The closing of a Storybook in Second Life

Storybook Forest, March 2020

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

– Albert Einstein

I opened my 2018 travelogue for Nessa Zamora’s (Noralie78) Storybook Forest back in September 2018 following our visits to the Lost Unicorn regions (read more in Opening a Storybook in Second Life). Part of this quote is also used as an introduction to the region, so given news has come that the the Forest is shortly to close to make way for a new design, it seemed a fitting piece with which to open this piece.

Storybook Forest, March 2020

Designed by Noralie78, Storybook Forest is an utterly bewitching place that, if you’ve not visited before, you really, really, should before the end of day on March 3rd, 2020 (I’d have given more warning, but only got word myself following the Lost Unicorn post giving notice of the closure being published on March 1st). The design stands as a marvellous homage to fairy stories and a delight to all who still love the fables and tales they may have heard in childhood days or have enjoyed reading to their own children – or who simply like reading; while for photographers and explorers, it offers something to smile at around every corner.

This is a place where ornate, rounded castle towers rise from the surrounding trees while paths wind between tree trunks and under a canopy of wide-spread boughs; where exotic plants grow and sunlight dapples the glades and falls across the waters of a small lake. From the outset, it’s clear the is is a place where the imagination can be set free and the magic of books and tales has been given leave to run as they will – and we can run with them.

Storybook Forest

So it is through this winding path, passing from castle to castle, from glade to tower, that visitors may find Peter Pan pointing the way forward, Mary Darling standing below, even as Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Tiger Lily row past on the nearby waters, a certain crocodile inevitably in tow. Deeper still are opportunities to gather with a group of dwarves, as Snow White lies under glass, the victim of the Wicked Queen’s apple, or to sit with Alice, a white rabbit and chap with an affinity for hats to partake of afternoon tea, while a lost boy wades the shallow waters of the little lake, gazing in wonder at the pile of books that rise from is midst.

Nor is this all; every turn in the path awaits the opportunity to offer a new childhood memory: Bambi and his mother, Cinderella, Snow White… the list goes on, and I’m not going to spoil things by mentioning all who are given a role within this forest.  And as well as these glimpses of childhood tales, Storybook Forest offers many places where visitors can sit and allow memories wash over them or have their imagination take flight – or rest their avatars while their camera roams through the woods, seeking out details that might otherwise be missed.

Storybook Forest, March 2020

And details there are indeed, from dedications to read through quotes from stories to places where a little interaction can be enjoyed, such as at the harpsichord sitting atop Cinderella’s tower. Even some of the characters have some unique aspects too them – take a look at the seven dwarves gathered around Snow White’s glass casket, for example! All of this is offered with a special dedication from Noralie, offered to all that wander Storybook Forest’s enchanted paths:

To the boy or girl who reads by flashlight
Who sees dragons in the clouds
Who feels most alive in worlds that never were
Who knows magic is real
Who dreams.

This is for you.

Storybook Forest, March 2020

As noted, Storybook Forest will be around until the end of of March 3rd, so make sure you capture any memories you wish to have of it before then. I confess, I will miss it once it is gone; it is a magical place. However, while it may soon pass into memory, so too are we given the promise of something new to follow – and so I look forward to returning and seen what new fruit has come forth to replace it.

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A December’s Lost Dreams in Second Life

Lost Dreams; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Lost Dreams – click any image for full size

One of the first places we visited at the start of 2018 was Lost Dreams – then still called Les Reves Perdus (“Dreams Lost”), a homestead region held by Cathy Morfeas (zaziaa). Given that almost a year has passed since that visit – itself the third we’ve made to this region of changing delights, I felt the end of year would be a good time to drop in once more.

Cathy’s designs have always been eye-catching and evocative of different seasons and periods. In January, for example, it presented a strong oriental theme; prior to that, during a visit we made in November  2017, it carried a Viking look and feel, while at the time of our first visit, it presented a gentle, pastoral setting.

Lost Dreams; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Lost Dreams

There is something of this last setting that is reproduced in the current design, produced by Cathy with the assistance of Karmen (karmen Fullstop) and Xander (MatrixDav Mehrtens). It also contains wonderful touches of fantasy, together with a seasonal element that reminds us that the northern hemisphere is in the middle of the winter months. Spilt into three islands, the region presents plenty of opportunities for exploring, photography and for sitting and relaxing.

Visits start on one of the two smaller islands, which brings with it the first touch of fantasy: a church-like façade behind which sits a cave offering a hints of wizardry and magic (and which sits as a gacha resale point). A bridge links this island cave with the rugged main island, the west side of which is caught in winter; snow is falling steadily, dusting the beach to turn it white. A lone carousel turns slowly at the end of a makeshift pier, standing on wooden piles as well as being kept afloat by oil drums. Close by, an ice rink offers a further winter’s feel to the setting.

Lost Dreams; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Lost Dreams

The rink is backed by a curtain of water tumbling from the vertical spine of rock the twists north-to-south. the southern end of this spine forms the link to the bridge – a path curling down to the snowy sand, or upwards to the ridge of the spine itself, before dropping to the more summery east side of the region.

It is this side of the island where more of the fantasy elements can be found. A reproduction of Stonehenge sits to the north, while deer with tree-like antlers roam the grassland, together with more ordinary horses. Otters play along the narrow ribbon of a stream that rises from the foot of another waterfall. Another hint of fantasy lies with a broken elven arch linking the east and west sides of the region, a gap in the rock separating the two.

Lost Dreams; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Lost Dreams

A single building occupies the island. Reached via rough wooden steps rising from the beach, it sits as a cabin-like getaway, raised above the rest of the island and offering views out to sea, allowing a passing trawler to be observed. It’s a cosy place, set for Christmas and offering a place to sit and pass the time, either indoors or out in the wild garden beyond the front door.

It’s not the only place were visitors can sit – there’s a little shelter at the foot of the cliffs, built from the wreck of a car, a horseless sleigh nearby. There’s also the carousel and on the summer’s side of the land, a little camp site with fireplace and.  Meanwhile, the final island  – little more than low-lying grass and trees offers a further place to sit – and cuddle – thanks to the rowing boat moored alongside of it. However, it is unlikely to hold people’s attention.

Lost Dreams; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Lost Dreams

That is liable to be captured and held by the humpback whale circling slowly – but above the waters between the islands, a small, wild garden upon its back. What brings it here is anyone’s guess, but perhaps it is the magical stone circle sitting on the little island.

With sunlight dropping across the summer grasslands in the east, snow gently falling from the sky to the west, and bears and birds completing the island’s wildlife, Lost Dreams remains a bewitching place to visit and appreciate.

Lost Dreams; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Lost Dreams

Should you enjoy the time you spend within the region, the bear seeking honey on the bridge would appreciate a tip to help with the region’s upkeep. There’s also a Flickr group for photographs, should visitors wish to share them.

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A snowy Ponto Cabana in Second Life

Ponto Cabana; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Ponto Cabana – click any image for full size

Update: Ponto Cabana has closed. SLurls have therefore been removed from this article.

The last time we visited Ponto Cabana, the Homestead region sitting on Lemon Beach, it presented a place with both a colonial feel to it and one of great age (read here for more). Now, in the midst of winter, it has taken on a new design, one caught under snow and within the bonds of ice; a setting as evocative as the face it showed in July, and one that – for those of us who may feel like we’ve piled on a few pounds thanks to turkey and more – offers offer a taste of the great outdoors that might help put us in the frame of mind to take a few holiday strolls over the next few days!

While presenting a new design by region holder Iska (sablina), Ponto Cabana also carries echoes of its summer build that, for those of us who visited back around July, give it a sense of familiarity while offering much to see that is new and awaiting discovery.

Ponto Cabana; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Ponto Cabana

For example, the region largely remains split into two, linked by the span of a bridge. Further, the smaller of the two islands rises in terraces, a road curling up one side while stone steps offer a quicker route up to the table-top of the hill, much as it did back when it was home to a warmer setting.

However, where that hilltop was once home to a Spanish-style villa standing within and broad garden space with some of the terraces below it under cultivation, now the hill lies under snow and presented a more rugged face. It is also home to two red-painted houses that, with their red sides and white frames, might be taken for a farm. However, the courtyard before and between them perhaps offers a warmer greeting than can be found within either.

Ponto Cabana; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Ponto Cabana

The larger island offers another little  town setting, this one perhaps more homely than July’s version, be retaining an element of ruin in the broken walls of what might have once been a house, or perhaps a chapel. Along the broad street, partially lain with wide train or tram tracks, snow falls heavily, coating footpaths, tracks, houses and gardens alike in a soft blanket that invites visitors to be the first to leave their footprints in its covering.

A small station sits forlornly alongside the tracks awaiting passengers, while at one end of the street, a car carrying a Christmas tree adds flickering warmth to setting as its little lights wink and blink. The houses and buildings here are sparsely furnished, yet there is still a welcoming air surrounding them and along the single street.

Ponto Cabana; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr Ponto Cabana

Surrounded by a lake of ice, Ponto Cabana is a perfect Christmas wilderness setting for those looking to get away from the excesses of Christmas and who wish to spend time relaxing and appreciating simple winter solitude.   And if you really want to get away from it all, try a walk over the ice to the cabin on the smallest island, where a cosy time can be found.

Nostalgia at :nostos:deer: in Second Life

:nostos:deer:; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
:nostos:deer: – click any image for full size

Second Life is always changing. Not just technically in terms of capabilities and options, or even visually in terms of the overall look and feel; but physically as well. Regions come, regions go – often with much lamenting in the case of the latter. Regions change hands from public to private; settings change with time both in reflection of the seasons and as of the evolving nature of design and model building.

Such is the way of things, it is sometimes easy to forget that there can also be found in Second Life a sense of constancy; travel through the mainland continents, for example will reveal places that many not have changed for a very long time, offering glimpse’s of the grid’s past and a reminder that it does have a history.

:nostos:deer:; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
:nostos:deer:

While they can be harder to find, such places do exist among the myriad of private regions scattered across the grid. Take :nostos:deer:, for example, the full region held by Dora Nacht and Hide Mint, and home to their Little Hopper brand. I first visited it almost six years ago, in February 2013, when it was already over a year old. I’m not sure I’ve actually ever been back, but sorting through photos on my hard drive recently brought me to a folder of images taken during that visit; seeing it was still on the map, curiosity got the better of me, so I hopped over to take a look, and it was like stepping back in time.

In 2013, I was struck by the simple design of the region and the sense of fun and whimsy within it, and it is true to start that, but for the snow present in 2018, almost nothing about the region has changed. The mine shaft entrance / teleport up to the skyborne store is still there, nestled by the deep gorge of the river that cuts through the region; the little purpose-built (by Hide) tram clatters along its single track, rolling from little station and out towards the coast before committing a 180-degree turn and trundling back as if it had a sudden change of heart; the east side beach is still watched over by the single finger of a lighthouse.

:nostos:deer:; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
:nostos:deer:

And there is the other little tram, still caught it time as it skitters on spinning wheels at the end of a track from which the bridge has vanished out from underneath it, rail sleepers tumbling like a twisted staircase into the sea below. Throughout the region, there is still an air that this is a place for doing things in a not-really-actually-doing-things kind of way.

For example, the canoe awaits paddlers down in the river gorge, while the swan pedalo boats similarly await attention in the north-west. Elsewhere, wooden logs lie like abandoned sleepers to form paths both up hill and down dale for those wishing to follow them. But there is not sense of having to do all or any of this, with the region offering many places where people can simply sit and rest and let time pass them by.

:nostos:deer:; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
:nostos:deer:

Compared to the sophistication of modern region designs, some might view nostos:deer as “lacking”. It relies entirely on simple terraforming; there is no use of mesh landforms or other elements, the tress are predominantly prim-based, and so on. But that doesn’t make the region any less attractive per se.

Rather, the fact that it has stood so unchanged for so long allows it to stand as a glimpse into a bygone era of Second Life’s history. Equally, for those of us who remember it from visits taken four or five or six years ago, its unchanged nature causes a warming rush of familiarity, almost a sense of homecoming in keeping with the first part of the region’s name, mixed with a deep sense of nostalgia and re-discovery.

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The peaceful wilderness of [Valium] in Second Life

[Valium]; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
[valium] – click any image for full size
Updated, January 2020: [Valium] has closed. SLurls have therefore been removed from this article.

[valium] is the name of the latest region design by Busta (BadboyHi) and held by Valium Lavender and to which I was pointed to by fellow SL traveller, Shakespeare. Busta’s designs are always been worthy of a visit (you can find out about Yasminia here and Meraki here), so I was keen to hop over and explore as the region officially opened its doors to the public on December 21st, 2018. And once again, both Busta and Valium are providing a region that is quite extraordinary in its eye-catching design.

A full region utilising the full region land capacity bonus, [Valium] is open to the public, although group membership is required. This is currently free, and will remain so through until January 7th, 2019, after which a L$250 fee will be applied. The latter is to both help with maintaining a certain sense of privacy for those renting properties on the region, and for a reason that will become clear later in this article. There are many places to be explored during a visit, but do be aware that there are the aforementioned private residences scattered around the region, so please do take care to avoid trespass when exploring.

[Valium]; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
[valium]

The Vision

To create a picturesque, rugged countryside setting with naturally beautiful nooks, twists, turns and hidden gems for public and private use. There are many public areas to explore and it will probably take several visits to see everything the sim has to offer.

– Valium Lavender, describing [Valium]

[Valium]; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
[valium]
This is a marvellously diverse setting, ranging from high peaks to coastal areas, mixing little docks, headlands, remote dwellings, ruins, and islands (albeit one or two of them being off-sim).

The landing point sits towards the centre of the region, meaning that no matter where you go, there is something to explore. A terraced area, it overlooks the low-lying western side of the region where the ruins of a church sits on the largest of the region’s islands, beckoning visits to it as it rises among the trees guarding it.

[Valium]; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
[valium]
While this island is connected to the rest of the land by three bridges, getting down to them from the landing point is a little circuitous, ensuring visitors have the opportunity to start explorations, as the route carries them over semi-paved areas, past the ruins of an old farmhouse (with one of the private residences just behind it), and on to the waterfront or for those who prefer, past an old folly and then down to the water’s edge, and second of the three bridges.

It is the multitude of footpaths that make exploring [Valium] a joy. Whether you go up or down, inland or directly (or as directly as you can!) to the coast, there is much to discover, appreciate and photograph. There’s the ruin of an old tower facing the church, for example, or the rickety cabin build out over the water to the north, caught in a local shower, or a further terrace sitting just above, and nestled below and clear of another of the private residences.

[Valium]; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
[valium]
To the south-east sits a little commercial area, with a coffee-house sitting within a converted industrial building and offering outdoor seating with views of the local lighthouse. A further coffee-house, this one also providing music and dancing, sits on a wooden platform part-way up the island’s main peak, again offering marvellous views to the south and west.

There is so much about this region that is attention-taking that walking you through it with words is really a waste; [valium] truly is a place that deserves to be visited, and which can only be truly appreciated by doing so. There’s also another reason for visiting (and paying the group dues: Valium has decided a portion of the group membership fees, etc., will be forwarded to The Nature Conservancy, as she notes in the region’s website.

[Valium]; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
[valium]

[valium], a project from initial concept to the elaborate build, was created from visions of our naturally beautiful RL world. A place to explore and appreciate. With this in mind, I have decided to support a fantastic charity, The Nature Conservancy.

3400 lindens or more (out of group fees) per month [are donated] to The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to land conservation and protection. Every acre they protect, every river mile restored, every species brought back from the brink, begins with us. Our support will help make a lasting difference around the world in 72 countries.

– Valium Lavender, describing [Valium]

 

[Valium]; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
[valium]
I believe that until the group fee is introduced, there will be a donations kiosk available at the landing point, while if visitors would like to donate directly to the Nature Conservancy, there is a link on the information board and also in the [Valium] website. Should you take photos of the region during your visit, do consider sharing them with the region’s Flickr group.

Kudos to Busta and Valium on creating such an wonderful setting.

Zimminyville: a remarkable destination in Second Life

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville – click any image for full size

Zimminyville, created and maintained by Curfax Zimminy and Flo Zimminy (SweetFloXO), occupies a full region leveraging the full region land capacity bonus. It is one of the most remarkable regions we’ve yet visited, and is very much a place of two very different halves.

At the ground level is a town which, according to the About Land description, changes with the seasons, lies a small town. Right now it is caught in the midst of winter, snowbound and surrounded by high mountains. The landing point sits towards the centre of town, alongside a large mock-Tudor house that faces a large map showing the town’s layout, although specific points of interest aren’t labelled.

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville

This lack of labelling (beyond the “you are here” pin) actually isn’t a disadvantage; snowy road wind their way through and around the landscape, and following them will lead you on a worthwhile tours of exploration. For the most part, the town has a feeling of being a small, but once industrious place; on the south side can be found large warehouse-like buildings that tower over the rest of the landscape.

However, and while fishing boat, crowded by ice floes, sits alongside a small wharf, it is clear that commerce has moved on for the most part. The brick-built warehouses have been converted for use as residences or bars, while the little harbour has the wreck of a trawler lying within it, preventing the use of a good portion of the wharf.

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville

The water and piers continue along the west side of the town, marked by yet another sunken trawler. Again, while the might once have been a place of fishing commerce, the wharf here is now far more of a tourist attraction, a long, pleaant (if bracing, given the weather!), walk along the waterfront, complete with a launch point for balloon rides over the town. A second balloon can be found to the east, but lies separated from the town by a high spine of rock, home to fir trees and an old forest ranger’s station. A tunnel at the foot of this ridge offers a means from trains to reach the local terminus, complete with the bulk of vintage engine de-railed alongside and attesting the the age of the town.

A screen of trees also separates the terminus from the rest of the town, together with a little stretch of wilderness cut by a stream sealed under a layer of ice and – rather surprisingly – the bulk of an old space freighter, also seemingly converted into a home.

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville

With its houses, winding roads, buildings old and new, Zimminyville has the look and feel of a remote town somewhere in high latitudes, possibly in North America. There is a wonderfully eclectic look and feel to the setting, from the drive-in theatre and its mixture of vehicles, to the juxtaposition of the converted space freighter with the nearby old windmill.  However, the most interesting oddity in the setting is the presence of a large glass-and-steel pyramid that points a laser-like beam up into the sky.

Futuristic in both look and content, this is the gateway to the second half of the region: a large, well-established space port sitting on the surface of the Moon.  Four launchpads are presented inside the pyramid, three of them home to individual pods that can carry one passenger at a time up to the Moon. Which you take is entirely up to you, as all three will arrive at different points within the same station, before “return” after you’ve disembarked.

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville

It is to this space port that commerce has clearly moved. In difference to the sleepy setting of the town, the base is a bustling hive of activity. Passengers can be found in the departure lounges doing the things people do before a flight: sitting and waiting, passing the time in conversation, getting food and snacks or anxiously checking-in. Others are to be found hurrying along the enclosed corridors hurrying to / from departure or arrival gates, or waiting for departure aboard their transports, all of them watched over by security guards or flight crew.

A small, two-seat military vessel is also docked in the lower portion of the station, although military uses for the station do not appear to be otherwise much in evidence. Fed Ex, however, do have a large presence, with freighters sit loaded and awaiting departure, ready to carry all measure of goods – and in one case, passengers – elsewhere.

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville

Quite where everyone is going is hard to say, but it would appear the station is very much a gateway to the rest of the solar system. Beyond the passenger hub of the station sits the huge bulk of the Europa Sun, a massive spacer crammed with facilities, including two large hangers. Whether she is still operational or not, is hard to say. She sits on sturdy landing legs, massive engines rotated for lift-off, her flight deck still in place. But the conglomeration of habitation units on her back and research / industrial units under her belly suggests she is perhaps now a permanent part of the base, the hemisphere of her bio dome offering those staying on the base who need it, a reminder of the trees and greenery of  Earth.

Facing Europa Sun from across the base is the impressive bulk of a huge structure. It looks a little incongruous in some ways, particularly given appears to the grass and topiary hedgerows found in was should be the airless near-vacuum of space, and alongside a landing pad marked for helicopters (or perhaps the “H” is for “hopper”, as in “Moon hopper”?). What looks to be some kind of control centre sits under this landing pad, but the bulk of the building forms a huge cathedral setting – albeit one with a further pod landing pad vying with the altar for attention. A closer look at the latter will reveal the building’s function: the opportunity to have a real get-away-from-it-all wedding…

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville

A sense of life has been added throughout the station by the inclusion of static characters (I won’t call them NPCs, are they are entirely non-interactive). They are typical of the people you might find in any Earthly airport. All of them bring a certain depth to the setting, as do their compatriots down within the town, even if they are fewer in number.

Zimminyville is, when all is set and done, a quite remarkable location. The town and the lunar base are strikingly different to one another, and each has its own mystery to explore. Time is very much needed to appreciate everything on offer (and to find things like the table games available in both). The attention to detail and the level of care taken in such a complex build is impressive, and there are plenty of opportunities for photography throughout.

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyville

Given all that is on offer you might find more than one visit is required to capture all there is to be found, but whether you go once ot twice or any number of times, Zimminyville is not a destination to be missed. Once again, our thanks to Shakespeare for the pointer!

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