Today Leo's Rabbit visited one of the National Trust's treasures, Coughton Court, an English Tudor country house near Alcester. Since 1409 this interesting historical mansion has been a home to the Throckmortons, one of the UK's oldest catholic families. Judging by the size of the house, Rabbit thought that it must be a really big family and he was surprised to learn that the only occupant till October 2017 was baroness Clare McLaren-Throckmorton.
Rabbit was not only intrigued by the history of the Throckmorton family associated with Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes, but he also loved the architecture of the house and its spectacular gardens. He spent a pleasant couple of hours hopping around the grounds and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Hopping around the streets of Tehran Rabbit discovered a wonderful Aria Shop - Iran Handicraft Center. He was impressed by a vast selection of traditional bespoke Persian art and souvenirs, crafts and artworks. High quality, beautiful pottery, ceramics, paintings, hand woven kilims, jewellery - this classy collection was a real feast for Rabbit’s eyes. Exceptionally friendly shop owner made him feel very welcomed. One very satisfied little Rabbit left the shop with a big smile and a bag full of unique handmade gifts for his friends.
On a scorching hot afternoon Leo’s Rabbit decided to head out into the desert surrounding the city of Yazd. From the comfort of his air-conditioned car he admired the landscape - the sand, the waves, the shadows and the colours, with the dramatic mountains in the distance.
On the way he noticed few signs with unfamiliar names and he decided to follow one for Mazraeh Kalantar. The road took him to a small desert village in the Central District of Meybod County. This unique ancient village, with a population of just about 90 people, is made completely of mud and unbaked mud brick. Apparently this was the only building material available in the desert and it served well in keeping heat away during hot summers.
Rabbit walked around exploring evocative and enchanting narrow pathways between the buildings. He soon found his way onto rooftops where he was rewarded with fantastic views. He noticed that every building had few windcatchers rising above the roof. Their function is to catch the passive winds and channel them down to the ground floor living spaces. Indeed, even with outdoor temperature over 45 degrees C, Rabbit felt quite cool and comfortable when he peeked into abandoned rooms of the buildings.
Rabbit enjoyed his exploration of an ancient village of Mazraeh Kalantar with its unique mud buildings, a tangled maze of tiny alleys, and beautiful desert views with an enchanting skyline.
Following his interest in Zoroastrianism, triggered by his earlier trips to the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Towers of Silence in Yazd, Leo's Rabbit was eager to learn more about this ancient religion of the Persian people. On an unbearably hot day, he wetted his fur generously with water and set off to visit Markar Museum, a remarkable ethnographic exhibition of Zoroastrian culture and religion.
The spacious museum building is a part of a greater complex that occupies over 100,000 square meters and consists of Markar Elementary Schools for boys and girls, first grade of High School, orphanage and the clock tower.
Rabbit liked the interesting earthen architecture of the buildings – majestic sandy-coloured stone and clay walls with precise decorative carvings, tall, specious, beautifully crafted arches with colourful ceramic mosaic elements – all surrounded by beautiful gardens bursting with fresh and vividly coloured blossom. There was something majestic and dignified in the air and Rabbit quietly wandered around the area sucking its unique atmosphere. He enjoyed it very much.
After a stroll around the grounds in a scorching sunshine, seriously overheated Rabbit was pleased to find himself in a comforting coolness of the museum building. In the prominent position near the entrance, he noticed a pained portrait of a gentleman with a moustache. He learned that this is Peshotan Dossabhai Markar, the man who made it all happen, the founder of Markar complex.
Born in India in 1871, trained as a lawyer, Markar became a successful businessman and philanthropist. Over the years he developed a kin interest in Persian language, culture and religion. He was appalled to learn about the deplorable conditions and prosecution of Zoroastrians in Iran during the times of the Quajar regime. It became his life-long mission to help and empower Zoroastrian community. As a strong believer in education, he decided to aid young people in a pursuit of sound knowledge and skills that would give them a good start in life and hope for a better future. In 1922 he funded the first orphanage for Zoroastrian boys in Yazd. Elementary and High Schools for boys and girls were established in the following years, and Markar’s vision was completed in 1934 with an official inauguration of the whole complex. Schools stayed open until few years ago, with thousands of Zoroastrian students graduating during their operation, many becoming successful scientists, engineers, lawyers and doctors.
Rabbit paused for a while and stared at the portrait of a little man in a white suit. His heart was suddenly filled with warmth and a great respect for this remarkable human being, who changed lives of so many for the better. An old saying came to Rabbit’s mind: ‘Give a rabbit a carrot, and you feed him for a day. Teach a rabbit to grow carrots, and you feed him for a lifetime’ – and that’s exactly what Mr Markar did, thought Rabbit.
He further learned that the generosity of Mr Markar inspired some of the former students of Markar Schools, who sponsored renovation of the complex and established the very Museum of Zoroastrian History and Culture that Rabbit was just about to tour.
The exhibition, with a strong focus on the cultural aspects of daily life of Zoroastrians in Iran, their religious ceremonies, customs and history, did not disappoint our Rabbit. He was fascinated by the simple ways of living of these hard-working people. He felt humbled learning about demands of their daily activities, and privileged to be part of modern society with all the luxuries and technological advances we take for granted.
He wandered around the well-preserved kitchen with a stone wood-fired oven and stove. He imagined traditional aromatic dishes bursting with beans, grains and herbs being cooked in heavy metal pots, and a mouth-watering smell of freshly baked bread overpowering the whole kitchen. He has tasted oven-baked sangak, taftun and lavash before, and he was certain that the method of cooking adds extra flavour and taste to the bread. Where modern electric ovens cook food by moving hot air around inside an insulated, lightweight box, a stone oven works by soaking up heat, like a battery building up a full charge. When hot, the heavy oven walls release the heat slowly, for hours, so the food is cooked not only by hot air, but also by radiant heat from stonewalls of the oven.
There were many Persian recipes on display in the kitchen, and Rabbit made a note of the one for komach, slightly sweetened aromatic bread traditionally cooked in a copper pan. He decided to bake komach when he is back in the UK, and here is a recipe for those who may wish to do the same.
Rabbit continued his walk through the museum rooms and many interesting exhibits he encountered fascinated him. In one of the rooms he noticed a pull down wooden ceiling rack. He learned that it was traditionally used for food storage, keeping it away from rodents and insects. ‘Simple, yet clever idea’, thought Rabbit.
Charcoal iron was another household appliance that intrigued our Rabbit. It looked like a box that opens up and you put glowing coals inside it to keep it hot. It is difficult to use and requires a technique when it comes to not smudging the clean clothes or avoiding getting burned by stray ashes. Considering that it weighs almost 7kg (that’s the same as 5 rabbits!), ancient Persian rabbits had a good excuse not to do any ironing at all.
If our Rabbit would have been born few hundred years ago in Iran, he probably wouldn’t have had any clothes to iron as they were all made from scratch. Yarns were formed from vegetable fibres - hemp, flax or cotton. Then two distinct sets of yarns or threads were interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. At first this process, called weaving, was done by hand, but then a loom was invented and used to aid weaving. Its basic purpose was to hold the warp threads under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft threads. Rabbit examined an example of a loom displayed in the museum. It looked like a wooden frame with the heddles fixed in place in the shaft. The warp threads pass alternately through a heddle, and through a space between the heddles (the shed), so that raising the shaft raises half the threads (those passing through the heddles), and lowering the shaft lowers the same threads — the threads passing through the spaces between the heddles remain in place. It looked quite complicated for a small Rabbit to get his head around it. He thought that an old sewing machine on display looked more familiar and rabbit-friendly
Other interesting exhibits that captured Rabbit’s attention included traditional Zoroastrian costumes, tools, instruments, gym equipment, crafts and artwork. There was also a large collection of photographs portraying daily life of people of Yazd, various religious ceremonies, places of pilgrimage and fire temples.
There was a series of small paintings that especially intrigued our Rabbit. He learned that they tell a story of Sadeh, an ancient Persian festival celebrated to honour the power of fire and its energy. Legend has it that the tradition dates back to King Hushang of the mythological Pishdadian dynasty. One cold day, he and his people were returning from a hunting expedition. Suddenly a snake appeared coiled on their path. Hushang aimed at it with a stone. He missed and the snake slithered away. But the stone hit another stone and since they were both flint stones, a bright spark was produced. The curious king took hold of the two flint stones and struck more sparks. He learned to produce enough sparks to ignite a fire. He discovered how to make fire! Hushang cheered up and praised God and announced, ‘This is a light from God. So we must admire it’. He held a great feast with people singing, dancing, drinking, and feasting around the bonfire. For the first time, Hushang and his people could light their dark caves and feel cosy and warm in their beds. They passed a wonderful winter. The king never forgot his revolutionary discovery and from that day onward, the new tradition of Sadeh was established.
The feast named after 'the number one hundred' (Sad in Farsi), marks 50 days and 50 nights before Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, on March 21. Zoroastrians celebrate Sadeh by burning firewood in an open space to signify the coming of spring and as a symbolic token of the eternal fight with evil forces. Prior to lighting the huge open fire, some Zoroastrian priests recite verses from Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrians. The priests are always dressed in white cotton robes, trousers and hats as a sign of purity and neatness. People gather and pray, and then they hold each other's hands, form a circle, and dance around the fire. They have fireworks, music and feast of roasted meat.
After couple of hours strolling around the museum very satisfied little Rabbit exited to the courtyard with an impressive ab anbar, traditional Persian water reservoir. This uniquely built water container consists of a dome and up to six windcatchers. Their purpose is moving the wind at the top of the building and keeping lower temperature inside, similarly to a cave. The ventilating effects of the windcatchers further prevent any humidity or contamination of the water inside. Rabbit learned that the walls of ab anbars are almost 2 meters thick and are made of a special mortar that consists of sand, clay, ash, egg whites, lime, and goat hair. Apparently such a mixture was considered to be entirely water impermeable. Many traditional water reservoirs are capable of storing water below the ground at near freezing temperatures during summer months. Rabbit was amazed by such a clever use of natural resources and windpower.
He concluded his visit with a refrshing stroll around the traditional washrooms located within Markar complex. He admired their simple, yet practical, design and he liked the blue mosaics. He also had an opportunity to cool down a little as the temperature inside was very comfortable.
Leo's Rabbit enjoyed his visit to Markar Museum of Zoroastrian culture and religion, and he would recommend it without hesitation. Learning about the Persian traditions, simple ways of living, hard work and demanding daily activities of people of Yazd made him realise how privileged he is to have access to all the advances of modern civilisation. He felt very grateful for his little life in a small town of Leamington Spa.
While wandering around the streets of Yazd, Rabbit encountered an elegant 20th-century mansion of interesting architecture, a mixture of European and Iranian styles. He learned that the building, dating from the 1940s, now houses a small Mirror & Lighting Museum that celebrates the wonder of reflection. Our curious Rabbit immediately decided to visit, so he purchased his ticket and hopped inside.
He loved beautiful interiors with a superb plasterwork, tasteful mosaics, stunning decorations, paintings and large, impressive, finely handcrafted stained glass windows. The magnificently decorated Basin Room especially delighted him.
Apart from a vast collection of unique hand-made mirrors, that used to belong to the royalty of various empires, the other treasures on display include lanterns, oil burners, weapons, coins, hand written scriptures, books, a collection of matches from around the world, and some ancient artefacts recovered from smugglers.
Seeing so many beautifully crafted items was a real feast for Rabbit's eyes and aesthetic senses. Strolling through the different areas of this stunning mansion left him wondering about the mysterious and luxurious lives that were lived there once.
Bedridden Rabbit decided to brighten up his day and indulge in reading a novel. He chose 'The Winner Stands Alone' by Paulo Coelho, one of the authors he certainly appreciates. This time however he wasn't impressed with Mr Coelho's writings. On the contrary, he was disappointed.
He grew to admire the author for the engaging narratives of his philosophical, straightforward and insightful books that often carry spiritual lessons, are inspiring and life-changing. This one however couldn’t be more different. It is a fiction mystery with a plot that, to be frank, bored our little Rabbit to the point of dozing off several times during the read.
In a nutshell, it is a story of a Russian telecom billionaire Igor, who is obsessively in love with his ex-wife Ewa and wants her back in his life. He travels to the glamorous Cannes Film Festival, where Ewa is expected to appear with her new husband Hamid, a successful fashion designer. Igor believes that his love for his ex-wife is superior to everything on this earth and worth every sacrifice. He sets of on 'destroying worlds' (killing innocent people) in the name of that love. Rabbit was puzzled by the idea; he couldn’t comprehend how killing innocent people, was supposed to help Igor to get his wife back?
Rabbit not only didn't like the plot, but he also thought that the author introduced too many pointless characters that crossed Igor’s path and didn’t add any value to the story.
The action is set up in a glamorous world of fashion and movie industries, so called world of ‘the Superclass’, with an intention to satirise the amorality and pursuit of celebrity in modern society. It certainly makes few points. Rabbit gets it. Running after fame and money rarely brings happiness or satisfaction, and if you are not at peace with who you are and what you have now, then it’s likely that you won't be happy after getting what you currently desire either, you will always want more. It’s not a revelation however; even a small-town Rabbit with a little brain felt like the author is insulting his intelligence with many stereotypical messages and endlessly repeated clichés.
The book touches on the numerous social and economical issues, including economic inequality, violence, crime, money laundering, blood diamonds, manipulations, artificial world of glamour, luxury and success, plastic surgeries - too many and too scattered for the Rabbit to get his head around them.
The novel was dark, disturbing and depressing, and our Rabbit found himself increasingly frustrated with the story. He skipped quite a few pages and barely managed to struggle with it to the end; ‘very dull and very predictable end’, thought Rabbit.
All in all, Rabbit is sorry to say that he not only did not enjoy the book, but he found it deeply unsatisfying and disappointing. Unlike the other works of Paulo Coelho, ‘The Winner Stands Alone’ does not convey anything he could use for his personal growth and improvement. He won’t recommend this novel to his fellow rabbits, nor any other creatures.
Today Leo’s Rabbit visited Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and explored expressive, colourful work and eventful life of Vincent Van Gogh. Throughout the exhibition Rabbit followed in the footsteps (pawsteps) of an artist who was intent on improving himself and deeply engaged in the artistic developments of his day. He was an artist who above all strove to create a new kind of art. Rabbit thought that, indeed, he had succeeded in that quest, but as for the beauty of his art...? Rabbit is not quite sure...
He viewed Van Gogh’s artworks on display with mixed feelings. He certainly wasn't impressed with the artist's early efforts, especially some of the portraits. He thought that they expose lack of experience and technique. In some of the paintings, he noticed disfigured faces with big, unnatural noses. A lot of the other artworks looked to him like a kind that a secondary school student (or even a rabbit) would have painted. He wasn't also keen on bold colours, vigorous swirly brushwork and objects being often outlined with thick black lines. All in all, our ignorant small-town Rabbit didn't appreciate the works of Van Gogh, one of history's greatest artist. Well, what one small Rabbit knows about art anyway?
He felt however a huge admiration and respect for Van Gogh for his continuous quest to improve himself, his wide experiments with various styles and his persistence and perseverance in finding his own unique identity as an artist. Van Gogh found his true calling as an artist at the age of 27. Without knowing whether he had any real talent, he set to work with unbridled drive and great determination. He thought himself the rudiments of the craft by studying the art of others. He worked furiously and in his short life, he produced over 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings.
Rabbit also liked the fact that Van Gogh was trying to find the beautiful and the magical in the every day, often choosing as the subjects of his studies ordinary, hard-working people. He focused on peasants' life and their honest and humble existence in the face of encroaching industrialisation. His paintings also convey his love for the nature, that Rabbit certainly shares with the artist. He really appreciated a series of paintings of Orchards in Blossom, but wasn't that kin on a famous Vase of Irisis painting.
Rabbit was saddened to learn about Van Gogh's struggles with mental illness that eventually led him to his suicide at age of 37. The first in a series of artist's mental breakdowns occurred couple of years prior to his death when his friend, Paul Gauguin, came to visit him in Arles. Their personalities clashed, and after a quarrel, Gauguin left the house. He later claimed that Van Gogh had pursued him and threatened him with a razor. After returning home, in a state of a total confusion, Van Gogh cut off his left ear. Rabbit held his ears tight listening to this terrifying story.
In spite of his mental illness, often accompanied by anxiety and hallucinations, Van Gogh did show a tremendous appetite for work and he produced hundreds of paintings in his final months. Was his creativity driven by his mental illness? Who knows...?
The painting thought to be Van Gogh's last, found unfinished in his study, is the one of Tree Roots. At first sight Rabbit thought it is a jumble of bright colours and fanciful abstract forms, but after a closer look he realised that, indeed, it shows a slope with tree trunks and roots.
Our small-town Rabbit was grateful for the opportunity to explore Van Gogh's artworks and he enjoyed his visit to the museum. He did not, however, develop admiration for artist's style and use of colours, and to the terror of numerous art experts, who proclaim Van Gogh as one of the greatest artists of all times and a forerunner of the expressionist movement in 20th-century art, Rabbit could not understand popularity of the artist.
Today Leo's Rabbit enjoyed a short ride on Angel's Flight Railway between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill in Downtown LA. Built in 1901 by colonel J.W. Eddy, lawyer, engineer and friend of president Lincoln, Angel’s Flight is said to be the world’s shortest railway - just perfect for a small Rabbit! It is estimated that Angel’s Flight has carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first fifty years.
Rabbit travelled up the steep slope with one of the two funicular cars (Olivet or Sina), running in opposite directions on a 298 feet long shared cable. It took about a minute to get to the top. As short as the ride was, it was an enjoyable experience. Rabbit was amazed by the railway's history - he has never travelled by a 117-years old car before :-)
Today Leo's Rabbit had a little escape from reality and spent a day in paradise... well, a paradise on earth... an idyllic Santa Catalina Island, one of California’s Channel Islands, located just 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles. At first Rabbit considered following paw-steps of his famous bunny friend, Brownie and intended to swim to the island across the sea from Long Beach. Unfortunately he 'forgot' his bikini, so given no choice, he abandoned the idea and hopped aboard a Catalina Express ferry. He did not regret his decision and enjoyed his one-hour boat ride. With his ears wide spread, flowing in the wind, fluffed up fur and watery eyes, he felt like Leonardo DiCaprio aboard Titanic. Thankfully his journey had a better ending and he arrived safely in the town of Avalon,
Catalina Island, with its blue skies and amazing coastal scenery, filled our little Rabbit with awe. While admiring spectacular views, he experienced an incredible sense of peace and an overwhelming joy. Slowly, a big smile brightened his face. He noticed many smiling, happy and relaxed faces around him, and thought that the locals found here an idyllic place to live. He learned that there are only two communities on the island; Avalon, with less than 4,000 residents, and Two Harbors, at the opposite end, with about 150 residents.
After visiting island's website, Rabbit discovered that although Catalina Island has been inhabited for at least 8,000 years, it was named in 1602, when on November 24, the eve of St. Catherine's Day, the ship of the a Spanish explorer, Sebastian Viscaino, sighted the island. In the early years Catalina was used by otter hunters, smugglers, and ranching, mining and military operations. Thankfully now, it is mainly a posh tourist destination, with many celebrities visiting.
Leo's Rabbit did not spot any famous film stars or celebrities (not that he would have recognised anyone other than Bugs Bunny ;-) ), but he read in a tour guide that Taylor Swift, Barbara Streisand, Nicolas Cage, Rob Lowe, Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry, recently visited the island. Catalina Island has been popular with celebrities since Hollywood's golden era. During the 1930s and 40s its close proximity to Los Angeles allowed stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Johnny Weissmuller and John Wayne to sail or cruise their boats in the open ocean and reach Avalon harbour in only hours. The restaurants and bars were alive at night with music, which wafted through crowded streets, abundant with people drinking and dancing. Thinking of one-time parties and glamour cheered little Rabbit even more, and he hopped happily along the very same streets that once witnessed it all.
Rabbit enjoyed a long stroll exploring the town of Avalon. He walked along the shoreline and watched the boats and yachts anchored in the port. The day was very sunny, so he popped in to Leo's Drugstore (Leo's Rabbit shops at Leo's store, simples ;-) ) and got himself a sunscreen before proceeding towards vibrant Descanso Beach, one of the last private beaches in California with public access. It hosts a sandy beach, sea side restaurant and bar, cabanas and chaise lounges, and beach time fun, with easy access to pristine waters, snorkeling, kayaking, the Catalina Climbing Wall, Snuba, and the Zip Line Eco Tour. Rabbit wasn't up for an active adventure and he enjoyed a relaxing time sunbathing on the beach.
From the beach he admired the island's iconic Casino building, a 12-story, circular structure built in 1929. He learned that, in fact, gambling has never been allowed here and Casino took its name from the Italian word for 'gathering place'. Well, he wouldn't like to gamble with his carrots anyway.
During his walk, Rabbit noticed that there are hardly any cars on the island, but instead many people walk, use bikes and golf carts. There is a 2,100-yard golf course on the island, but golf carts are used everywhere in the town as means of transportation. He was told, that it takes residents 14 years to get a permit to own a car! Rabbit thought that if he was a resident and he would have applied, his permission probably would have not arrived in his lifetime. Well... small island can be easily explored on paws, even small paws like his.
It took him 4 hours to hop around the entire island twice. He was hoping to see some interesting wildlife, especially a shy fox or a herd of bison that roam the hills. Unfortunately he wasn't at luck (well... or maybe he was) and did not come across a bison. Fourteen animals were brought to Catalina in 1924 by a film crew, which left them to fend for themselves after the movie was shot. Apparently, the island was used for filming of hundreds of movies and assorted TV shows, documentaries and commercials. The film industry discovered it in the 1930s and it became Hollywood's back lot, portraying places as diverse as Tahiti, North Africa, the American frontier and the home of that famous mechanical shark, Jaws. Leo's Rabbit felt a bit uneasy anticipating a possible shark attack. For a while he watched the waters from the pier, and eventually he rested re-assured that there are no predators around. Besides, none of the people who were fishing there caught a shark - 'that's a definite proof', thought Rabbit.
To make his day in paradise even sweeter, Leo's Rabbit popped in to Lloyd's of Avalon Confectionery for a little treat. The candy shop, opened by Mr and Mrs Alfred Butts in 1938 and named in honour of their son Lloyd who fought in World War II, has been Catalina's tradition for over 75 years. He learned that at the age of 15 Marilyn Monroe lived on the island for a year and she was known to visit Lloyd's for treats. Rabbit was spoilt for choices - world renowned salt water taffy, 16 special flavours of fantastic candied apples, 26 flavours of ice cream, perfect peanut brittle, creamy fudge and scrumptious hand made chocolates, colourful jellybeans, fudge... endless possibilities. Rabbit finally settled for a tasty ice cream in a freshly baked waffle cone, and he wasn't disappointed. He wolfed the big portion in a matter of minutes.
After a lazy day in paradise, well rested, happy, relaxed Rabbit with full tummy, boarded a ferry back to Long Beach. He had an amazing day on the island and was enchanted by the quaint town of Avalon. He would recommend the trip to anyone who needs a little escape from reality.
Leo’s Rabbit wishes all the Iranians around the world a very Happy New Year! Yes... that's right, Persian New Year (Nowruz) is actually celebrated today, right at the beginning of Spring. This tradition originates from Zoroastrianism, the oldest of the great world religions, founded in 6th century BC by Zoroaster, the first prophet in the world who promulgated monotheism, with one, universal, transcendent, supreme God, the source of generosity, kindness and benefice. If by any chance you are one of the two people following our Rabbit :-), you may remember his previous post about this ancient Persian religion and the key ethical principles of Zoroastrianism - ‘Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds’. Rabbit decided to pursue these values in his little life, in hope to become a better Rabbit. How is he doing? Well... it's not for me to answer, I guess (Crazy Rabbit Lady wouldn't be impartial), so I'll leave the judgement to you :-)
We (read 'I' ;-) ) drifted a bit away from the subject, so let's come back to Leo's Rabbit and his activities today. Following Nowruz tradition, he prepared his haft-seen, a display of seven items that symbolise different hopes for the new year. His colourful basket contained the following items (and hopes):
Rabbit has a lot of hopes for the New Year and he will do his utmost to follow his dreams, better himself and inspire those around him. Without hope he would probably find it impossible to get out of bed in the morning. It is hope that gives him the inspiration to never give up, and in his small way, make the world a better place.
Small Rabbit with the basket full of hopes begins a New Year :-)
Hopping happily in downtown LA, Leo's Rabbit came across one spectacular building of unusual architecture and somehow 'musical' shape. He quickly learned that it is indeed a 'musical' building; it houses Los Angeles Philharmonic and it's otherwise known as Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The building was designed by Frank Gehry, a word-class award-winning architect (even our small-town Rabbit is familiar with some of his works, including the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Spain and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris). With its flowing lines and a post-structuralist contemporary aesthetic, Walt Disney Concert Hall challenges accepted design paradigms of architecture and resembles undulating free-form sculpture. In his little head, Rabbit could almost hear the music..
He wandered around the building and its beautiful roof-top garden that is open to the public. He enjoyed the fusion of the beautifully curved stainless steel with the purity of nature. In the heart of the garden, he encountered an unusual flower-shaped fountain constructed from broken pieces of Delft China. He learned that it is called 'A Rose for Lilly', and it is a tribute to Lillian Disney, who provided the initial donation of $50 million towards the construction of the Philharmonic. 'Very expensive, yet incredibly charming and unique fountain', thought Rabbit.
Taking advantage of the warm weather, Leo's Rabbit decided to spent a day out in Santa Monica. (If you've been following this blog, you may remember one handsome Beach Bunny who shared his experience from his visit to Santa Monica last year.) After he arrived early morning, he straight away rented a bike and headed down to the iconic Santa Monica Pier. He had a delightful stroll around the pier and enjoyed its energising and vibratious atmosphere, combined with the stunning ocean views. He listened to the live music performed by few keen buskers and watched colourful crowd of various interesting human 'species' (unfortunately he hasn't seen any other rabbits there). Finally, invigorated and happy, he proceeded to Marvin Braude Beach Trail (known to locals as 'The Strand'), the paved bike path that runs along the ocean.
He was impressed by a good number of cyclists and roller-bladers using the path. He felt sheer joy riding his blue bike and sharing the trail with so many happy humans. Beautiful scenery, gorgeous sunshine, sound of the waves crash against the shore, interesting and jolly people... all brought a big smile to little Rabbit's face.
He noticed that people in California wear a very different cycling gear than his British friends, and he found it much more appealing. Hmm... maybe he will start a new trend after his return to the UK :-)
Rabbit pedalled all the way to Pacific Palisades Loop, and then back to Santa Monica, Venice and Marina del Rey. He enjoyed spectacular views along the way and loved the vibrant, intense, vivacious atmosphere. He felt like riding through the field full of carrots - pure joy for a rabbit :-)
Leo's Rabbit stopped at the Muscle Beach, located on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier, to watch acrobats and fitness enthusiasts practice their acts. The open-air collection of rings and bars, and other properly retro apparatus seemed very popular, with impressive number of talented people using the equipment. Rabbit learned that the Original Muscle Beach was established in the early 1930s and quickly morphed from a few tumbling mats and gymnastic bars to the epicenter of the 20th century’s growing fitness movement. Rabbit felt his muscles grow, just from watching the athletes (well... that's what he felt anyway ;-) ).
Another stop made by Rabbit was at the Venice Skatepark, the only skatepark in the world located on a beach. With its big smooth bowls, a snake run, street art and the ocean as the back drop, it couldn't be cooler or more California like. Rabbit was pleasantly surprised by the large crowd gathered around to watch, and he felt the excitement and electricity in the air. Although he is not a skater himself, he admires and appreciates the art of skateboarding and he was very impress by what he saw. He watched few incredible skaters 'fly' through the air and effortlessly perform tricks. He was lucky to see some really amazing stunts that made him wonder, if gravity really exists...?
Leo's Rabbit had an amazing day (or as they would say in the USA 'awesome' day) filled with new experiences and excitement. He enjoyed his scenic bike ride, and although after 5 hours of cycling his little paws were a bit tired, he felt very happy with himself. He would highly recommend Santa Monica beach cycling experience to any human (or a rabbit) :-)
Leo's Rabbit likes looking at the beautiful pictures, sculptures, posters and art in general, so today he decided to visit The Broad, a contemporary art museum in the heart of Los Angeles. He was pleasantly surprised to find out that the entry is free (he didn't have to spend his carrots :-)), however advance booking was required, so he secured his entry couple of days in advance.
On his arrival, Rabbit was very impressed by the architecture of The Broad. He read that the museum was designed by world-renowned architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in collaboration with Gensler. Although they are not a firm of famous rabbits and their names didn't sound familiar to our small-town Rabbit, he thought that they did an excellent job. The building design is based on a concept entitled 'the veil and the vault'. 'The veil' is a porous envelope that wraps the whole building, filtering and transmitting daylight to the indoor space. 'The vault' is a concrete body which forms the core of the building, dedicated to artworks storage, laboratories, curatorial spaces and offices. The 'veil' is made of 2,500 fiberglass-reiforced concrete panels and 650 tons of steel. 36 million pounds of concrete make up the 'vault'. The vault walls are made of Venetian plaster. Leo's Rabbit would not hesitate to call this impressive building an architectural masterpiece. If you don't trust Rabbit's judgement (well... I wouldn't be surprised), have a look yourself :-)
Leo's Rabbit entered the building with excitement and anticipation, eager to see one of the most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art worldwide with over 2,000 works of art homed at The Broad. The first artwork he encountered was a massive eighty-foot-long painting by Takashi Murakami from Japan titled ‘In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow'; a bit scary title, but a colourful and busy theme. For a very small Rabbit, just the size of the artwork was impressive, but he also liked the details and an interesting pop art style of the painting. He didn't understand the artistic concept however and only by reading the description, he learned that this artwork reflects on the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.
Rabbit hopped around the museum (he enjoyed beautifully polished and shiny floors - sheer joy for his paws :-) ) - he admired some of the beautiful examples of the artwork on display and was pleased to look at them, but he also found many others too complex (or too simple) for his taste. He couldn't comprehend why, for instance, a very basic painting containing two coloured rectangles found its way to the famous gallery? He enquired about Ellsworth Kelly, the author of the 'Blue Red' painting that puzzled Leo's Rabbit, and he was told that 'bold and contrasting colours free of gestural brushstrokes or recognisable imagery, encourage a kind of silent encounter, or bodily participation by the viewer with the artwork'. Hmm... that explanation left our little Rabbit even more confused.
He couldn't neither understand why so many people are fascinated by Andy Warhol's paintings and are willing to pay millions of dollars for his artworks. Yes, Rabbit appreciates Mr Warhol's creativity bringing the imagery and techniques of mass commercialism into fine arts and his contribution to the birth of a new visual art movement, pop art, but are the paintings pleasant to look at? Leo's Rabbit stood in front of the famous 'Campbell's Soup Cans' painting and wondered if he would enjoy having this painting in his house. Well, his sincere answer would be 'not really'. If he was American, he would have rather preferred a painting titled Flag by Jasper Johns. But as for a British Rabbit, that wouldn't be right neither.
Rabbit was intrigued by an enormous painting by a British artist, Jenny Saville showing, in an unflinching manner, a body of an obese lady who seems to be self-consciously sizing herself. He felt a bit sorry for her (a long carrot diet ahead of her...), a bit taken aback, scared and intimidated by her size. He compared her with the ideal humans presented in the images of mass media and she just did not fit in. Or did she? He left a bit confused wondering for himself about all the conventions and norms imposed on us by the society and mass media; how deeply they are embedded in our minds...
Leo's Rabbit spent couple of hours wandering around the museum and came across many other interesting paintings. He liked 'Red Room' by Keith Haring showing a woman at leisure, leaning back and relaxing. The scene is not presented however in a calm or relaxing manner, but instead linear dark shapes and contrasting bright red colour made our little Rabbit feel energetic and somehow unsettled. 'Very curious', thought Rabbit.
An expressive poster by Barbara Kruger entitled 'Your Body is a Battleground' caught Rabbit's eye. He learned that this artwork was created for the Women’s March on Washington in support of reproductive freedom. The woman’s face, disembodied, split in positive and negative exposures, and obscured by text, marks a stark divide. He liked this image - an art and a protest in the same time.
The 'Untitled' painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat showing the skull scared little Rabbit. He was told that this is an autobiographical self-portrait of the artist. Well, he certainly wouldn't like to come across the author, so he fearfully looked over his shoulder and quickly proceeded to the next exhibit.
The highlight of Rabbit's day at The Broad came at the end when he visited an amazing installation created by Yayoi Kusama called Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years. It was literally a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display. It was different from anything he ever seen before and even better than the whole field of cabbage. Our small-town Rabbit was very impressed and the view almost took his breath away. He stood still on the little island on the water with his ears up and his eyes wide open, and wherever he looked, he could see himself from different angles in endless mirrors in the sea of tiny dazzling lights.
He learned that since the 1960s, Yayoi Kusama has been creating Infinity Mirrored Rooms that provoke a sense of boundlessness and transcendence through extreme repetition. Kusama’s work is an expression of her life, providing insight into the many social and political contexts of her long career. Through her artwork, Kusama, a self-proclaimed ‘obsessional artist’, offers an unusual glimpse into the workings of a mind that is seldom quiet. The strength and appeal of her work goes beyond stylistic design; Kusama confronts the immensity of reality by searching at once for infinitude and oblivion. She is a very versatile artist. Her multidisciplinary art includes painting, performance, installation, writing, film, fashion, design, and architectural interventions. Moving between modes of working, Kusama has escaped associations to specific art movements, and instead she has developed her own unique path. Rabbit certainly enjoyed exploring that path :-)
All in all, Leo's Rabbit was pleased with his visit to The Broad and he found many paintings and artwork interesting and pleasing to his eyes. In numerous cases however, he did not understand the artistic concept and even did not like some highly regarded artwork. Hmm... he would not put it on display in his house or even tool shed. He thought that all this contemporary art often is about coming up with a very clever interpretation for not so pretty artwork and making a viewer believe that there is a deeper meaning to it. And then there is a bunch of snobs (rabbits and people) who don't really see any deeper meaning, but because they want to be cool, contemporary, arty and all of that, they pretend that they understand the artistic concept presented. Well... that's just a view of one well grounded Rabbit.
After enjoying a lot of delicious street food, Leo’s Rabbit was ready for Iranian fine dinning and he chose to experience it at the beautiful 4-star Dad Hotel located in the centre of an ancient city of Yazd. This stately Moorish building with a brick façade dates back to 1928 when it was founded by Haj Abdolkhaalegh Dad and for over 80 years served as inn and transportation establishment. It was fully renovated and re-opened as a hotel in 2007. Now it is regarded as the best hotel in the city.
The 54 of its spacious rooms are set around a grand central courtyard with a lovely garden in the middle. Rabbit enjoyed the spectacular view from the top of the stairs overlooking the courtyard.
The restaurant was pristine and the food, served by very polite and friendly staff, excellent. As you already know (that is, if you are one of the two regular readers of Rabbit’s blog ;-) ), our small Rabbit has a big appetite so he had three-course meal for two and left very content and satisfied. He didn’t spend all his carrot money as his massive meal was only about £20!
Leo's Rabbit 'lives' in my handbag and he travels with us everywhere we go. He has pictures taken at various locations, tourist attractions and places we visit. As a part of this blog we will describe Leo's Rabbit Travels to share our personal experiences from these visits. Hopefully couple of people (apart from us :-) ) will find it interesting and may even feel encouraged to visit one of Rabbit's destinations.