Saturday, November 28, 2009

Le Mont Saint Michel in Second Life

Le Mont Saint Michel, A Second Life Treasure

The Great Age of Exploration began in the 15th century when intrepid Portuguese ship captains and crews set out in their caravels from the port of Lisbon in search of new maritime trade routes to the East Indies and Cathay. Over the next 400 years, previously unknown continents, islands, peoples, cultures, and natural wonders were discovered by Western explorers as they pushed to the ends of earth. Today, there is no place too remote not to have been beheld by the eyes of humanity. Yet, we still have the urge to discover and explore distant lands, and now there are virtual worlds to explore.

Moeka Kohime, Creator of Mont St. Michel

Go to the map of Second Life, zoom out, and watch the islands and sims become as stars in a galaxy of multitudious stars. And know that each star in this galaxy is the creative work of some person or group of persons. The thrill is discovering one that shines bright in the firmament.  I have recently been exploring a super nova named Le Mont Saint Michel.

Le Mont Saint Michel in Second Life is an incredible achievement. It is a one-to-one recreation of the world famous tidal island of Le Mont Saint Michel in northern France. The creator of this sim is Moeka Kohime, a graphic designer from Japan. She fell in love with the island during a visit to France and took that love to Second Life. I can't even begin to imagine the amount of research, graphical expertise, and artistic talent that went into this re-creation. The detail here is astounding. Click on the pictures to enlarge them for better viewing. And to gain some perspective for what Moeka has created, compare the picture below of the real Mont Saint Michel with the picture of its Second Life counterpart. Moeka Kohime has created a Second Life treasure.

Mont St. Michel in Real Life

Mont St. Michel in Second Life

Mont Saint Michel is a small rocky islet located 1 mile off the coast of Normandy in northwest France in the Bay of Mont Saint Michel in the English Channel. The island was consecrated to the Archangel Saint Michel in 708 AD and is famous for its Benedictine abby, a 13th century Gothic masterpiece, towering over 500 feet above the sea. Mont Saint Michel is actually an outcropping of granite conspicuously jutting out of a vast sandbank and exposed to powerful tides that can rush in over the tidal flats at speeds, famously described by Victor Hugo, ‘as swift as a galloping horse.’ In medieval times, Mont Saint Michel was connected to the mainland by a natural land bridge which was submerged at high tide and exposed at low tide. In present times, the rocky islet is entirely surrounded by water twice a month, becoming a tidal island. The actions of the tides give Mont Saint Michel a wonderful mystical quality. In 1979, UNESCO named Mont Saint Michel a world heritage site.

The Steepled Church Crowning the Abby

The Magnificent Interior of the Church

Benedictine Cloister Opening to the Bay

It’s a long walk up to the Abby of Mont Saint Michel and then up the stone steps to the Saut Gautier Terrace (named after a man who jumped to his death) outside the imposing church. Stroll the columned arcade of the cloister alongside the church and then get lost wandering about the abbey’s maze of rooms, staircases, and vaulted halls. Of course, getting lost is part of the fun of exploring this treasure.

Archangel Saint Michael appearing before Saint Aubert.

According to legend, the Archangel Saint Michael  appeared to Saint Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 AD and instructed him to build a church on the islet. Aubert chose to ignore the angel's instruction, so Saint Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger. That proved very persuasive. The incident is depicted in a bas relief located in the abby that is faithfully replicated in Second Life complete with the bright light bathing Saint Michael.

There are pathways  throughout Mont Saint Michel, some are quite inconspicuous,  and many lead to delightful discoveries and scenic viewpoints. On one of my walks, I wondered into the small village graveyard which I knew existed in real life. That discovery had me marveling at the accuracy with which Mont Saint Michel has been recreated in Second Life. There seems to be almost no real world detail that is not accounted for in this recreation.

Aerial View of the Grande Rue

 The village lies within the protective walls of Mont Saint Michel along the Grande Rue, the cobblestone street leading to the abbey. As in real life, the Grande Rue begins at the granite base of Mont Saint Michel and spirils up to the Grand Degré, a steep, narrow staircase that climbs to the abbey entrance. Shops line both sides of the street providing a diverting shopping experience while on your way to the abbey. You are certain to fall in love with the quaint medieval charm of the village. The abbey may be the crown jewel of Mont Saint Michel; but its the Grande Rue and its La Café Poulard that brings me back again and again.

 Yes, that's Mariko Nightfire in Red Hair. I love the charm of the Grand Rue

La Café Poulard

There is an active community at Mont Saint Michel, and it speaks Japanese, not French. Not unexpected given the Japanese origin of the sim's creator. The social gathering spot of this community is La Café Poulard on the Grand Rue.  La Café Poulard is based on the real life La Mère Poulard, an inn and restaurant founded on Mont Saint Michel in 1888 by the famous French chef, Mère Poulard.

La Café Poulard is the social meeting place in Mont Saint Michel

The interior of La Café Poulard is comfortable, warm, and attractive. I like the library of books on the second floor arcade. It gives a nice ambiance to the room. You'll find that the conversation here is mainly in Japanese; however, the customers are very friendly and will converse with you in English or with a translator. Gaijins (non-Japanese visitors) from Europe and America also drop by the cafe. The crowd at La Café Poulard is not only very Japanese; but often very furry as well. Its always a good group and much fun.

The Staff at the La Café Poulard

La Café Poulard has a large staff of adorably cute waitresses. One or two will be on duty during the peak hours, Japan time. They will be taking orders behind the counter or tidying up around the cafe, even washing the windows. The girls enjoy bantering with the customers, and they are very funny. They are so adorable when they joke about wanting boyfriends. Be sure to tip them using their tip jar portraits on the wall.

At La Café Poulard, a waitress will inveritably ask if you want to order an omelette. In real life, La Mère Poulard is renowned for its large fluffy omelettes. They beat their eggs until they are light and airy. Then the mixture is poured into a pan and cooked on wood-fired flames. It's a great show that is wonderfully replicated at La Café Poulard. On the counter at La Café Poulard, I was glad to find a bottle of Heinz Ketchup. The French would be aghast at this. But I don't care. I like ketchup on my omelettes.

Making Omelettes at La Café Poulard

On the second floor of La Café Poulard there is an outdoor patio looking out on the Bay of Mont Saint Michel.  It's my favorite spot to unwind and have come coffee or wine with friends after touring the abby.

Relaxing with Jaysun and my sister, Dawson

Midnight at Mont Saint Michel

I hope that you enjoyed this posting on Mont Saint Michel and now plan to visit this Second Life treasure. If you see me at La Café Poulard, let's sit together at the counter and share some great omelettes. And please pass the ketchup bottle.

Mont Saint Michel:
Mont Saint Michel on YouTube:

Official blog for Le Mont Saint Michel in Second Life

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