit from without, its lamps glowing in the evening light in greeting and warmth, the space within sits empty – a promise of the times to come when it will be jointly furnished to become a home for those living within,a personal place of love and sanctuary.
Similarly, the yard outside might speak to the passage of time and the acceptance of individual hobbies – such as a passion for rebuilding powerful cars; while up on the hill a short distance away sits a little schoolhouse. Tired and ageing it might be, but might it also not stand in reflection of childhood loves and the first innocent hints of romance?
Then there is the setting itself – the cast of the late evening Sun, the softening colours of the sky as they blend with the gentle tones of the blossom in the trees and the wash of colour in the winding trails of tall flowers. All give an air of love’s enchantment across the land, while the little spots to be found across it – a piano here, a swing there; a panic spread beneath a parasol, a boat sitting quietly out on the water, the artist’s retreat on its little island – all further speak to ideas of love, courtship, togetherness and sharing.
And then, of course, there are the statues; rising across the western side of the landscape, they are hard to miss. From great horses frozen in time as they thunder across the land to female figures caught mid-dance or pose to those wreathed in a fine net or shadow and completed by a couple in one another’s arms, these all stand magnificently within the landscape, adding to its ethereal mystery and yet very much a part of it in tone and style.
Even when apparently fragmenting or incomplete, these massive statues add a further depth to the setting. They present a magical scene through which to wander, a place where unicorn roam. Beneath and around their great forms lies a richness of fairytale and romance that extends even to the the ageing cars sitting amidst the tide of flowers surrounding them and under the shadow of old awning.
This is a place where even fears can be subdued: up on a hill sits a head with blank eyes staring wide and mouth open in a primal scream. Liquid Fear may well be its title, but the glass butterflies rising from it remind us that even our deepest fears can be be calmed through the presence of one we love.
I became enamoured with Archetype11’s build from the moment I first set foot in his original Hotel California build some two years ago now. Since then, everything he has produced and shared with us has allowed me to partake in the most incredible of creative journeys, each building on the last. So much so that I can say entirely without hyperbole, that his region designs are some of the most visually engaging, imaginative and photogenic to be found in Second Life. They are also, thanks to the subjects he cares to embrace, some of the most deeply personal to be found in SL, a fact that again draws the visitor into them to a point where they are places the open heart and mind does not so much visit, but participate in.
There is so much more that I could say about The House That love Built – such as the small, but evident nods to past builds -, but really, given it is a place to be experienced first hand, please do go and see it for yourself and take the time to allow it to reveal its stories to you.
It’s been a year since Caitlyn and I last visited Gnaaah Xeltentat’s Florence at Low Tide. As that time, the region offered an early spring setting with a lean towards the Mediterranean in some of its styling. As we’re heading back towards spring, and needing a break to compose thoughts on another blog post I’m working on, I hopped back for another look and see what early 2021 has brought to the region.
Most noticeably, it has brought the eyes of Iska (Sablina) to the work of landscaping the setting. Responsible for the likes of La Virevolte (see here for more), Ponto Cabana (read more here), and before them Field of Dreams / L’intangible (more here), Sablina has a proven track record of eye-catching region designs. Here, her work sits alongside interior designs by Tippah to present a new and attractive take on the region’s core elements as they were revealed a year ago.
As with its previous iteration, the current design has a distinct south-north orientation, complete with lowlands to the south and a truncated peak to the north-east. A fenced road still winds through the landscape, sitting above the southern waterfront to encircle the main part of the region, while the land remains split by the line of a narrow stream spanned by two bridges that between them carry the road over it.
However, within this, both Sablina and Tippah have added their own unique touches. For the former, this is seen in the gentle moving of the region’s architecture away from Tuscany and more into France – at last in terms of the names of the selected buildings. One of these is an eye-catching water mill by Silex (Silex Zapedzki) that has been converted into an almost ideal home. It sits above the southern estuary of the river, which retains its familiar scattering of rowing boats.
Across the river and more central to the island is an attractive cottage design by Hisa (Hisastore) that has become a popular choice among region holders and designers of late. It sits on the mid-level elevation of the land, bracketed on the one side by the river and on the other by the stream tumbling down from the north-east peak.
The peak and its uplands sit apart from the rest of the setting in that they give a reminder that winter has yet to fully pass: snow covers the land and frosts the trees. It’s not a solid cover – the warmth of the Sun is taking its toll the grass and rock is becoming visible under the greying blanket. An old windmill sits among the trees here, another new touch to the setting, I believe, although it has clearly seen better days.
As noted, the houses are all comfortably furnished, and as with the landscape as a whole offer numerous opportunities for photography. In terms of the latter, a Romany camp presents a further point of interest and sits as a new feature – at least since my last visit.
For those who want to get away from things, the cottage tucked into the north-west corner of the region could be just the place. While it appears to have once been the home of the local lighthouse keeper, the typewriter outside suggests it might now be a writer’s retreat. Or perhaps the lighthouse keeper has taken to writer their memoirs!
Retaining its richness of detail and familiar lines whilst offering new sights to appreciate courtesy of Sablina and Tippah, Florence at Low Tide remains a place in which to wander and spend time.
I’ll start out by saying I’m getting to Curiosity Lake, the homestead region designed by SadyCat Littlepaws somewhat late in the day – or rather days, given it will closing on February 28th. I’m not sure how it slipped through my net of landmarks of places to explore, but it did. So to fix matters, I suggested to Caitlyn we hop over and take a look this past weekend.
It is a place clearly put together with both a love of, and attention to, detail – which might actually be something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it means there is a lot to see and appreciate and photograph; on the other, it also means that in some places there is a lot of mesh and texture data the viewer has to grapple with, and this can be reflected in some hiccuping of performance.
This is a setting evocative of the changing of the seasons. The two islands that make up the region are cast with autumnal colours, with trees heavy in browns and golds and fading greens, while the hills and peaks of the off-sim surround have their peaks crowded with fir trees frosted white with snow that also lies in drifts and patches on the slopes running down to the water’s edge. It’s a combination that suggests that while the island has yet to feel the first bite of winter, it is eyeing them from across the water, just waiting for the opportunity to throw a white blanket over them.
The islands are fairly low-lying and rugged in places. Three houses sit upon them, two on the larger, which includes the landing point, and a cosy lodge on the smaller. All three homes are fully furnished, and it is clear considerable time and effort has gone into their décor to make each one photogenic and home to a wealth of ideas visitors might find useful when decorating their own places.
Both of the houses on the larger island sit reasonably equidistant from the landing point with its gazebo warmed by a wood fire – one of several outdoor sitting points waiting to be found. which house you visit first is up to you, although I’d be tempted to suggest heading north to the imposing bulk of the large stone-built house with its tall chimneys.
As well as allowing you to take in the house, this route will take you past a couple more places open for visitors to sit outdoors in the form of a blanket-strewn rowing boat and a wooden pergola, it will deliver you to stone steps that will take you up to the islands “highlands”.
Forming a flat-topped low hill, there are home to a trio of further outdoor spots that are all attractive in their own right, two of them fashioned as little camps set around a couple of old vehicles and the third a tree fort platform. These are all close enough to be within easy walking distance of one another but far enough apart to be nicely separated as individual spots to share times with someone close.
Southwards from the landing point, steps also lead up to a low thrust of land and a wood-and-stone cottage where the garage has imaginatively re-purposed into a lounge, giving far more space for an expansive kitchen in the house proper, and comfortable bedroom at the back, exiting onto the rear deck.
More steps run down from the eastward brow on which the house sits and point the way to the footbridge that connects to the circular dome of the smaller island and its chalet-style lodge, the verandah of which is set out ready to entertain with a filling meal warmed by the outdoor fireplace.
It is around the houses that we found performance issues came to the fore – as noted, there is a lot of mesh and texture use around them, and this did make itself known during initial loading. However, it’s worth bearing with such niggles if encountered as the region is extraordinarily photogenic and naturally invite exploration.
However, if you’re going to do pay a visit, make sure it is in the next few days, because the region is due to close on February 28th, again as noted earlier.
VARGSÅNGEN (Wolf Song in Swedish) is a homestead region designed and held by Camila Runo that has been coming in for a lot of attention of late, having been featured in a number of blogs and in a Destination Guide short video. And it entirely right that it has, because the region is home to an engaging build that is fully evocative of the Viking era.
A regular meeting place for the SL Norse and Viking Society (group joiner at the landing point), the region’s About Land panel describes it thus:
A land in the far North, a long time ago when there were gods and giants, Valkyries, dwarfs and trolls. A land where the winters were long, dark and cold and the summers not so warm either but exploding with flowerage for a short period of time. Everyday life was a challenge, sometimes ending way too early.
The region presents a small settlement straddling two islands occupying what might be the mouth of a fjord – it faces an opening to the sea on one side whilst a river flows through the surrounding mountains from the other. It would appear to be of some strategic import, as a huge craved figure towers over the islands, sword held aloft. shield at the ready. Whom it might be – god or man – is yours to decide.
This statue stands on the southern tip of an island dominated by a huge domed hill of rock and grass, doubtless formed by its resistance to the passage of ice down through the fjord, and which is now home to a (quite literally) high alter where blood sacrifices appear to be a part of the order of ceremonies, watched over as they are by standing stones.
The path up to this summit comes via the lowlands on the north side of the island, using a combination of stone slabs that have in places been set as steps into the steep slopes, and short climbs over grass that feels both slippery and wet to the eye in perfect accompaniment to the overcast sky.
These low northern reaches of the island also contain reminders of the harshness of life back in the times of the Vikings: bears are to be found among the trees together with wild boar, whilst a stag attempts to defend its already dead mate from the wolves that brought it down and which are hungry to finish feeding on the carcass.
The second island is smaller and lower in nature, separated from its neighbour by a small neck of water easily spanned by a couple of hewn tree trunks. This is the location for the setting’s landing point and settlement. The latter is made up of half-a-down structures presided over by a stone-and wood watchtower where keen eyes keep watch on the fjord’s mouths, and strong legs are ready to descend and run to the great horn in order to sound warning should anything undesirable opt to slip into the channel.
Within the settlement is a wealth of detail that really needs to be seen to be appreciated, and it is clear that a huge amount of care has been taken to present life in those times as we currently understand it to have been. Humans and livestock share living spaces (making it easier to protect the latter); food is taken wherever it may be found, be it grown from the land, slaughtered after rearing, or taken from the sea in the form of fish or whale meat.
The ties to the sea are also much in evidence: a longship is drawn up at the settlement’s wharf, shields still in place and cargo (the haul from a raid, perhaps?) is being off-loaded. Just across a low ridge from the wharves lies an second ship under construction, the shipwright’s house close by. Could this be Flóki developing his improved hull that would make possible voyages so far out to sea, he’d be able to make his expedition to Iceland?
Norse mythology is touched on throughout, from the little carvings of Odin (some of which stand as teleporters along with the smaller boats that can be found), through the the menacing form of Jörmungandr, one of Loki’s three children. It circles within the fjord rather than encircling the world – so perhaps Odin has only recently tossed into the waters of Midgard?
And what of the name of the region itself – VARGSÅNGEN? Whilst meaning wolf song, as noted above, might it also be perhaps taken from the writings of Astrid Lindgren? Specifically, the lullaby from Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia the Robber’s Daughter)? It’s a haunting song that both in tone and lyrics fits the region perfectly.
The latter is pure supposition on my part, but to me it adds twist of mythical romance to the region. However, even if the lullaby has nothing to do with the region’s name, VARGSÅNGEN is a rewarding visit in and of itself, and offers a doorway through which enquiring minds can discover more about medieval Nordic life.