Last afternoon Leo’s Rabbit embarked on a journey through the beautiful British countryside. As his destination he chose Lower Slaughter, a small village in the Cotswold district. The name of the village derives from the Old English word 'slothre' meaning 'muddy place', but he did not see much wetland and boggy ground in this charming place. He wandered around the enchanting narrow streets admiring honey-coloured stone architecture and quaint little cottages with mullioned windows.
Walking along the river Eye and hopping through few small stone footbridges, Rabbit reached a 19th-century water mill with an undershot waterwheel and a chimney. He explored a small museum in the mill and a wonderful gift and craft shop in the rear of the property where he purchased a perfect pair of handmade leather boots fit for his paws.
Rabbit proceeded next to the Church of St Mary the Virgin, an impressive stone building with stained glass windows and well kept graveyard.
A visit to the Slaughters Manor House, a magnificent 17th Century mansion surrounded by five acres of glorious landscape gardens was the cherry on the cake (or rather an extra carrot on the carrot cake for a rabbit). The house looked incredible from the outside, so the Rabbit decided to pop in for a coffee. He was greeted by a well-suited and attentive British Gentelman who very politely ushered him to the sophisticated bar area. Rabbit had a good look around and although he loved the combination of stunning contemporary interiors with country charm, fine antique decorations and roaring fires, the place felt a bit too posh for our small-town Rabbit, so he decided to take a stroll outside instead.
He enjoyed his little trip to the British countryside and was enchanted by a quaint and friendly village of Lower Slaughter. He felt lucky and proud to live in such a beautiful and fascinating country with its rich history and nature.
A day out at the Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas market filled Leo’s Rabbit with the festive cheer. He enjoyed live music from a number of street performers, admired a vast selection of traditional handmade goods and tried some delicious German food and gluhwine.
Today one little Rabbit celebrated Leo’s third birthday by completing a beautiful 14K Winwick Circular hike. He was accompanied by MamaMus and her lovely friend Kinga who gave MamaMus much needed support (PapaMus had to travel abroad and was not able to join them).
A delightful walk led our Rabbit through the beautiful British countryside. He enjoyed an easy stretch along a little-used and unspoiled section of the Grand Union Canal, the charming village of Winwick, a wildness of surrounding wheat fields and rural paths, and stunning panoramic views from Honey Hill.
Standing on the top of the hill, with the cold breeze running through his fur, he contemplated the undeniable beauty of the nature and felt refreshed, empowered and somehow healed. In that moment of awe he experienced a sensation of being closer to the clouds, closer to Leo. With wonder and gratitude filling his little heart, the Rabbit sent his message to Leo via helium balloon post. A gentle wind carried the balloons up to the sky. Rabbit watched them for a while until they completely disappeared from his view. He gathered that they must have gone straight to heaven.
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.
This morning Leo's Rabbit woke up to a beautiful winter landscape. We haven't had that much snow in Leamington Spa for ages, certainly not in the Rabbit's lifetime. BBC News reported that an amber weather warning has been issued across large parts of the country. The deepest snowfall has been in Sennybridge, near Brecon in Wales, where up to 30cm (12in) of snow has been recorded. In the Midlands, roads and many motorways are covered in snow and although it will cause a lot of inconvenience for commuters and travellers, it's indisputably a beautiful landscape, especially if you are sitting at home by the fireplace eating a carrot cake and don't have to go anywhere. And that's exactly what Leo's Rabbit is doing this Sunday afternoon.
The world covered with a white, fluffy 'blanket' of fresh snow somehow appears more peaceful, calmer and more beautiful. When the Rabbit looks out of the window, it is as if he is looking at a beautiful painting. Everything is so different and magical. A typical grey, dark and unattractive winter day brightens up. Our Rabbit never have seen snow before, so he is fascinated by its enchanting effect on the world. After a short walk outside, he is sitting by the window and watching snowflakes gently fall from the sky. Let's all chill, slow down a bit and enjoy the change of scenery, like the Rabbit does :-)
Leo's Rabbit just graduated from Oxford ;-) Well... not really, but he would have if only Oxford University was accepting rabbits. Unfortunately they don't and certainly it's a shame as our Rabbit is a very clever one and, like many Oxford graduates, he could become a famous politician or maybe even a Prime Minister. Hmm... thinking of that... not such a bad idea...? ;-) Rabbit for Prime Minister! I dare to say that he would probably serve Her Majesty better than some of our politicians ;-) But I am going too far with this digression; it's a travel blog after all so I will stay away from politics. Back to Oxford then.
So why Leo's Rabbit chose Oxford as his destination? The answer is pretty simple - it's a magnificent city! It was a real feast for Rabbit's eyes just to walk along the cobbled streets and narrow passageways surrounded by the splendid historical buildings of every English architectural period dating from the Saxon times. The immense history and the majestic architecture of the city impressed our little Rabbit - his mouth dropped open in amusement and his ears stood straight up. And although he is not very found of heights, he bravely claimed on the top of St Mary's Church tower to have a greater view over the city. The view was definitely worth the climb. As Rabbit himself cannot find the right words to describe its beauty (let's don't forget that he was left mouth open in amusement), he will use the words of Mr Matthew Arnold, a poet, who captured Oxford with his famous evocative expression: 'that sweet city with her dreaming spires'.
The stunning buildings described by the poet house the oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Oxford. It's a very prestigious university; apparently world's number one, according to The Times Higher Education World University Rankings. There are approximately 9 applicants for every place available - quite a competition indeed!
Oxford University is made up of 38 colleges and six permanent private halls. The elegant honey-toned buildings of the colleges are scattered throughout the city, and it wouldn't be possible to visit them all in one day or even a week (not only for a small Rabbit but also for a significantly larger human like you - I hope I am right to assume that the majority of my readers - all 5 of them, including family members ;-) - are humans rather than rabbits). On his day trip to Oxford Leo's Rabbit decided to explore just one college and he chose the largest of them all - Christ Church College & Cathedral.
Christ Church has a vibrant history (it was founded nearly five hundred years ago - that's about 100 generations of healthy rabbits!), rich culture and magnificent buildings. Leo's Rabbit entered the college through the Meadow Building.
This beautiful building in the Venetian Gothic style was built to provide undergraduates in the nineteenth century with more and better housing. The rooms are still used by students and staff, and overlook Christ Church Meadow, a tranquil area of pasture and tree-lined paths bordered by the rivers Cherwell and Thames.
Next Rabbit proceeded to the Great Hall via the magnificent staircase. He admired the broad flights, the beautiful fan-vaulted ceiling and tall mullion windows illuminating his route.
The staircase have been used in a number of films including The Golden Compass and Harry Potter. Professor McGonagall welcomed Harry and his classmates to Hogwarts at the top of the Hall stairs (that's exactly where the Rabbit stood today!).
After climbing the staircase Rabbit found himself in the Great Hall - the incredible pre-Victorian hall, where the academic community congregates to dine each day and banquets are held on special occasion. The hall seats up to 300 people - our small Rabbit felt even smaller in this great room. He looked up at the magnificent 'hammerbeam' ceiling and the walls covered with portraits of many famous members of Christ Church. Over the years, numerous luminaries have been educated here including Albert Einstein, philosopher John Locke, poet WH Auden, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll; the author of Alice in Wonderland), and no fewer than 13 British prime ministers. Leo's Rabbit felt overwhelmed by the immense history of the hall. As a Harry Potter fan he also knew that the Great Hall inspired the appearance of Hogwart's Hall and was recreated in a studio for filming.
Passing back down the Hall staircase, Rabbit emerged into the Great Quadrangle, the largest quad in Oxford and from there he entered the Cathedral. He was impressed with the beautiful Victorian glass window showing the Archangel Michael leading his army of angels to defeat the devil. Rabbit imagined himself leading an army of rabbits and instantly felt bigger and braver :-)
He visited all the cathedral's chapels and lit a candle.
After his walk around the college one very tired Rabbit headed for a lunch (don't forget that Christ Church is the largest of all the Oxford colleges - big challenge for a small Rabbit). On the way to the pub he stopped briefly by the Radcliffe Camera (in this case 'camera' actually means 'room' from Latin), a stunning light-filled circular, columned library and reading room built between 1737 and 1749 in neo-classical style. It's a truly beautiful building and an iconic landmark of the city.
As it would be expected from a very British rabbit, Leo's Rabbit had fish and chips for lunch. With his tummy full (if you think that the portion of food appears larger than Rabbit himself, you are not mistaken - this Rabbit can eat!), he enjoyed a walk along the canal and then visited the Covert Market, a unique shopping place showcasing the very best in local crafts, food and drink - gifts, shoes, fashion, flowers and jewellery - all under one roof.
Leo's Rabbit enjoyed his day in the magnificent City of Oxford. It's not only a city with a rich heritage but also a vibrant, cosmopolitan metropolis, 'certainly worth visiting' - says Rabbit.
Today Leo's Rabbit enjoyed a spa day at Chesford Grange Hotel set in beautiful grounds on the edge of the River Avon in a charming town of Kenilworth. He was granted an access to all the leisure facilities at this historic four-star hotel. He spent couple of hours in the gym, then had a relaxing time by the pool and simmered in the steam room (it's apparently a great way to keep your fur healthy - that is if you are a furry creature).
The best part of Rabbit's spa experience however was his lunch - cappuccino with Danish pastry. All the zoologists and other animal experts will probably shout in protest that the main part of a rabbit's diet should be fresh hay, grass, fruits, vegetables and plenty of clean water, not a cappuccino and pastry. Keep your hair on! You are right, we know that too. Please don't forget however that Leo's Rabbit is not an ordinary rabbit at all. Well, he thinks (and as you probably gathered by now - so do we :-) ) that he is more of a human than a rabbit and he enjoys the same comfort food as we do. As you can see by the size of his meal, he may be a small Rabbit, but a small Rabbit with a big appetite.
Leo's Rabbit was 'born' in London (he is a proper British - he loves his afternoon tea, fish & chips and the Royal Family - well... probably in this exact order ;-) ). He lives with MamaMus and PapaMus in a small but charming town in West Midlands - Royal Leamington Spa. Yes, you've heard it right - 'Royal'. Not that Rabbit is a royalty himself, but he certainly wouldn't mind to be associated with the world 'royal'.
As a small town Rabbit he is very proud of his beloved town and its kind and friendly people. And there are approximately 50,000 of them living in Leamington Spa. As for the population of rabbits...? I don't know and I would be very interested to hear from anyone who have counted them all.
The town itself may be small but certainly it is an elegant and fashionable one. With its Georgian and Victorian architecture, well maintained parks and beautiful gardens, trendy shops, restaurants and colourful night life it attracts many visitors. It's apparently often described as 'the best bits of London, all in ten-minute walk' - perfect for a small Rabbit indeed!
Leamington Spa originated from a tiny village called Leamington Priors. The village rich in mineral springs began making use of its saline waters in 1784 and in 1814 the Royal Pump Rooms and Baths were opened and attracted many visitors, expecting cures by bathing in pools of salty spa water. With the spread of the town's popularity, and the granting of a 'Royal' prefix in 1838 by Queen Victoria, 'Leamington Priors' was renamed 'Royal Leamington Spa'.
As you may probably suspect our Rabbit wouldn't be very found of saline treatments. He did however visit Royal Pump Rooms and didn't even have to get his paws wet as nowadays the building houses Leamington public library and Spa Art Gallery & Museum. In there you can find out more about the history of the Pump Rooms and see some medical equipment used for hydrotherapy and physiotherapy treatments.
Rabbit very cautiously passed by the Leamington Town Hall located on the main street, The Parade. He just sneaked in by it, hiding behind his big ice-cream. You may be wondering about the extra preconscious taken by Rabbit, but if you were a rabbit, you would have probably done the same. Apparently as a part of a Warwickshire Wildlife Trust project a falcon nesting box was placed at the top of the Town Hall tower, so one can expect some falcons flying around and that's certainly not a good news for a rabbit. You can watch a live feed from the nest here.
Leo's Rabbit enjoyed his stroll through the beautiful town of Leamington. He shopped a bit (wait for that credit card bill for all the carrots!), had a cup of cappuccino and then headed to the riverside Jephson Gardens for a bit of rest. What a perfect place to spend a summer afternoon - well maintained compact garden with the flowers in bloom, lovely picnic spots, a duck pond, coffee shop, sensory garden, glass house with exotic plants, boat centre and kids play area - all in one place.
Still there is more to Leamington Spa - lovely, green, family friendly areas (Victoria Park, Newbold Comyn Park & Golf Course, Mill Gardens), cultural venues (Royal Spa Centre, Loft Theatre, Apollo Cinema), leisure centres, numerous restaurants, high street retailers and quirky independent shops. This town has it all :-)
Leamington Spa has its own lovely website where you can find out more about everything what the town has to offer, including any upcoming events.
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.