A farewell to Santorini

Santorini, Armenelos Calas Galadhon, December 2014
Santorini, Armenelos, Calas Galadhon, December 2014

The New Year tends to be a time of change and renewal, perhaps as much in the virtual as in the physical. Last year, the Calas Galadhon park lands underwent something of a remodelling in order to better meet the changing pressures of finance and time. The move came as Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith, who give so much of their time to the running of the park, closed the regions for a month to give themselves a little breathing space after the build-up to Christmas through Halloween, and the creation of their fabulous themed regions for both.

Ty recently contacted me to let me know that the park will again be closing at the start of 2015 so he and Truck can enjoy another well-earned break. As with last year, the closure will also be bringing changes to the park regions; and while the final plans haven’t been entirely worked out, it does mean that the Santorini build on Armenelos will be removed.

Santorini, Armenelos Calas Galadhon, December 2014
Santorini, Armenelos, Calas Galadhon, December 2014

“For a number of reasons we feel this is the best move for us,” Ty said in announcing the decision. “While ‘the village on top of the hill’ has been popular in years past we both feel confident we can come up with something new to make up for it – a new and updated Misty Mountains for one!”

Some might be tempted to point out that thanks to the arrival of mesh and materials et al, that Santorini is starting to look a little long in the tooth and that the move to replace it is overdue. To them I’d say that things happen in their own time, and while it may well be basic prims and simple textures, Santorini will be missed. It has been a jewel sitting off the coast of Calas Galadhon since the beginning, and many  – including myself – have found immense enjoyment in wandering the stepped streets, winding our way around the whitewashed houses and peeping through windows at their cosy interiors, or sitting down on a terrace to enjoy a little music and wine. I actually know several people for whom the village was their first introduction to the Calas park lands.

Santorini, Armenelos Calas Galadhon, December 2014
Santorini, Armenelos, Calas Galadhon, December 2014

For those who would like to capture a last memory or two of the village, there is still time; the last ferry will not be departing Santorini until early in the morning on Thursday, January 1st, 2015. So a visit on New Year’s Eve could be just the ticket if you want to see the old year old and greet the new one in a favourite corner of SL.

And as to what comes after? Well, Ty and Truck plan to keep OZ, the nightclub high overhead, running, and find room for the Dolphin café, currently sitting alongside Santorini (and where there is still time to enjoy a sirtaki dance with friends!). Whether the final plans see and expanded and revamped Misty Mountains or something else, the one thing you can be sure of is that 2015 will present plenty of new reasons for visiting Calas Galadhon, which, after the month’s break, will re-open in February 2015.

Santorini, Armenelos Calas Galadhon, December 2014
Santorini, Armenelos, Calas Galadhon, December 2014

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A Storybrooke winter

StoryBrooke Gardens, Baja Norte; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrStorybrooke Gardens, Baja Norte (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Lauren Bentham has brought a fairytale winter to Storybrooke Gardens, high over her Baja Norte region (which I last wrote about more than 18 months ago!). Snow falls across the garden’s trails and paths, layering them in a soft blanket as sunlight slants through frosted white branches of trees, and lanterns drift on the breeze.

Along the tracks and paths circling around and cutting through the gardens, a variety of animals and fairytale folk can be found, some sitting or standing on their own, others forming delightful vignettes, such as the little chipmunks gathered in a tiny field, or the bears and raccoons looking like they’re trying to deal with the excesses of Christmas one way or another.

StoryBrooke Gardens, Baja Norte; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrStorybrooke Gardens, Baja Norte (Flickr)

There is a wonderful attention to detail here; so much so that a casual visit may not reveal all there is to see. To help you take everything in, there are a number of places to sit, either on your own or with a companion, if visiting together.

Tucked away in the south-east corner of the gardens is a little snowbound cottage which is more than likely a photographer’s delight (I confess to snapping it from several angles and then having a play around in GIMP, as shown in the topmost image here). Nearby, and whom you might encounter first depending on the path you follow to the cottage, little fairy folk hover around bright hued mushrooms across the road from a little camp site …

StoryBrooke Gardens, Baja Norte; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrStorybrooke Gardens, Baja Norte (Flickr)

If you are still seeking a little P&Q after the excess of Christmas, real or virtual, Storybrooke Gardens might be just the ticket.

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Binemist chorale

Binemist, Mystical Falls; Inara Pey, September 2014, on FlickrBinemist, Mystical Falls (Flickr)

As many know, I’ve been gradually getting my head around machinima, and specifically music videos. I’ve got a way to got to get up to the likes of the real exponents of the art, but hopefully I’m making progress.

One of my favourite places in SL is Binemist, Biné Rodenberger’s region – if you’ve never visited it, you should; it is a absolute delight. It’s been an aim of mine to capture it on video for myself;  a daunting task, as Biné is herself an accomplished machinima maker, and I still cannot eliminate all of the judders from my footage as (I assume) the capture software and the viewer fight for attention.

I did actually capture footage over a couple of visits,  but I was then stuck for music; nothing seemed to fit. Until, that is, I was listening to chorales on Christmas Eve; one in particular stuck out, so I thought I’d have a little play.

Binemist isn’t a “winter” or “seasonal” region right now, so there is no hidden message in the choice of music; the piece just seemed to fit the video clips as I was playing around; I certainly hope Biné doesn’t mind that I’ve set her region to a traditional hymn!

Anyway, rather than prattle on, I’ll leave you with the video.

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A winter’s scribbled heart

Scribbled Hearts; Inara Pey, August 2013, on FlickrScribbled Hearts (Flickr)

Looking through my travelogue entries for SL, I was surprised to realise I hadn’t paid a visit to Scribbled Hearts in over a year.

Much has changed since I last visited. *. emm [shop] and Little Closet have both now gone, replaced by Alessandra Ambrosio’s Tarte and Plethora Plentiful’s Plethora. However, much of the “old” look and feel of the region is still retained, with landscaping by Elvira Kytori and  Alessandra Ambrosio. Water still very much forms a central feature and the overall appearance is very rural and open.

Scribbled Hearts; Inara Pey, August 2013, on FlickrScribbled Hearts (Flickr)

As one might expect given the time of year in the northern hemisphere, the region is in the grip of winter; snow is beginning to lay on the ground – and has drifted in places as it falls steadily from the sky, misting the horizon. Most of the region is open to explore, although a parcel on the north side is restricted access at ground level, so watch out for bouncing off of ban lines if you decide to flip around by air.

Alongside of the stores, the region has a couple of small homes and a strange little hutch-like cabin scattered across it, with a rutted track leading visitors around them and it little touches of interest – a camp fire and chairs here, a swing hung from the tree there, and so on. None of the houses are occupied, so there is no risk of invasion of privacy, and one of them offers a little backyard jetty where you can sit and strum a guitar. Rezzing has been turned off, so the place isn’t quite and amenable to photographs as it once was, but it still offers some good opportunities for seasonal photos and well as a wander through the stores.

Scribbled Hearts; Inara Pey, August 2013, on FlickrScribbled Hearts (Flickr)

All told, still a pleasing corner of SL to visit.

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Never Ending surprises

Never Ending
Never Ending

Never Ending, in its winter guise, is perhaps one of the most surprising regions I’ve visited in a while. The work of しゅにん (Syunin Arida), いお (iorri), and TefTef Violet, it not only carries a seasonal theme right now, it does so in a quite remarkable manner, one which may at first deceive the casual eye.

On arriving, you standing close to a little village deep in snow and surrounded by  snow-covered hills of almost cartoonish undulations. Bare trees are strung with lights, while bears are sprawled on and against logs and tree stumps in one corner of the village, looking well and truly worn-out by all the exertions of Christmas shopping – or perhaps by trying to catch the raccoon who is keeping an eye on them from the upstairs window of the tower behind them…

Never Ending
Never Ending

Theses are not the only furry inhabitants of the village. Just over the garden fence, Grandpa Raccoon  stands on his porch, puffing his pipe, while across the snow-blanketed village green a young raccoon reads outside the local bookshop, Mama bear sitting close at hand, baby bear in her lap. Meanwhile, and next door to the bookshop, Mrs. Raccoon is arriving home with the groceries…

If all this sounds a little twee, don’t be fooled. The little village, with its Christmas tree bearing fairy lights and candles and presents spread under its boughs, is both charming  and avoids a feeling of looking just a little too sweet. It offers a lot to see, with seats and cuddle spots inviting visitors to stay a while; but it’s not all there is to see or explore, so don’t be fooled into just taking a cursory look around and skipping elsewhere.

Never Ending
Never Ending

Just outside the village sits a Flea Circus, and wander a little further or cam around and you’ll note there are other places to explore: a frozen lake, a couple of hidden valleys and little nooks shielded from the rest of the region by the steep hills. There even a wooden lodge sitting atop a steep hill awaiting your visit. But unless you’re ready to do some serious climbing (or cheat and fly), how are all of them reached?

The answer lies in a series of teleports which have been scattered around the region awaiting discovery. Some take the form of double doors, other are anywhere doors and still others are photos mounted on display boards. Herein lies another surprise: not all the destinations on offer are at ground level; several are hidden up in the sky, and are themselves a delight to discover and explore. What’s more, quite where you’ll be taken next isn’t always clear when first exploring, which further add to the mystery and charm of the region.

NE-10_001
Never Ending

Never Ending is a true delight, with surprises at every turn;, and a visit I’d suggest you not pass on the opportunity to make. Do be prepared to click on things as well; there are several quite charming poses to be found (look for the umbrellas in particular), and a couple of gift boxes on offer from the designers.

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Wandering With Love In Her Heart

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

My previous travelogue featured TreMeldazis’ Salt Water, which at the time I mentioned was one of three regions in his care, the others being  Isle of Grace, which is restricted access and appears to be Tre’s home, and Sounds of Silence, a homestead region designed by Sunshine Zhangsun, which is open to the public.

Given the regions do go together somewhat, you can see one for the shores of the others and cross between Salt Water and Sounds of Silence, I thought it only fair that I also write about the latter as well.

Sunshine has called the region With Love In Her Heart, and it lies to the east of Salt Water, separated from it by a narrow channel of sea water. Rated Moderate, the region shares much in common, terrain-wise with Salt Water: beaches form much of the coastline, with low-ling grasslands just inland in places, while rocky hills make up the rest of the landscape.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

However, move inland, and things have an altogether more pastoral theme. Goats wander the hillsides, sheep and cattle graze on the higher grasslands and horse roam the lower grassy reaches closer to the sea. There is a farm here, which – possibly due to the influence of the documentaries I’ve been watching of late – put me in mind of the Australian outback.  The two houses are open to visitors and furnished, one having the appearance of a family home, the other a working studio.

Up the hill from these, lying in a shallow grass bowl with bare-topped hills surrounding it, sits a barn with cattle and sheep roaming nearby. The feeling of homestead is enhanced here by the small burial plot sitting in the shadow of a tall tree.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

From the barn, one can wander on over the hills to the east to to the beach, or turn more southwards and follow one of two paths which cut through the hills. The first of these leads back to the arrival point; so if you teleported into the region, it might be the route you followed to reach the barn and livestock. The second path leads down to a circular cove nestled between the hills and rocky cliffs, where two secluded stretches of sand can be found facing one another across the calm waters, linked by a path over the rocks to one side of the cove.

Here you’ll find places to sit, both on the sands and on the water, offering spots for quiet contemplation or a little time with a close friend / loved one. Explore the island, and you’ll find other such places and little social spots – towels spread on the beach here, a little boat sitting just off the coast there, a small camp and fire pit towards one headland, a makeshift tent of blankets and cushions looking out to the north, and so on.

Salt Water; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrWith Love in Her Heart, Sounds of Silence (Flickr)

All told, With Love In Her Heart offers something of a tranquil setting; the landscape sits easy on the eye, there are places to wander and to sit, and like Salt Water, plenty of opportunities for photography (rezzing is open, but do remember to pick things up after!). As I mentioned with Salt Water, taken together, both regions are worth a joint visit.

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