Tag Archives: Exploring Second Life (2017)

A return to Storybrooke Gardens in Second Life

Storybrooke Gardens – click any image for full size

Lauren Bentham’s Storybrooke Gardens has long been a favourite of mine, particularly when it is dressed for winter (see here and here for more). With spring now upon us, Lauren has remade and expanded Storybrooke, so Caitlyn and I recently hopped over to have a look.

The new design means that there is now even more to see and enjoy, including part of the space retaining the snowy looks of the Gardens in winter – of which more anon. Winding past the landing point with its bright little tent, the familiar springtime trail still wind through the trees, lanterns hang from posts and branches, inviting visitors to follow. It meanders past little vignettes of charm and past cottages and houses available to rent, gathered here and there in little hamlet-like groups, sheep and deer grazing around them, foxes roaming nearby.

Storybrooke Gardens

This is a place of story-time fancy, so don’t be surprised when you bump into some familiar characters as you explore – both indoors and out (although again, do please be aware some of the houses may be privately rented when considering venturing inside anywhere). Humpty Dumpty, for example sits (a little headless) alongside the trail at one point, while gingerbread men peep and wave around the base of a tree at another and little fae folk hover and play. Those who are regulars to Fantasy Faire may also recognise little touches from popular FF creators adding to the magic of this realm.

Opportunities for photographs lie around every corner and along every path; for those looking for romance and a place to share a cuddle or two will find much to please them here, both under the trees and up in tall towers of varying descriptions. Camp sites, benches, blankets, even a bicycle suspended beneath dozens of colourful balloons, offer places to rest and enjoy. And, as noted above, those seeking a last touch of winter also won’t be disappointed.

Storybrooke Gardens – A Winter’s Tale

A short distance from the landing point is the entrance to A Winter’s Tale. This is a place where the snow lies heavy on the ground, frost wraps itself around bark and bough, and quaint little cottages, roofs laden under heavy white blankets, huddle close to the imposing bulk of a great castle. Above the two imposing guardians of the path leading up to the castle’s great doors, circles a magical boat held aloft by two translucent balloons, its deck offering a vantage point from which to observe the lands below.

Not far from the castle the single spire of a wizard’s tower points to the sky rises from the snowy landscape, a winding path curled around its rocky base leading to its front door. Children skate on the frozen pond at the foot of the tower, while reindeer keep an eye on all who climb the path to find out why lies inside.

Storybrooke Gardens

Towers are very much a part of this landscape – both winter and spring – as are windmills. They variously rise above tree-tops or swing their sails lazily in the breeze, adding yet more story-time feel to the land. Beneath all of them, the local folk sit and read or play, wave greetings to passing visitors, and go about their own little tasks, adding a further depth to all the scenes to be found through the Gardens.

Lauren has always had a gift for expression with her region builds, but sitting in the sky (not always the easiest place to create something with a truly natural look and feel), Storybrooke Gardens is perhaps one of her most magical environments. One we were delighted to once again visit and explore.

Storybrooke Gardens

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The Heart of the Sea in Second Life

The Heart of the Sea – click any image for full size

The Heart of the Sea is a marvellous homestead region design by Elyjia (Elyjia Baxton) and Brayan Friller (Brayan26 Friller) that Caitlyn and I were (once again!) pointed towards by Shakespeare (SkinnyNilla) as a result of one of our regular exchanges of landmarks with one another. For those wishing to spend it in idyllic, natural surroundings rich is a sense of peace and tranquillity, I thoroughly recommend a visit.

As you might expect from the name, water features strongly in the design, the region comprising the gentle sweep of a rocky island sitting within shallow waters, accompanied four rocky islets, together with a smaller island which forms the landing point. On this sandy hump,  lying across the wild grass holding the sand in place, lies the broken finger of a candy-striped lighthouse; once it may have warned passing vessels about the rocks laying on the eastward side of the isle, but no more.

The Heart of the Sea, Catalinas; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrThe Heart of the Sea

The two islands are connected – by way of one of the smaller rocky outcrops – by an old board walk – almost. But while at one time it may well have linked the three sandy beaches it passes between, now it lays broken and sagging into the shallow waters in two places. However, in the lee of the middle islet sits a rowing boat draped with a cuddle blanket, while the sand of its beach has a message written upon it; the first indications that romance is welcome here.

Rising from a ribbon of sand that almost entirely encompasses it, the main island comprises three low, flat-topped tables of rock. Two of these are home to a small farm. On one, horses and sleep graze on a rich thatch of grass, a nearby barn offering some shelter should the elements turn. On the other sits what might be the farmhouse, reached by crossing a natural stone bridge spanning a narrow channel of sand below.

The Heart of the Sea, Catalinas; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrThe Heart of the Sea

More horses graze near the house, while the broken frame of a greenhouse looks out over the sea. A well stands close by, and flowers, though wild, appear to subject to care even as grapes ripen on the vines strung to one side of the old greenhouse. Even so the house sits deserted, bereft of all furnishings save for a single porch swing.

The last of the island’s three low-slung plateaus is home to another lighthouse, possibly a replacement for the one broken near the landing point. Tall and white, as if newly painted, it rises from a broad, square concrete plinth, also home to a little keeper’s cottage. This lighthouse stand, sentinel-like over the westward curve of the island, overlooking three little beach houses offer for rent, each sitting within its own parcel.

The Heart of the Sea, Catalinas; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrThe Heart of the Sea

A short walk across another board walk from these and snuggled by the rocks of another of the islets, sits a Romany caravan, a little camp fire and rug set out on the sand offering a place for sitting and / or cuddling. It is one of several such places awaiting discovery around the island, both on the beaches, on wooden decks and rocking rowing boats. Keep an eye out, as well,  for the dance machine tucked under the shade of a tree.

Set against an early morning’s light – the Sun just tipping over the eastward horizon, an old boat shack offering the ideal point from which to observe it – Heart of the Sea feels like a place caught in a moment of time. Tranquil, softly lit, enriched by a gentle soundscape, it is perfect for gentle meandering, and unhurried exploration. Should you enjoy your visit as much as we did, please consider making a donation towards its upkeep via the jar at the   landing point.

The Heart of the Sea, Catalinas; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrThe Heart of the Sea

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An intangible field of dreams in Second Life

Field of Dreams; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrField of Dreams / L’intangible – click any image for full size

“I love creating landscapes and dreaming inside,” Iska (sablina) says of herself. Anyone who has visited one of her creations will know that her love of landscaping and her dreaming give rise to some incredible environments in Second Life.

Take Field of Dreams, her homestead region for example, which Caitlyn and I recently visited. It is nothing short of stepping into a dream of yesteryear and visiting a place rooted in years gone by. Not centuries ago, but a time just a few decades ago, the world seemed much smaller, simpler, friendlier; when power and telephony wires were carried overhead by stout wooden poles marching along the sides of roads and tracks, when farming and cultivating the land was a way of life, not an industry.

Field of Dreams; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrField of Dreams / L’intangible

Presenting an eclectic mix of housing styles, Field of Dreams – together with its southern neighbour, L’intangible (held by Sighvatr Crowbone (Worthaboutapig), but also designed by Iska) – presents a marvellously rural environment filled with rustic charm, which could exist almost anywhere in the world. For me, and no doubt aided by the sim surround bordering the two regions,  I was put in minds of Scotland, the Mediterranean aspects of the villas sitting in L’intangible notwithstanding.

Both regions should be explored, rather than described, so rather than offer a travelogue style piece, I’ll endeavour to give you a flavour of things. From the landing point on the northern extreme of Field of Dreams, visitors have a choice of dirt tracks to follow, offering routes around and though the land, passing the slopes of hills held back by high stone walls, passing between land and sea, and pointing the way to houses and shops.

L'intangible, Reve; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrField of Dreams / L’intangible

What appears to be a private abode also sits on a headland to the north of the region, otherwise everything appears open to visitors. At one point, steps lead up the side of a hill and past terraced grape vines to an old farm-house, in another, herons patrol the water between the shore and a little summer-house topped island. Further south, a stone-built house sits between a boulangerie and an empty store, windows covered by paper. All three face the river dividing Field of Dreams from L’intangible over a rough cobbled terrace.

Two bridges and a set of stepping-stones span the river. However, we would advise the use of the stepping-stones or taking a short flight over the water to reach L’intangible; both of the bridges appear to be phantom and result in getting dunked if used. Once in L’intangible, the windlight changes to something perhaps a little more Mediterranean in feel, framing the Tuscan styled villas sitting alongside the river, but there is no mistaking the region is paired with Field of Dreams.

L'intangible, Reve; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrField of Dreams / L’intangible

From the front of the villas, a dirt track winds through the farmlands to a decidedly odd little pub sharing one of the three fingers of land forming the western and southern edges of the region with a lighthouse. Sheep and goats gaze outside of the pub, while out on the water a fishing boat chugs its way towards a stone quay sitting below the lighthouse.

The middle of these three fingers, reach by another dirt track leading away from the villas and between tended fields, is home to an astonishing trailer house which could well be every child’s dreams of the ideal home. Before the track reaches a path leading up to the trailer house, it is intercepted by a set of stone steps cutting through a  stone retaining wall. These present a route up to the last of the three fingers of land: a massive rocky plateau, stepping its way into the sky.

L'intangible, Reve; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrField of Dreams / L’intangible

A Path winds its way around the tallest part of this great upthrust, which rises sharply our of the water on one side, but forms broad grassy steps descending to a beach on the other. Never reaching the summit, the path offers those following it an exercising walk, but the views it offers across both regions more than the effort worthwhile.

Finished with a subtle, natural soundscape, this is a remarkable pairing of two regions to create one of the more unique vistas to be found in Second Life. Field of Dreams and L’inangible have been beautifully intertwined in the landscape they present, giving a very real sense that you are really on an island amidst islands. A must-see destination.

Field of Dreams; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrField of Dreams / L’intangible – click any image for full size

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A Spring Spirit in Second Life

Spring Spirit, Dalaran; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrSpring Spirit – click any image for full size

Spring Spirit is a homestead region designed by xxStanxx (xxStanilasxx) and soffy Ronwood. Offered to bloggers, photographers and lovers of nature as a place to visit and enjoy, it is another true delight.

Visitors arrive on a small grassy area bordered on one side by the imposing bulk of a gallery accessed via a small courtyard, and hemmed on two sides by steep-sided hills. Cats and dogs roam this  open space before the gallery’s walls, the cats in particular fascinated by two tanks of koi carp. A series of large square flagstones form a broad path leading away from the entrance to the gallery, inviting visitors to follow.

Spring Spirit, Dalaran; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrSpring Spirit

Passing between an aged Japanese maple and a smaller but equally bent cheery blossom tree – both of which give the first hint of the region’s far eastern influence – the path take you down to the water’s edge and under a natural arch of rock, to reveal Spring Spirit’s secret in all it beauty, a bench seat beside the path allowing you to sit down and take it all in.

A ring of hills surrounds a flooded basin, a narrow neck on the west side providing access to the sea, guarded by the bulk of an ancient Chinese junk. Within the basin, which is fed by waterfalls tumbling down the rocky lower slopes of the surrounding hills, sit three Ikoi (“rest”) houses, each occupying a wooden pontoon. Between them, and linking them to the north and south shores of the basin is a pattern of wooden walkways. These in turn surround the square of a zen garden, complete with a pond, bridge, and a bench for contemplation, all guarded by a magnificent stone dragon.

Spring Spirit, Dalaran; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrSpring Spirit

Each of the Ikoi houses offers a place of rest and refreshment – be it food, comfortable cushions or a massage. A fourth house sits at the water’s edge, the round tub of a ofuro inside, lily petals floating in its water. This little bathhouse is reached by turning off the path from the gallery at the point where it meets the wooden board walk leading out to the other three houses and slipping under the drooping arms of a weeping willow.

As well as giving access to the bathhouse, this route also offers a way up to the broad grassy ridge running around the hollow of the basin. Here a path winds its way past pond, over bridges spanning water channels fed and ending in waterfalls, and under the shade of trees. Arcing around the curve of this great bowl, the path along this ridge provides access to lookout points, places to sit or dance, and a way back down to the water’s edge on the north side of the region. Here, more steps pass under a Torri gate and point the way back up onto the surrounding hills, where there is more to be discovered, while a wooden board walk allows you to return to the Ikoi houses if you prefer.

Spring Spirit, Dalaran; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrSpring Spirit

Spring Spirit is a beautiful design, perfectly drawing on Japanese and Chinese influences to create a balanced whole. It also mirrors something of an oriental aesthetic in its overall layout. From the circular form of the basin, through the to placement of the Ikoi houses and the pattern of wooden walkways connecting them, to the central positioning of the zen garden, there is an elegant harmony about the entire design.

There is a lot to see and enjoy, from time spent in the Ikoi houses, through dancing or spotting all of the wildlife scattered across both land and water – we particularly enjoyed spotting the herons scattered around strategic points like sentinels keeping a watchful eye on things – to simply sitting and relaxing. For those who enjoy photography, spring Spirit is very photogenic and has a dedicated Flickr pool, complete with the opportunity to have images posted there displayed in the region’s gallery.

Spring Spirit, Dalaran; Inara Pey, March 2017, on FlickrSpring Spirit

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