The Four Villages in Second Life

The Four Villages; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life – click any image for full size

We visited The Four Villages, a full region utilising the full 30K land capacity, early in January 2019, but its taken me a while to document it. Held and designed by Vita (Vita Camino), the region is region is a mix of public and residential parcels within a themed environment that makes for a pleasant visit.

The residential parcels are grouped into four  themed groups, including a beach side area and Mediterranean area, of which more anon. Public areas link these together, offering the means to explore all of then, and with two of them – the beach theme and the Mediterranean  – provide something of a community heart.

The Four Villages; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

The beach area, referred to as the Beach Club, is located to the east side of the region, includes a sandy road that runs from nowhere to nowhere, offering a landing point. While the road may be short and without real start or destination, it has plenty of character waiting to be explored along its short length. It also overlooks the larger of the two waterways to the north, which is home to a small inland  fishing harbour, again rich in character.

The Four Villages; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

The harbour forms a further focal point that includes a small hang-out area atop a raised wooden deck and the Vitas Gardens office. The piers of the harbour effectively block navigation along the length of the river, but they do provide access to the north side of the land. This is home to the two remaining residential areas, respectively New England and Countryside, and both are landscaped in reflection of their names. A hiking trail extends into this area, raising up from the piers to a chapel, before running east and west – but do keep in mind it both runs by and ends at private homes.

Covered bridges run from the beach area’s road over the second river splitting the region and a small pool. They carry visitors to the Mediterranean residential area – called Little Italy. Bordered by private residences, this offers more places to sit and relax, the opportunity to take a swim. Roman bath style.

The Four Villages; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

To ease getting around the region, the Vitas Gardens offices sitting above the mooring piers offers a teleport board to all four of the residential areas, as well as to the principal public area on the region. If you’re looking for a place to rent, check the mailboxes outside of the residential parcels.

Providing care is taken when exploring, The Four Villages offers plenty to see., and provides numerous opportunities for photography, making for a pleasant visit.

The Four Villages; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

The Four Villages; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

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A Provincial Life in Second Life

Provincial Life; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life – click any image for full size

Provincial Life is the name given to a homestead region held and designed by Hania Amidst (amberfff) that, while noted in the description as a private home (with at least three residences on it), is still nevertheless offered as presenting “Lots of little photo ops [and] connected to high rock for extended exploration.”

As the name suggests, it is a rural setting, mostly set to open land over which horses graze in some numbers. Across it are also scattered a number of buildings and homes, including the private residences. Two of the latter lie on a smaller island in the south-east corner of the region, the water channel separating them from the rest of the setting helping to ensure their privacy remains intact. A further residence lies on the south-western headland and is marked by a fence and archway running across the front of the property, marking the limits of public exploration.

Provincial Life; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

Two more houses can be found on the region. The first is located alongside the landing point and might actually be a private home itself; I’m not entirely sure – so perhaps it is best to treat it with respect. A dirt track runs from its porch to pass an outdoor music area to one side and the last house – which does appear to be open to the public – on the other.

Sweeping past the latter, the track turns to run above a deep inlet that cuts its way into the land, before it divides to point one finger towards the private house on the south-western headland and offering a path to a gravelly beach along the way, while the second finger crooks west then north, pointing the way to a shaded pavilion and thence to a waterfront deck overlooking a small bay.

Provincial Life; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

This bay is bracketed by a small rocky island with a granite face looking inland that someone has been busily painting with graffiti. The island can be reached by means of a path and rope bridge reached by walking along the waterfront, and offers a high vantage point for looking back across the region.

Beyond the deck, a sandy path cuts across the grass to a rock arch offering access to where another small bay cuts into the land via a narrow neck of water.. aided by a small covered bridge, the path continues on the far side of the inlet, returning visitors by way of wooden steps to the house by the landing point.

Provincial Life; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

Throughout all of this, there is plenty so see and multiple places to sit for a while and enjoy the setting. Dogs play in the long grass, the aforementioned horses stands and graze in groups, sheep enjoy the heather on the south-west headland, and swings, benches and seats look out over the various points of interest – the bays, the winding tracks, the musical area, which is available for dances should visitors in in the mood; the music stream is particularly mellow and suited to a romantic dance or a little swing to the sound of a big band. Throughout all of this, birds twitter and sing under a later spring sky.

When wandering it is worth keeping an eye out for the smaller details – such as the rag doll audience awaiting a musician to appear on the truck bed stage, or the paper aeroplanes turning circles in the breeze over the meadow flowers, sharing the air above the blooms with butterflies.

Provincial Life; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

For those wishing to take photographs, rezzing is open – but do please remember to pick your things up behind you. If you have a wearable horse, Provincial Life is idea for taking a ride, and your horse will have plenty of neighbourly company (coughs; “sorry!”).

A charming, warm region which – as the About Land description states – is ready for photography as well as exploration. Our thanks, as always, to Shakespeare and Max for the referral!

Provincial Life; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrProvincial Life

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The otherworldly beauty of Whats Lost Spirits

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits – click any image for full size

We were drawn to this Full region of What’s Lost Spirits on the recommendation of Annie Oh (AnnieBrightstar). In all, there are three different areas to be discovered, but in this article I’m concentrating on the remarkable ground level design by region holder Stabitha Chronotis (What88 Zond) – although I will give some information on the other levels further below. I’m focusing on the ground level because it is perhaps the most marvellously bizarre, otherworldly, beautifully imaginative and utterly unique designs I have ever visited in Second Life. It simply defies description – and quite wonderfully so.

When I say “defies description” you really can take me at my word; there is no obvious over-arching physical theme; what is offered is a unique series of visual vignettes, each one whispering its own tale. However, they are all drawn together, somewhat subliminally, through the use of certain motifs and in the roots of their design, as Stabitha openly notes.

I have severe bi-polar. One of the fun little side-effects for me are hallucinations and very, very, vivid dreams. When I sleep, I am often taken back to familiar places and people. Time passes while I am awake, and the structures change, but the place always stays the same. Some islands represent those places, while others are based on real life experiences, fears and how I see the world.

– Stabitha Chronotis (What88 Zond), describing Whats Lost Spirits

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

A visit actually starts somewhat innocently: in the main hall of what appears to be a psychiatric hospital. At the reception desk, a nurse with a look that suggests she should perhaps be one of the patients, is trying to tempt you with a handful of pills; in a doorway stands an ordinary-looking gentleman is somewhat Victorian garb – ordinary on his left side, that is. Cam up to the floor above (the elevator  didn’t appear to be working at the time of our visit) and you’ll find a trio of skeletons apparently discussing matters of life or death while armchairs float around their heads; across the room a model house burns, books pirouette in the air and grandfather clocks look down serenely, gravity having turned a blind eye to their misbehaviour.

All of this may sound typical of many a haunted asylum experience, oft to be found in Second Life. But trust me, it’s not. When set with Stabitha’s description of the region, it is clear this scene, complete with its set of very distinctive inmates, represents something both personal.

To help guide visitors through this world of dreams, Stabitha is adding a series of pictures frames in the region. Blue in colour, these present background story notes (you’ll need to read them; they are not touch for text / note card). The first can be found behind and to the right of the ground floor reception desk, indicated by a sculpture of a hand pointing to it, and another is to be found on the upper floor of the hospital.

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

However, for the real proof of the region’s stunning uniqueness, simply step outside, walk across the board walk and down the stairs to the waterfront pier. What you’ll see through the haze of a twilight sky may take time to fully make out, but it is guaranteed to have your jaw dropping.

What lies before you is the most incredible archipelago of island, both sitting on the grey waters and floating in the sky – some anchored by heavy chins linked to hands grasping at the sea floor to prevent them drifting off. Most of the islands are static, each presenting its own scene, but wait a moment or two and you’ll witness that two will actually detach themselves from a larger island and either rise or descend to join seamlessly with another, thus forming the most remarkable elevators one might imagine, complete with giant elephant on one and chapel on the other.

But to reach, them, one must first cross the water. While this can be done by flying, a more interesting way is to travel over the water via the bumper boats that can be rezzed as most water level locations. But be warned – passage using them can be slightly explosive!

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

From across the water, the setting for the landing point hospital can be further appreciated: it forms part of a broken, Gotham-like vision of New York backed by high cliffs to one side, and which has clearly experienced some form of cataclysmic event – an element shared with other parts of the archipelago.

Life and death are very much part of this setting – as witnessed through the motif of glowing-eyed skulls, and a large sculpture contained within a greenhouse entitled Birth of a World. This greenhouse is reach via an avenue of trees resembling grasping hands rising from the ground in another possibly oblique reference to death. Similarly, the chapel on one of the island “elevators” might be seen as a sideways reference to the journey of the soul, post death, as it repeatedly rises and descends. But if so, which of these is the journey to heaven?

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

There are other, more “traditional” (if such a word can be used in so imaginative world) elements of fear and nightmare to be found here. Travel north-east beyond the central island rising from its screaming head base, for example, and you could find your way to run-down carnival with not-to-friendly clowns.

Throughout the build, the attention to detail is superb – if a little macabre in places; I have to say, I love the spirit of a dead horse rising from the corpses of several, but this might not be to everyone’s taste. It’s a wonderfully evocative motif for mind state. There are also a very subtle use of certain elements that help link the floating islands with those rising from the waters below, offering a gentle visual reflection of Stabitha’s comment that in the country of her mind, Time passes while I am awake, and the structures change, but the place always stays the same.

One thing to not is that not all the regions can be reached by boat or elevator, you will have to fly up to some to appreciate them fully; if there is a teleport system linking them one to the others, neither Caitlyn nor I spotted it.

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

High above the region are two more settings: Super Orbital Time Station Zenobia, built by Vic Mornington (Victor1st Mornington) and Slime Square, a further build by Stabitha. The former has a certain Gallifrey citadel feel to it – although please note this may well be going away in the near future – so be warned when teleporting! The latter is (to me at least) the more interesting for exploration, offering a Ghostbusters role-play environment (do look for the “underground” elements as well). However, it is first and foremost Whats Lost Spirits that captivated my eye and imagination, and really should not under any circumstances be missed as a destination.

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The Two Loons in Second Life

Two Loons, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrTwo Loons, Calas Galadhon – click any image for full size

In January I wrote about the Grumpy Troll, the new café in Calas Galadhon, the magnificent 10-region park operated by Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith with their team. At the time, I suggested that a Water Horse rezzer and hitching post to encourage people partaking of the park’s ridable horses to enjoy the café in the knowledge they can resume their ride – an idea Ty and Truck adopted. I also made a casual observation on my reaction on hearing about the new venue:

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.

Two Loons, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrTwo Loons, Calas Galadhon

Well, Ty surprised me with an IM: “I used your suggestions again by actually putting up a little pub on Gulf of Lune,” Ty informed me via IM. “Similar in feel to The Grumpy Troll, but built around alcohol consumption!” So of course, I had to hop over and take a look at the new build – called the Two Loons – and it really is a nicely cosy place in which to spend time.

Located in the wetlands of the Gulf of Lune, it’s set somewhat apart from the riding trails, but can be reached on foot (or indeed horse back) along the raised board walks that wind their way across the boggy, wet lowlands. Sitting on the edge of deeper waters, the Two Loons offers wonderful views out over Belegaer and the Grey Havens, and back across Dimrill Dale (with the Grumpy Troll seeming just a stone’s throw away across the waters of the intervening bay).

Two Loons, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrTwo Loons, Calas Galadhon

Combining designs by Cory Edo (I believe I’m right in identifying her Piper Hideaway House and elements from the Yara Treehouse), the pub is wonderfully snug whilst also remaining open to is surroundings. The main lounge area, complete with pot-bellied stove, carries an impressive range of wine (so impressive, I’m tempted to move in!), with comfortable armchairs and sofas in which to sit while enjoying them. For those in the mood, the outer section reached via a little rope bridge offers both room to dance (look for the bird table outside to get the dances) and seating out on a deck suspended over the water, while above the main lounge is a little “crows nest” covered area again with a raised deck where views across the park can be enjoyed.

Further comfort to time in the bar is provided by the seating animation, which allow the wine to be properly enjoyed, and which offer a feeling of social comfort that is delightful to share. Plus, the use of Cory’s designs within the overall build means that the Two Loons and Grumpy Troll share a nice feeling of similarity / continuity  / homeliness that is another delight with a visit to both.

Two Loons, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrTwo Loons, Calas Galadhon

There are many, many reasons for visiting Calas Galadhon, as I noted when writing about the Grumpy Troll. With the arrival of the Two Loons, yet another has been added to the park’s attractions – and it is likely to be one I’ll be returning to frequently; it really is the ideal place to spend time at, and has already made its mark with Calas regulars.

So why not drop in and see for yourself?

Two Loons, Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrTwo Loons, Calas Galadhon – with the Grumpy Troll in the background, to the right between the uprights and the sign

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Endless: lowland beauty in Second Life

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless – click any image for full size

Endless is a region of desolate beauty that is quite stunning to behold in its naturalness of setting. There is a wild, unfettered allure to it that can instantly capture the eye and the heart.

We were drawn to it thanks to an  IM by fellow grid traveller Annie Oh (AnnieBrightstar). A Full region, it has been designed by Sombre Nyx (SombreNyx) in reflection of a coastal wetland or fens, and influence by the Camargue in the South of France. It offers a mostly low-lying area of land, cut through with shallow waters hidden by shrubs, tall grasses and reeds, weathered old bridges linking the swathes of drier land that sit just above the waters. All of which is watched over by the tall finger of a lighthouse and the squat box of an old fortification hunched on a low hill.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

The latter looks across the lowlands to a ridge of hills, a dirt track curling around them, hinting that something may be hidden beyond their steep sides, while overhead dull clouds scud their way across a sombre sky; perhaps portents of inclement weather yet to arrive.

This is a place that has an immediate impact on the eye and heart; it breathes a naturalness that is almost intoxicating. In looking around on our first arrival, I was immediately put in mind of remote coastal areas of north and east Scotland – but also found myself put in mind of the moors of Devon, North Yorkshire and Northumberland, the wetlands and flamingoes notwithstanding. But Endless is a place that could exist almost anywhere; including purely in the imagination.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

It is also a place that leads forth quiet contemplation as much as it does exploration. The wide open spaces encourage visitors to stand and look, while the ambient sound scape (do make sure you have local sounds active) causes the mind to drift on its own wings; Endless is a place where stories await our imaginations to give them life, as Sombre herself notes:

Stand in a corner; drink in the ocean. Nobody will come to push you out of that reverie. They have their own to engage them … You’re the writer of stories made here. I offer you the pen. Dipped in the ink of my dreams.

– Sombre Nyx, describing Endless

Where you choose to wander on arrival is up to you; the landing point sits towards the middle of the region, and the track winding forth from a nearby barn, hugging the feet of the sheltering hills is certainly one path to take – although this quickly branches, demanding choices to be made. But there are also paths between bushes and shrubs and the low bridges spanning fingers of water that also call for feet to tread them. And then there is the lowering bulk of the old fortification sitting on its hill, its call to be explored perhaps a little too strong to be resisted.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

Old it may well be, but the rooms within it offer the warmth of a fire, the comfort of a sofa and the hint of an artist’s place of work, while the crenelated walls of its flat roof enclose a most curious yet comfortable setting – although I’d perhaps question taking a bath with what sounds like a cold wind buffeting those same walls.

Should you follow the track around the hills to their northern flank, you’ll find more signs of human habitation and stories waiting to be told.

From Tuscan villa to fisherman’s shack, the buildings sitting in the northern lee of the hills offer a delight to both eye and imagination as they face the cold, hard sea in an almost defiant line. Close by, on a small tongue of land sits a graveyard, adding a sense of settlement and history to this place of stark pulchtricude.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

Nor does it end there; the beauty of Endless is not only on the macro level, with its sweeping vista, buildings and sounds. It also exists on the “micro”, the careful use of small details that add further depth and life to the region, again as Sombre notes:

Nudge your horse through shrubs, listening to its hooves squelch in the mud … Notice a duck, a dead bird, a narcissus, a slice of freshly cut orange, brilliant on its white plate. Be aware of it all.

– Sombre Nyx, describing Endless

Her description also hints at a further attraction: the region is perfectly suitable to exploration on horseback, if you have a wearable horse. I don’t as yet, but I confess the promise of being able to ride through Endless at a slow pace, imagining that mud sucking at hooves and the hypnotic swaying induced by riding while looking out over that serene landscape has brought me one step closer to doing so.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

Yes, there is a lot going on in the region that can pull at viewer performance (including an element yet to open to the public). But with careful shepherding of viewer options, these should not prove insurmountable or unduly spoil a visit. Certainly, the effort in making adjustments is more than worthwhile, because Endless is a genuine place of beauty and peace, perfect for photography, for contemplation, for exploration or as a means to recapture memories of the wilder, more remote places we cannot always visit with ease in the physical world.

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  • Endless (Haraiki Bay, rated; Adult)

Willow Spring Ranch in Second Life

Willow Spring Ranch; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrWillow Spring Ranch – click any image for full size

Update – and Ouch! Within 24 hours of posting this, Willow Spring Ranch has been taken down! SLurls removed as a result.

Once again we’ve been drawn to a region on the recommendation of Shakespeare and Max. Willow Spring Ranch is offered as a place for couples and friends to visit, explore and enjoy. A rugged setting, this Homestead region presents a rich landscape surrounded by tall, green mountains and water.

Designed by Gazza Tremor on behalf of region holder Brandi Darkwatch (Brandi Wycliffe), it’s a place blending multiple activities. Trails wind through the landscape, offering a route of exploration across both the high plateaus and the low-lying regions such as the beach. These can be followed on foot or – if you have a wearable horse – can be ridden (horse riding is expressly encouraged in the region).

Willow Spring Ranch; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrWillow Spring Ranch

As well as riding and walking, the region offers several places for dancing – most notably a large deck towards the west side of the region, overlooking the seas below. Games are also on offer, particularly down on the pier that brackets one side of the region’s beach.

For those who don’t fancy walking, the path north from the landing point leads to a bridge and, beyond it, a barn. Outside of this (among other things) is a bicycle rezzer – although I confess both Caitlyn and I found the winding paths alongside the barn and crossing the rest of that plateau difficult to navigate from the bicycle saddle!

Willow Spring Ranch; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrWillow Spring Ranch

With its open spaces, lack of buildings, its woodlands and lowlands, Willow Spring Ranch is a little different to many of the public regions usually found in Second Life. The design of the paths and trails lead the way around the region in such a way as to give the impression this is a park covering a large area, the paths naturally offering a way around it in such a manner that adds to the feeling the region is larger than is the case.

If you do have a wearable horse (or similar) for riding, Willow Spring Ranch might be a very worthwhile visit; but even if you are on foot, the region offers a lot to see and opportunities for a little outdoor relaxation, be it dancing or just sitting and talking. There’s even the option for 10-pin bowling!

Willow Spring Ranch; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrWillow Spring Ranch

Willow Spring Ranch; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrWillow Spring Ranch