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 '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.