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 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.
‘The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.’
Leo’s Rabbit just finished reading Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. He read it for the first time few years ago, but this is one of those books that inspire and energise him, so he likes coming back to it again, and again. He regards it an astounding masterpiece with an incisive, honest and beautifully told story, and the best book he has ever read so far (although he is just a little Rabbit, he is a big reader and he went through a lot of books in his lifetime).
Isaacson’s book is a biography of Steve Jobs, a co-founder of Apple, a complicated, obsessive, charming, peculiar personality, and a passionate visionary whose dream was to ‘put a dent in the universe’. And he did.
The book is written with a great attention to detail and offers an unbiased portrait of a flawed genius. Jobs could be charming and lovable, but also crude, unforgiving, hurtful and maddening. His out-sized personality was captured by the author with a brutal honesty. It’s certainly not one of these ‘sugar-coated’ tales about a successful entrepreneur. It’s an intelligent and captivating story of a complicated man who wasn’t perfect; a man driven by his desire and passion to create ‘insanely great products’ that make life more magical. And the magic happened for Rabbit, so it did for billions of Apple, Mac, iPod, iPad, iPhone, iTunes, App Store and iCloud users.
Leo’s Rabbit bought his first MacBook Pro just over 10 years ago and he never looked back. He loves the feel, quality and simplicity of beautifully crafted Apple products and he is willing to pay a premium price to be part of Apple culture that embraces creativity, diversity and thinking ‘outside the box’.
Apple’s clear core values present in company’s every action and communication, integrity and emotional appeal made it undeniably one of the strongest and most admired brands in the world. In his book Isaacson offers a compelling study of Apple’s success and an inspiring business account of the events leading to it.
Even if you are not an Apple fan and you have no interest in Steve Jobs’ life, the book is still worth reading as it’s also a fascinating and richly entertaining history of the most exciting time in the information age and the birth of our modern digital world.
All in all, this is an outstanding book and Rabbit cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s an epic biography and superbly told history of digital age. ‘Essential reading, better than a million carrots’, says Rabbit :-)
Today Leo’s Rabbit discovered a little treasure while wandering around the streets of Yazd. In the city centre, inside the Amir Chaghmagh Bazaar complex behind the mosque, he came across the lovely Oasis Art Gallery. It instantly caught his attention with its beautiful window display of handcrafted pottery and ceramics. He was further drawn to the shop when he noticed few cats lounging and playing around inside. Our Rabbit is a big feline lover, so he didn’t waste a minute and promptly entered the gallery. Straight away he was impressed by its well-designed interiors with tastefully arranged artwork. With high quality, beautiful pottery, ceramics, paintings, hand woven Persian rugs, carpets and kilims from modern and traditional Iranian artists, this classy collection was a real feast for Rabbit’s eyes. Friendly and helpful shop owners made our little Rabbit feel very welcomed. Although he didn’t make any purchase, he enjoyed looking at the artwork and his heart-warming encounter with the friendly residential cats. Gorgeous Art Gallery with a furry difference – real oasis for any rabbit (or human) in the desert city of Yazd on a very hot day.
After days of enjoying a variety of lovely Persian food, Leo's Rabbit felt a bit uneasy trying to fit in to his jeans. He first thought that the jeans must have shrunk somehow, but after trying on few different pairs, he had to face the truth and admit that he probably put some weight on. He immediately decided to go on a 'one carrot a day' diet (well... we’ll see how long he will be able to sustain the regime; considering his previous attempts, it will be a success if he lasts till the lunch-time :-)) and join a gym, so he embarked on a search for one.
The day in Yazd was piping hot, with temperature of 33°C and our little Rabbit got really tired and thirsty. He almost gave up his search for a gym, when in the city centre, he came across a water reservoir, an impressive 29m-heigh building dating from 1580, with elliptical roof crowned with five magnificent windcatchers (tower-like elements creating natural ventilation known also as badgirs). Rabbit has heard that many traditional water reservoirs built with windcatchers are capable of storing water at near freezing temperatures during summer months, so he quickly hopped towards the entrance to get some cold water. There was no water inside however, but he wasn't disappointed as today the building houses ‘Saheb A Zaman Club Zurkhaneh’, a traditional Iranian gymnasium for men (he assumed that male rabbits are also welcomed and he wasn’t mistaken). He suddenly felt invigorated – he found a gym and was ready for a workout!
Rabbit purchased a ticket (it costs 100,000 rials – sounds a lot, but in fact it’s only about £2) and entered the gym. He thought that the doorway was very low as he had to fold his ears to go through it. He was told that it has been made this way intentionally to force one who enters to bow his head in acknowledgement of a higher power. In the centre of a circular room, symbolic of the sun and unity, he saw a round exercise area (the Gowd) located below ground level (apparently to remind the practitioners of humility). He learned that Zurkhaneh is thousands of years old and has its roots in battle and warfare. These physical activities were supposed to make warriors out of ordinary men and not only prepare them for unarmed combat, but also develop their endurance, concentration, flexibility, and speed. Practitioners of the Zurkhaneh are expected to display a sense of duty for their country and community, be brave, humble, and of high ethical virtue and integrity. They should be Gentlemen (javan mard). Our little Rabbit certainly considers himself to be a Gentleman (GentleRabbit), so he was ready to start practising Zurkhaneh. He noticed a vast selection of wooden club bells, shields, chains and boards. He spotted a large painting on the wall, showing exercise techniques. He studied it carefully and planned his exercise routine. He smiled as he already imagined himself swinging around two large club bells, feeling powerful, strong and very masculine, like the strongest rabbit in the world. He vigorously hopped towards the weights and tried to lift one of the club bells. As you would probably expect (unlike our Rabbit, who views himself much stronger and bigger than he really is), he failed miserably.
After his failed attempt to use the gym equipment Leo’s Rabbit felt even more respect for the Gentlemen practising Zurkhaneh. He admired photographs of the old champions and watched men perform their exercises to the rhythmic beat of the drum (zarb) that helps the whirling individuals to reach almost religious heights of concentration.
Leo's Rabbit didn't manage to film the exercise session, but he can recommend a YouTube video by Piotr Teleon (below) showing the Zurkhaneh practitioners in Yazd.
Zurkhanehs Clubs are traditionally only for men, but the one in Yazd visited by Leo's Rabbit, is the only one in Iran that admits women (and rabbits) as spectators. It has workouts that are just over an hour at 6am, 6pm and 8pm.
Rabbit enjoyed his visit to Saheb A Zaman Club Zurkhaneh and although he didn't lose any weight nor was he able to follow the though exercise routine, he was fascinated by the unique traditional Iranian system of athletics. Although he often complains about having to exercise to keep in shape, today he felt grateful for his high-tech treadmill at his local gym, where he can even watch TV or browse the Internet while gently jogging. Tired just from watching Zurkhaneh exercise session, he ended up his visit to the gymnasium with a traditional Iranian coffee and sweets and decided to buy a bigger pair of jeans.
Today Leo’s Rabbit found himself in the city of Yazd in Iran, where he visited Zoroastrian Fire Temple and experienced an immense peace and tranquillity learning about Zoroastrianism, an amazing ancient religion of the Persian people.
The day was very hot, with the temperature of over 30°C, and Rabbit looking weary and scruffy with the sticky fur and sweaty paws, was pleasantly surprised when he found a bit of shadow in a large garden with pine and cypress trees surrounding the temple. He hopped happily towards the building, but suddenly stopped terrified when he approached the entrance with an eagle-like sign on the parapet of the roof. He was told however that there are no eagles around and the sign above the entrance, called Faravahar, symbolises Zoroastrianism with its basic tenets and principles of Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds.
Re-assured of his safety, Rabbit entered the building. The temple, built in 1934, peaceful and magnificent in its simplicity of design and what it represents, houses the sacred eternal flame, that has been continuously burning for over 1,500 years. The fire represents the spiritual flame within us, the divine fire of creation, and the undying ethical values: honesty, order, beneficence, fairness and justice. The fire is being looked after by a special responsible person (Fire Keeper), who feeds it several times a day with a piece of dry almond or apricot wood. Rabbit could not believe how it is possible to keep a fire going for that many years – it must have taken some 20 generations of humans (or 300 generations of healthy rabbits!). The flame, called ‘Victorious Fire’ (Atash Bahram), is the highest grade of consecrated fire used in Zoroastrian worship. Leo’s Rabbit learned that the fire originated from the flames of the Pars Karyan Fire temple in Larestan and ‘travelled’ to Aqda where it was kept burning for 700 years. In 1174 it was transferred to Ardakan, then to Yazd in 1474 and to its present site in 1940. Even after Arab conquest of Iran in 651, when most of the nation was forced to convert to Islam and became Muslims, Zoroastrianism continued to be part of Iranian culture and the very fact that the Zoroastrian sacred flame has been kept burning till now shows that the original and the true spirit of Persia is still alive. ‘Victorious Fire’ indeed – thought Rabbit!
The sacred fire is installed in the temple behind an amber tinted glass enclosure. Non-Zoroastrians can only view it from outside the glass chamber, but Rabbit, being closely related to PapaMus, who is a Zoroastrian himself, was allowed to go to the sanctum area of the fire. He cleaned his paws before entering (if you are a human, well... we would like to assume that you are – you will need to take your shoes off) and he wore a white hat when inside. He sat quietly staring at the fire and contemplating the history of ancient Persia and admiring the determination of the Zoroastrian people who kept their religion alive throughout the centuries, kept the flame of their faith burning. Watching this holy fire and listening to PapaMus read prayers from Avesta, sacred book of Zoroastrianism, provided our little Rabbit with an unforgettable spiritual experience and filled his little heart with peace and joy.
After visiting the fire, Leo's Rabbit proceeded towards the adjoining museum. It provided an introduction into the religion describing its main elements, general beliefs, rituals and its sacred book.
Rabbit learned that Zoroastrianism, often referred to as the oldest of the great world religions, was founded in 6th century BC by Zoroaster, the first prophet in the world who promulgated monotheism, with one, universal, transcendent, supreme God, Ahura Mazda (the Lord of Wisdom), the source of generosity, kindness and benefice.
Zoroaster’s followers believe in the ethical dualism, a co-existence of good and evil forces in the world. Human beings (and rabbits) are essentially divine and share the spiritual nature of God, they are all born pure, with a conscience and they are given free will to make a choice to follow either good or evil, each of which will bring its own consequences at death and will lead a soul either to the gates of heaven or to the pathway of hell. The prospects for the afterlife comforted our little Rabbit, who always strives to be kind, helpful and honest, and live his little life without harming other creatures. For a moment, he closed his eyes and imagined himself in the Rabbit Heaven, hopping in the fresh, juicy, green grass, with the warm sunshine gently touching his fur and looking over the endless carrot fields… Yes, that’s where he wants to go when his time comes! He promised himself to try even harder to be a good rabbit and follow the key ethical principles of Zoroastrianism - Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta, meaning ‘Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds’. He thought that the pursuit of those principles will not only guarantee him a place in the Rabbit Heaven, but also will bring immediate rewards in the form of better life on earth; more friends, love, food, security, health and harmony. Rabbit believes in Karma – if you a good rabbit, good things will happen to you.
Spiritually elevated and happy Rabbit proceeded to the small photo gallery within the museum, where he explored Zoroastrians’ daily life and rituals. He liked the fact that they, same way as rabbits, live in harmony with nature and they are very careful not to pollute and destroy the environment. They work preserving the purity of God’s divine creation and respect the four elements of nature: the earth, the air, the water and the fire. Ancient Zoroastrians developed elaborate techniques to avoid polluting the environment in a harmful manner. The household and community waste was disposed in impervious stone-lined pits where it degraded naturally through exposure to the sun (sometimes aided by lime juice) without polluting the surrounding land and water; settlements were constructed away from the banks of streams; the water to perform ablutions and clothes washing was draw off from rivers not to pollute fresh running water; the dead were never placed in the ground but were either put in stone tombs above ground level, or exposed to sunshine on the top of a hill (Towers of Silence) leaving only bones to disintegrate to a harmless powder.
Learning about the simple ways of living, hard work and demanding daily activities of the people of Yazd, made little Rabbit realise how privileged he is to have an access to all the advances of the modern civilisation. He felt grateful, overwhelmed and humbled. All in the same time.
After a long and hot day, Leo's Rabbit found a small coffee shop, where he finally stretched his paws, sat down comfortably in a lovely, cool environment and while sipping his freshly made carrot juice, he reflected on his visit to the Fire Temple. It was a superb experience and one that he would recommend as essential to any visitor lucky enough to pass through Yazd. It provided Rabbit with a brief but inclusive overview of a very influential ancient religion amidst the backdrop of arguably its most sacred location.
We are Leo's Rabbit family. I am Anna (you can call me 'Crazy Rabbit Lady' or MamaMus) and next to me is my husband Fash (PapaMus). Although we are not rabbits ourselves (as you might have noticed), we are very found of these gentle, fluffy creatures. One little Rabbit is especially close to our hearts and if you've been reading this blog, you know that he is our 'comfort blanket' helping us to cope with the loss of our son Leo.
We are not part of a rabbit colony nor we live on carrots and grass (well... look at us - it's pretty obvious that we must be eating more than that :-) ). We are humans and we know that (just clarifying in case if you have any doubts about our awareness :-) ). We are the ones that make Leo's Rabbit travels possible - we book his flights, carry his luggage, take him places, protect him from dangers, introduce him to strangers and share his experiences with you. We are the Rabbit's family.
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.
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.
Today Leo's Rabbit was shopping in the heart of Beverly Hills at Rodeo Drive, the epicentre of luxury, fashion and lifestyle and undeniably one of the most famous and most pricey streets on the globe. With over 100 boutiques offering the finest in fashion apparel, jewellery, shoes, handbags and accessories from top brands such as Chanel, Hermes, Cartier, Gucci, Versace, Tiffany and many more, but not a single carrot shop, Rodeo Drive was not the best choice for Rabbit's shopping trip :-) Never mind making a purchase though... Although Rabbit ended up empty-pawed he enjoyed window shopping and watching glamorous people walking along the street. He was hoping to see some celebrities, but he wasn't at luck. It's not surprising however if we take to consideration that he would be able to recognise only Brad Pitt and Bugs Bunny. He might have even brushed against some movie star but he wouldn't know it. If you are a celebrity reading this and you had an encounter with one British Rabbit on a sunny April afternoon at Rodeo Drive please get in touch. We would love to include your name here!
While walking along the street Leo's Rabbit admired an array of exotic and super luxury cars. He was especially impressed with a custom made Bugatti Veyron, the fastest production car in the world, with its top speed of 431.072 km/h (267.856 mph). The fasted rabbit in the world, jackrabbit, can achieve a speed of 72 km/h (45 mph). It may be six times less than Bugatti, but pretty good for a rabbit though. Leo's Rabbit suddenly felt an urge to drive this super car and become, not only the poshest, but also the fastest rabbit in the world. He imagined himself with his ears flowing in the wind at top speed and with this thought he hopped towards the car intending to take it for a joyride. His attempt wasn't successful however, and looking at the picture you might have already gathered why. Well... it's pretty obvious... our British Rabbit forgot that he is in the USA and he sat on the passenger side of the car. Here in England we have right hand drive cars and we drive on the left side of the road. Apart from the United Kingdom, there are only 3 other countries in Europe that still drive on the left: Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. We like to be different, don't we? We are still a monarchy (Rabbit loves the Royal Family), we kept our own currency after joining EU, we mostly use imperial measuring units, our British English confuses Americans, we have windows opening outwards, we use separate taps for hot and cold water (icy cold and boiling hot, that is), we eat HP sauce and Marmite (yak...) and our traditional cuisine is fish & chips. Yes, we are different ;-) But our approach to driving may not be as unique as one may think, as there are 75 countries worldwide still driving on the left. Unfortunately for Rabbit, the USA is not one of them.
After his failed attempt to drive away in a one-million-pound super car ('Thanks goodness it wasn't successful' - thought MamaMus) Leo's Rabbit continued his stroll along the street. He intended to have his breakfast at Tiffany's. He once heard that Aubrey Hepburn used to get a very nice breakfast there. He was surprised to learn that they don't serve any meals at Tiffany's, and instead sell expensive jewellery. As we all know, one can't feed one's hunger with precious stones and valuable metals, so Rabbit left Tiffany's disappointed (and hungry). He tried to find a local McRabbit, but only encountered a posh sushi place called Urasawa. He discovered that Urasawa is actually one of the best restaurants in LA (second best according to Jonathan Gold's list of L.A.'s 101 Best Restaurants published in Los Angeles Times), often referred to as 'the temple of city's greatest sushi and kaiseki'. Although Rabbit is not very keen on sushi, he was willing to try some - he was hungry and, as you may remember if you are following this blog, this little Rabbit has a big appetite. After he learned however that a reservation needs to be made well in advance (he couldn't do without food for another hour, not mentioning a weeks long wait) and a meal at Urasawa currently starts at $395 (he had only $20 in his pocket) he finally left with an empty tummy.
To bring his spirits up, he popped in to an Art Gallery - Galerie Michael, one of the most highly regarded fine art galleries in the world specialising in paintings, drawings, and prints from great masters of the 17th to the 20th centuries. Straight away Rabbit was asked by a well-suited man, if he is interested in art and if he collects art. The well-suited man must have seen all sorts of people (and rabbits) coming through the door and knew that some art collectors could be a little bit eccentric, and you should not judge the customer by the looks, even if the customer is a rabbit. Well... he didn't know that the only thing that Rabbit collects are carrots, so he wasn't able to make any sale (Rabbit really wanted to buy something from this nice man, but there weren't even any pictures of carrots for sale). Leo's Rabbit liked the well-suited man and he enjoyed his warm welcome so much that he not only spent good half an hour admiring artwork on display, but also forgot about his hunger.
At the base of Rodeo Drive Rabbit noticed a tall building, Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, apparently one of Beverly Hills' oldest and most luxurious hotels. Constructed in 1928, the legendary property features 395 rooms. The largest and the most spectacular guest room is the Penthouse Suite at 465 square meters, located on the private, key-accessed 14th floor of the Beverly Wing with panoramic views of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles from the spacious terrace. After a basic calculation, excited Rabbit gathered that the Penthouse Suite would be able to accommodate 5,812 rabbits! (According to the DEFRA an accommodation space required per rabbit is 0.08 square meters.) He thought however, that even if sharing the suite with another 5,811 rabbits he wouldn't be able to afford the stay.
Beverly Wilshire has served as the home to many iconic personalities, including Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, John Lennon and Elvis Presley. Rabbit learned that the hotel continues to receive fan mail for the actors, even decades after they have moved out. Although Beverly Wilshire has made guest appearances in many movies such as 'Escape from the Planet of the Apes', 'Clueless', 'Sex and the City: The Movie and Valentine’s Day', today it is affectionately known as the 'Pretty Woman hotel' as it provided the backdrop to exterior scenes from the classic film with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Leo's Rabbit decided to send a postcard to Julia Roberts after he returns to England and address it to Beverly Wilshire Hotel. You never know, she may even reply...
On his way home Leo's Rabbit stopped in front of the very naturalistic sculpture called 'Torso'. The statue located on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way is an artwork by Robert Graham, who designed major civic monuments across the nation. Rabbit didn't really like the figure of a headless woman and he was more fascinated by the lovely silver-coloured fire hydrants (please excuse his ignorance of art; he is a small town Rabbit after all...). As for the unusual hydrants (everywhere else they are red or yellow), Rabbit heard a rumour that Beverly Hills' fire hydrants are platinum-plated. Very expensive hydrants indeed!
To complete his experience, Rabbit visited Beverly Gardens Park with the iconic 40-foot long Beverly Hills sign. It was the perfect place to snap the last picture of the day.
Rabbit's long day in Beverly Hills ended up with him returning home empty-pawed, tired and hungry. Don't get me wrong - he did enjoy the experience. He had fun window shopping, people-watching and was amused by an array of exotic cars parked along the road. In the same time however he felt a bit overwhelmed by the luxurious surroundings of high end shops and establishments. Although he would have liked to have been a millionaire, even then he would have rather spent a night at a small B&B drinking £2 carrot juice, snacking on a £3 lettuce salad and he would have still liked to drive his small Citroen C3. He thought that this unknown to him world of glamour and luxury, may well serve famous and rich people, but with the money spent here in one day, you probably would have been able to feed millions of hungry rabbits (or even people).
First of all I need to make my apologies to those of you (probably 99% of the readers ;-) ) who followed my link with hope of seeing some 'hot beach bunnies', like the gorgeous lady in the picture above spotted during our stay in California. Well... I didn't mean to mislead you ( ...maybe a little bit) as you will actually see a hot bunny, Leo's Rabbit, who spent a day in Santa Monica. He was hot (with this amount of fur you would've been hot too!), he was at the beach and he certainly is a bunny. I therefore hope that you will forgive me my little deception and, as you are already here, you may as well carry on reading to find out more about Rabbit's experience at Santa Monica beach.
Below you can see another picture of our hot beach bunny (this one probably fits my post better) standing at the pier overlooking this beautiful and vibrant beach.
It was only an early April but the day was gorgeous, with the sunshine pouring down from the sky and gently touching bare skin (and fur) generously exposed to its invigorating treatment. Rabbit thought that the amount of vitamin D produced on that day would have been enough to supply the whole England for a year.
Santa Monica stays warm and mostly dry year-round, which attracts many visitors to the beach not only in the summer, but also during the spring, autumn and winter months. The temperature is rarely below 6°C or above 28°C - dream weather for our Rabbit who comes from London, where it may not be extremely cold, but it does rain on average 110 days per year. Leo's Rabbit decided to 'make up' for all those 110 days and take full advantage of the sunshine.
Although Santa Monica beach is a very busy one, its ample space allowed our Rabbit to pick his spot (well... considering that the beach is about 3.5 miles long, there was plenty of room for a small rabbit). After applying his sunscreen, he lay down on the soft sand, stretched his ears and listened to the waves crash against the shore. He stared out at the ocean and its sheer vastness and expansive horizon made him feel very tiny. In the face of the endless water he instantly felt lighter and he saw his problems in a new perspective. There are bigger things in life than little dilemmas of a little rabbit. Lost in his thoughts, he experienced an amazing moment of tranquillity and peace in the middle of the busy and touristy beach.
He then diverted his attention to the other 'species' (mainly humans) present at the beach. Watching people engaged in various activities on the shoreline was the most exhilarating experience of Rabbit's day. Most of the holidaymakers were sunbathing and having a relaxing lay down. Some had a courage to jump in the cool water and were swimming, surfing, sailing or even parasailing. Excited, screaming kids (and adults) were chasing waves and building sandcastles, under the watchful eye of lifeguards. Leo's Rabbit noticed many perfect human specimens of both sexes walking and jogging along the shoreline. Looking at these beautifully tanned, slender and muscular 'beach bunnies' Rabbit automatically sucked in his belly and immediately felt more handsome. Unfortunately it didn't last long, as he was unable to hold in his belly and breathe in the same time and, as you may have already guessed, he had to let go of the belly.
Rabbit was impressed by a good number of cyclists and roller-bladers on the paved trail that runs along the ocean. He learned that this is a part of a 22 mile long Marvin Braude Beach Trail (known to locals as 'The Strand') from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance County Beach. It's apparently one of the best scenic bike paths in Southern California and Rabbit regretted not bringing his bike all the way from England (don't worry, if you are a human you don't need to do this - there are many convenient bike rental shops for people, none for rabbits though... hmm... do you think we just found a gap in the market? ;-) ).
After watching a volleyball game at the beach court, well suntanned Rabbit headed down to the iconic Santa Monica Pier for some noise and buzz. And he found it right there. Packed with lively and colourful crowds the pier is the centre of everything that happens. It houses some of Santa Monica's most popular attractions: the Pacific Park (a family amusement park with its one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art, solar panelled Ferris wheel), a 1920s-era carousel featuring 44 hand-carved horses, the Santa Monica Aquarium, a trapeze school, an entertaining arcade with more than 200 games, and a variety of restaurants, pubs and souvenir shops. The Rabbit learned that during the summer months the pier hosts many events free to the public, such as music concerts and movies under the stars.
Rabbit had a delightful stroll around the pier. While snacking on his cotton candy, he watched the rides and enjoyed the live music performed by a few buskers. He loved the energising and vibratious atmosphere combined with the stunning ocean views.
While exploring the pier Leo's Rabbit stopped by the huge sign marking the end of the legendary American highway, Route 66 (this 3,945 km long road only ended when the sea stood on its way!). Rabbit noticed that Route 66 is 2.8 times longer than the entire Great Britain (between its two extremities). Who knows what would have happened if there was no sea on the way of Route 66?!
Being in Los Angeles, the entertainment capitol of the world, Santa Monica Pier was featured in many Hollywood movies like Titanic, Forest Gump (there is even a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Restaurant on the pier), Iron Man and many more. Leo's Rabbit liked the idea of following the footsteps of Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks and wondered if they also enjoyed a cotton candy while exploring the pier.
The glamour, celebrities and entertainment were not part of the pier's early days. Rabbit was amazed by its humble beginnings in 1909, when it was first built as a public utility, a Municipal Pier with a pipeline underneath it to run treated sewage out to the ocean! Thankfully this process was soon discontinued. To learn more about the fascinating history of Santa Monica Pier (How the popular comic character 'Popeye' was created; Who designed the standard lifesaving tube used by lifeguards; What was the role of the pier during the WWII; Which artists and performers were part of the pier's community; How the pier survived and developed over the years) follow our Rabbit and click here (at your own risk... remember what's happened to Alice after she jumped down the rabbit hole :-) ). If you decide to make a trip and visit Santa Monica yourself, you can also take advantage of free historical walking tours of the pier offered Saturdays and Sundays at 11am and noon. Let's get these bags packed!
In the meantime there are live streaming views of the pier available for those who fancy a virtual tour. Leo's Rabbit will certainly watch them during 110 days of rain in England to bring back some sunny memories from Santa Monica beach.
Here he is - Leo's Rabbit. He '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.
For us Leo's Rabbit Travels have a deeper meaning - it's a way to keep our son's memory alive. Those who already know our story would have learned that we had a son, Leo, who was diagnosed with Edward's syndrome (Trisomy 18), who was born prematurely and passed away on the third day of his life. As grieving parents we desperately want the whole world to know, that our son's short life was meaningful, brought out the best in us and changed our lives forever.
We want all the grieving parents to know that all our babies/children matter and we don't have to apologise for our grief. We don't have to apologise for holding on to the memories of our babies. That's all we have... We don't have to empty all these drawers full of clothes purchased for our babies. Not yet, not if we are not ready. We can keep the ashes of our babies in our bedroom for as long as we want. We can bury them, we can transfer them into a ring... whatever feels right for each of us. Nothing is weird, nothing is wrong. Whatever brings a bit of comfort to our lives after this devastating loss is OK.
Leo's Rabbit is our comfort blanket... well... literally he is a comfort blanket :-) We bought him for Leo during the pregnancy and he was placed in our hospital bag waiting patiently for Leo's arrival. After Leo was born, Rabbit spent a night under MamaMus's shirt in order to absorb her smell (and I have to tell you that after a long day and night at the hospital there was a lot of smell to absorb :) ). Next morning Rabbit was placed in Leo's hospital cot to comfort him with MamaMus's familiar scent and stayed there with our son for the rest of his life. When Leo passed away in MamaMus's arms he was covered with Rabbit's blanket.
That is how Rabbit became so important to us. It may sound horrible, but he is the closest 'creature' to Leo we have. He was there with Leo. You probably noticed (that is if you are still reading this monologue of a crazy Rabbit Lady) that we refer to Rabbit as 'he', not 'it' (being fully aware that it's grammatically incorrect). It's because this Rabbit is not a toy to us, he is not 'it' - he is Leo's Rabbit and by carrying him everywhere we go, we carry a little more of our son.
We cannot take Leo to all the places we were hoping to visit with him. And as sad as it sounds, we are going to 'show' Rabbit some of them and share Rabbit's Travels with you. Get ready for the ride - Leo's Rabbit likes to fly high.
PS. If you think we are crazy, you are probably right. If you are a grieving parent and being 'crazy' helps you dealing with your grief - so be it!
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.