A visit to the Grumpy Troll in Second Life

The Grumpy Troll; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
The Grumpy Troll – click any image for full size

We’re fans of the Calas Galadhon Park in Second Life. Run by Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith with their team of dedicated associates, the park offers a magnificent ten regions of open space, maintained through a combination of donations from visitors and out-of-pocket money.

Within the regions, each of which takes its name from Tolkien’s mythology, there is much to see and do. There are regular events both at the ground level Dolphin Bar, and in the air overhead at the estate’s club, Oz. Within the park are trails to be followed either on foot or via horseback, boats to be taken out on the water, places to dance (and in the winter, skate), picnics to be enjoyed, together with fabulous views, and plenty of time to get away from it all, balloons to ride – and more.

The Grumpy Troll; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
The Grumpy Troll

It’s also a park that is constantly evolving, and a recent new addition comes in the form of the delightfully named Grumpy Troll, located, appropriately enough, in Dimrill Dale.

Now, to be honest, when we received word about the Grumpy Troll, we both though it might be a local pub – the name ranks right up there alongside Tolkien’s Prancing Pony. However, the name in fact belongs to a little waterside café, just off the Calas coastal trail for hikers / horse riders. But the fact that it isn’t a pub doesn’t make it any the less visit worthy when travelling through the park.

The Grumpy Troll; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
The Grumpy Troll

With a delightfully “home-made” rustic look, and sitting on a wooden deck, the Grumpy Troll looks westwards over the waters and open spaces of the Gulf of Lune, Belagaer and the Grey Havens, perfect for spending time with a friend or friends, enjoying the view and appreciating the sunsets as the day draws to a close, or watching the land come to life as the sun rising behind you gradually bring light and warmth to the hills and waters.

Refreshments can be enjoyed both indoors and out on the deck, with the titular Troll looking suitably grumpy – if smaller than expected! – standing by the door. His mood is possibly due to his size and the fact a kitten and mouse appear to be using his sack to play with one another. On the grassy banks just outside the café can be found a blanket spread under the shade of an aged tree, and a dance system for those in the mood for a little romance / exercise.

The Grumpy Troll; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
The Grumpy Troll

For those following the Calas trails, the Grumpy Troll makes for a tempting and almost ideal stop. I say “almost”, because for those on horseback using the park’s horses, stopping means dismounting and losing their horse; it would be nice if a further rezzer was placed close to the café – say by the sign pointing to it (perhaps with a hitching post, to give a further invitation to riders?). That way those on horseback can enjoy a break at the Grumpy Troll and then be able to resume their ride without having to return to either Mirrormere or Glanduin to collect their horses.

For those interested in reading about horse riding in Calas Galadhon, please read A little (Bento) horse riding at Calas Galadhon in Second Life.

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Petit Lac Des Cygne in Second Life

Petit Lac Des Cygne; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
Petit Lac Des Cygnee – click any image for full size

Petit Lac Des Cygne (“The Little Lake of Swans”) is a private estate that recently opened to the public for several days of each week (it is closed to public access on Mondays and Tuesdays). This is a stunning Full region utilising the 30K LI allowance designed by Cougar (Cougar Sangria). Were I to sum it up in two words, they would be: quite magnificent.

The setting in modelled after the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-west France, and is stated to lie some 100 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean and 50 kilometres from the Spanish border with France – both as the crow flies. Originally located on a Homestead region, the setting had only recently located to this Full region, and has been expanded upon by Cougar in the process to provide a rich setting, in which resides the lake of the title, a château, and plenty more to explore.

Petit Lac Des Cygne; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
Petit Lac Des Cygnee

The introductory note cards, provided automatically at the landing point, might read a little forthright, but the requests made within them are not unreasonable, and do state matters clearly. The region is open to rezzing props for photography; those who do so are asked to ensure they pick up their items after the fact, with repeat offences not being tolerated. A backstory for the setting has been written in two parts, and is available here (part 1) and here (part 2) on Cougar’s blog; I recommend reading both as they add further immersion to a visit.

Surrounded by the peaks of tall mountains free of the grip of snow, and whose slopes roll down to meet the region’s edge, this is a setting that very much has the feel of being located on the French side of the Pyrenees in, as Cougar points out in her backstory, the département Pyrenees Altantiques (which is also the adopted name for the region’s simulator).

Petit Lac Des Cygne; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
Petit Lac Des Cygnee

A track winds its way from the landing point, lazily meandering between tall grass and trees. It present a route around a local farmhouse (actually the Le Petit Café Cygne – about which you can read more here), complete with outdoor produce stalls, to the walls and gates of the château. Of modest size, this is nevertheless a fine house, with large courtyard to the front and formal gardens to the rear.

The path to the lake is to be found within the château grounds, and despite its name, it is of a reasonable size. Here, swans gently pass the time on the water, sheep graze along the lake banks, and a little outdoor café offers refreshments as it extends out over the water. All of this is watched over by a pavilion and a folly, standing as silent sentinels either side of the water. The latter is the studio for an artist, the former the setting for a small formal area amidst the wilder grasses, complete with astrolabe, statue and seating.

Petit Lac Des Cygne; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
Petit Lac Des Cygnee

The château is elegantly furnished, wonderfully representative of a house that has been restored with care and love, again in keeping with the region’s backstory. The formal gardens are carefully laid out, a modern swimming pool set back and below the main house so as not to spoil the period feel, while chess can be found on one of the side lawns. Close by, a summer-house perhaps offers space for formal balls or receptions, the doors thrown wide in summer, allowing music and laughter to drift over the gardens.

Cougar describes the region as a labour of love for her; one that has taken several moths to achieve. This is very evident in the care and attention to detail that has been taken throughout the design. There is a natural look and feel to Petit Lac Des Cygne that is simply sublime; perfectly topped by an ambient sound scape (do make sure local sounds are enabled); it is beautifully presented, whether your interest is in exploring, photography  and / or simple admiration. Places to sit can be found throughout, and make for welcome spots by which to pass the time.

Petit Lac Des Cygne; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
Petit Lac Des Cygnee

While there is a lot going on within the region that might affect viewer performance, Petit Lac Des Cygne is a destination that rewards patience, and which really should not be missed.

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A Moochie winter in Second Life

'Tis the Season - Winter Wonderland at Moochie; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
‘Tis the Season – Winter Wonderland at Moochie – click any image for full size

As thoughts among many in SL turn towards spring now the New Year is here, I thought I’d be a little contrary and pay a visit to a region still caught in the depths of winter – at least for the time being.

Maia Gasparini’s Homestead region of Moochie currently presents itself as a winter wonderland, even to the point of still showing the last vestiges of Christmas in places. It is a simple setting in terms of content, elegant and very snowy – although be warned that the amount of snow falling from the sky might adversely affect viewer performance.

'Tis the Season - Winter Wonderland at Moochie; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
‘Tis the Season – Winter Wonderland at Moochie – click any image for full size

Set within a broad wilderness, ‘Tis the Season – Winter Wonderland at Moochie lies richly wooded and blending neatly with the hilly, snowy sim surround. The landing point sits to the north of the region, alongside an old railway track emerging from a tunnel and with a couple of rail cars parked on it. Here visitors can get a map (texture) of the region that records points of interest. For romantics, the board also offers a walking rezzer. The landing point also advises using the local windlight setting, although I admit I flicked over to one of my preferred Annan Adored settings for the photos here.

This is a place where words of description are really superfluous; the natural beauty of the setting, coupled with its design and presentation means that the best way to appreciate it is to simply wander and discover. When doing so, do ensure local sounds are on, as the region is matched by an ambient sound scape that adds depth and can have you thinking about slipping into warmer clothes if you’re not already dressed for winter – as should be the case!

'Tis the Season - Winter Wonderland at Moochie; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
‘Tis the Season – Winter Wonderland at Moochie – click any image for full size

Among the things to discover whilst exploring are both ice skating and sledding, while the outdoor café (couple with little market) offers a place to sit and relax with a hand-warming drink while watching others skate or sled. Follow the sounds of singing, and you’ll be led to the local chapel, where a service appears to be in full swing.

Scattered throughout the region are places to sit and cuddle or chat, from sleighs to the backs of carts to sheltered seats or a camp site warmed by a blazing fire. But, as I said, this is a setting that’s best visited – particularly with a close friend or loved one – rather than described; therefore, I suggest that if you do feel like basking in another touch of winter, be sure to visit soon!

'Tis the Season - Winter Wonderland at Moochie; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
‘Tis the Season – Winter Wonderland at Moochie – click any image for full size

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A quiet corner of Second Life

-Paradiso-/Cor meum; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
-Paradiso-/Cor meum – click any image for full size

I’m not sure quite how -Paradiso-/Cor meum came to be on my list; I have a feeling that I received a poke about it late in 2018, but beyond the region and sim being noted in my list of places to visit, I don’t have an original note card to reference as an aide-memoire to give me a name; so my apologies to whoever it might have been, particularly if the tip came via IM.

Located in the south-east quarter of a Homestead, this is something of an idyllic setting of the kind I tend to like: shallow waters to wade through, little “islands” of trees and flowers scattered across it, and a little dry land to stand upon or wander over for those who prefer to keep their feet as dry as possible. Designed by 髙橋ヒロム (CainAbel), it is the kind of place that can be explored in minutes – and appreciated and enjoyed for hours.

-Paradiso-/Cor meum; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
-Paradiso-/Cor meum

The landing point sits close to the eastern edge of the region, where a lone tree rises from the water, branches devoid of leaves but attracting butterflies. A rowing boat sits beneath the bare boughs, resting among a gathering of translucent roses.

Not far away, sitting between the eastern and southern sim boundaries, lies a circle of whitened trees protectively standing around an ancient ruin. The broken walls and arches speaking to a presence long past, a single aged fountain at their centre. Like the rowing boat, the ruins sit within a sea of translucent roses under which waves gently shimmer.

-Paradiso-/Cor meum; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
-Paradiso-/Cor meum

A tongue of land twists a path over the water from this mystical copse, passing under arched trees offering their raised branches as if trying to keep the sky from collapsing on whoever passes beneath them. This path leads to a raised area of grass sitting no more than a metre above the waters, but high enough to trap a large pool fed by a waterfall within it.

Here the trees are lush and green, more of the mist-like roses around the feet of those near the inner pool, which has attracted its own ghost-like butterflies. Rising from this pool is the stump of what must have once been a mangrove tree of huge proportions, and which still throws out sturdy roots, even though it is now little more than the foundation for a ramshackle hut sitting upon its hewn neck. Reached via a rickety little board walk and  crooked ladder, the shack hides a romantic little vignette within.

-Paradiso-/Cor meum; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
-Paradiso-/Cor meum

Follow the land west and south from the shack, and a cosy bed-like swing awaits discovery, another place for visitors to relax, still more roses lapping around its wooden frame. Behind it, willow-like trees twinkle with lights, while a line of telegraph poles march their way to and from nowhere in particular.

There are no ambient sounds within the setting (or at least, none were playing during my visit), but the audio stream provides a gentle flow of music, so those who wish to can use the umbrella-like dance system close to the landing point to twirl their way over the water to the gentle beat and romantic lyrics.

-Paradiso-/Cor meum; Inara Pey, January 2019, on Flickr
-Paradiso-/Cor meum

With a Flickr group available for sharing photos, -Paradiso-/Cor meum is a perfect place to escape stress and worry, and one ideally suited to playing with windlight options and settings when taking photos. As the parcel is part of a residential region, do please keep all explorations to within the parcel boundaries.

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A road trip to Maoz in Second Life

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

Take a break from the cold and come hang out at Maoz! It’s a little tropical retreat that’s inspired by the idyllic, provincial life in the Philippine Islands. Take pictures, surf, play games with friends or just frolic in the water and the sand.

So reads the description for Maoz, a Homestead region I dropped into after seeing Loverdag’s images at the start of the year. Designed by Cate Ansaldo (CATEvogel) and Dylan Vogel (LordDylan Ansaldo), this is simple region with the design intended – as the description indicates – to reflect the provincial Philippine life. Surround by low-lying hills that don’t quite adjoin the region, it has the feeling of a coastal location through which a broad road passes, beaches to one side offering surf and volleyball, overlooked by a parking lot where it is easy to image passing tourists pausing to take photos.

Maoz; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Maoz

Rising in uneven steps from west to east, the setting is marked by water tumbling through a series of falls, small shanty houses scattered between rocks and trees, and the ribbon of the road, which together with the vehicles scattered along it, gave me the impression I was perhaps on a road trip. Roadside huts and shops sit as possible distractions for drivers, promises of food and beer presenting the temptation for a stop along the way.

Tucked away on one corner of the region sits a small but homely house, a Toyota Land Cruiser parked alongside, doors open and roof rack laden as if someone is about to take to make a journey or has just returned from a trip to somewhere. Not far away is one of those tempting stops, the bicycle laden with platters of fresh fruit outside apparently enough to persuade one driver to swing across the road and pull up, the No Parking sign under which it has been parked clearly not a deterrent.

Maoz; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Maoz

Off the coast to the west, reached by a long board walk clearly placed by the locals to avoid the rolling surf, lies a bar built within the confines of a rocky sandbar rising above the waves. A makeshift place, constructed in part from the fuselage of a wrecked ‘plane, it’s clearly a popular stopping point: the rusting flank of the aircraft is festooned with the autographs of visitors past. Those who don’t fancy the walk out to it can find refreshments and sweets at Linda’s Store on the beach, within easy reach of the volleyball net awaiting players.

Scattered around the region are numerous places to sit, indoors and out – including a caravan perched at the top of a steep track and offering views out to sea, and back over the waterfalls down to the rolling surf, or within (or on) the VW Beetle parked at the landing point. Rezzing is also open to visitors, making this an ideal place for photography. However, as auto return is disabled, please do remember to pick up anything you set out, should you choose to do so. There is also a Flickr pool open for submissions of images taken.

Maoz; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Maoz

As notes, a simple, photogenic layout that offers a place to get away to while waiting for the snowy, winter regions to warm themselves up as thoughts now turn to spring in the northern hemisphere. It is also, apparently, a place given to occasional squalls of rain, so when visiting, you might want to keep a brolly handy!

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  • Maoz (Forbes Isle, rated: Adult)

The haunting beauty of Rummu in Second Life

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

The start of a new year brings with it the opening of a new region design by Serene Footman and Jade Koltai, and once again they present a vision of a place few of us may ever get to see in the physical world. Rightly renowned for their work in reproducing Furillen (read here), Khodovarikha (read here), La Digue du Braek (read here), Isle of May (read here) and Black Bayou Lake (read here), they now present a setting with deep historical and cultural meaning, harkening back to the era of the Soviet Union: the Rummu quarry, located in Estonia.

Called simply Rummu in Second Life, the region completely captures the heart and soul of Rummu quarry and some of its surroundings. beautifully encapsulating them within the confines of a 256 square metre setting.

It was the location of a quarry from the 1930s until the early 1990s. More notoriously, Rummu was the site of a Soviet prison, whose inmates formed the majority of the quarry’s workforce … Rummu quarry was essentially a labour camp in which prisoners were forced to work and to endure brutal treatment from guards who barely spoke their language.

After Rummu prison was closed, the quarry ceased operating. The site was flooded and another remarkable story began. The prison itself now lay hidden beneath a lake that slowly became a well-known Estonian beauty spot, drawing many visitors who wanted to swim and dive in its crystal clear waters. In summer, this place resembles a city beach, packed with bathers.

– Serene Footman, discussing Rummu

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Rummu

It is as this modern beauty spot (still used today, despite bathing and swimming in the quarry having been banned) that Jade and Serene have recreated Rummu, and they’ve done so with remarkable detail.

In the physical world, the quarry sits within a heavily wood region and is immediately identified by a massive spoil tip from the quarry excavations, which forms a man-made table mountain rising above what is now the meandering lake. Sitting close to the spoil tip are a number of building shells, some rising directly out of the flood waters filling the quarry, others sitting on the shoreline, all now battered and broken since the quarry’s closure in the 1990s, and the natural flooding of the quarry pit that followed (the prisons themselves – Rummu and Murru prison, which Serene references in his own write-up about the location, – actually continued to operate through until 2012, after being merged into one in 2001, and then with the nearby Harku women’s prison in 2004).

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Rummu

All of this is wonderfully recreated within the Rummu build, right down to the rills and channels created by water that flows down the flanks of the spoil tip as a result of regional rainfall, and the low, sandy-like spaces where Estonians come to enjoy the summer Sun between dips in the deep waters. Also captured within the build is the fact that rather than merely standing as derelict shells or as diving platforms for daring leaps into the waters below, the buildings also became the home of an impromptu outdoor art gallery, their walls home to large fresco-like paintings and graffiti.

Nor is the build restricted to reproducing what lies above the waters; when the quarry naturally flooded after work within it ceased (the quarry had to be continuously pumped during its operational life in order to prevent it filling up with water), many of the buildings it contained, together with equipment, ended up underwater.

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Rummu

These drowned remains give the physical world Rummu prison something of an eerie, ethereal feel, as they can often be seen from above the surface. And it is these submerged buildings and other reminders of the quarry’s past that have also in part been reproduced within Serene’s and Jade’s build. Somewhat hidden from any overhead view when using the default windlight, they lie within a haze that gives a great sense of the real quarry’s depth, looming into view much as they would to divers braving the waters of Estonia’s Rummu.

As Serene notes, almost all the LI for the region is used up; ergo there is no public rezzing available – but there are a lot of places to sit and enjoy the surroundings – including a dive platform that appears to have been drawn from this video of the quarry, and which again adds to the overall setting. There are also a number of interactive elements to be found as well, including two places where you can dive, a zip line slide and a pedal boat rezzer.

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Rummu

But why pick on a place that once harbours such human misery? I think Serene explains it perfectly:

We were drawn to the place by its contrasts: between past and present, between what lies above and below the water, between freedom and captivity, between beauty and brutality. We also liked Rummu’s bohemian vibe: there is something carefree and illicit in the way that visitors use it, painting murals on the walls of the buildings one can see, and staging impromptu parties and music events.

– Serene Footman, discussing Rummu

To give you a flavour of Rummu as it appears today, and just how carefully Serene and Jade have recreated it, I’ll leave you with a short video of the quarry. Do remember that the setting will not in in-world forever, so a visit is strongly recommended, and photos can be shared on the Rummu Flickr group.

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