Just Two Hours a Week in Nature Could Change Your Life
The news that there are positive health benefits to spending just two hours in nature per week should inspire people to get travelling more to woodlands, beaches and parks.
A study published in the journal Scientific Reports has found that spending two hours per week in the natural world gives a positive boost to mental and physical well-being. Based on interviews with around 20,000 people in England, those who reported spending 120 minutes in nature in the previous week had consistently higher levels of both health and well-being than those who spent less than that.
One Long Walk or Several Short Walks Are Sufficient
The results indicated that it did not matter whether the two hours of contact a week was achieved in one long stint or several shorter ones. This is good news because while some people may prefer long walks at the weekend in locations further from home, others may prefer regular shorter visits to parks or beaches in their local area.
Most People Don’t Spend Enough Time in Nature
The findings indicated that only one in three people who had spent at least two hours in the natural world in the previous week said they felt dissatisfied, while just one in seven reported poor health. By contrast, close to half of those who spent little or no time in parks, beaches or woods in the past seven days reported low levels of life satisfaction. One in four of these people said they were in poor health.
The researchers found that the results were consistent across ages, sexes and residential areas, and even among those with long-standing illnesses or disabilities. The other interesting fact was that there is no need to spend huge amounts of times to get the benefits, as the positive impact levels off, so the people in the study didn’t report increased benefits if they exceeded two hours in the wild.
To read the full study in Scientific Reports, please click here.
Locals Know Best: Olympia, Washington
Riana Nelson started traveling the world right after graduating from the University of Michigan, thanks to performing on cruise ships and working for Disney in Beijing, China. But when she and her brothers formed Derik Nelson & Family, a trio known for unique three-part harmonies, they began working with the U.S. Department of State as Cultural Ambassadors of the United States and traveled the globe to promote cultural diplomacy through music and arts education. They perform in places like Turkmenistan, Moldova, and Albania to share their music, which blends the driving yet gentle melodies of folk-inflected rock of the 1970s, the familiar rhythms that made Nashville famous, and the contemplative lyrics associated with some of today’s popular indie singer-songwriters, like Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver. But no matter how far and wide she travels, she loves coming home to Olympia, Washington. The scenic state capital, at the southern end of the Puget Sound, is home to less than 52,000. Its creative energy and the surrounding natural wonders make it a destination for a relaxed weekend—or longer. We checked in with her to learn about her favorite spots to eat, shop, hang out, and just be. Eat Your Heart Out When it comes to sampling Olympia’s flavors, go downtown. Riana is a big fan of the local food truck culture, giving a particular shout-out to Arepa, which serves Venezuelan-style fare like killer plantains and yuca fries with garlic oil dipping sauce. The trucks park in a cluster close to picnic tables, so you can savor the fare while you soak up the city’s vibe. About a block away is Olympia Coffee, which takes java very seriously. She has an artist’s appreciation for the artistry of the baristas here. They ground beans and slow-pour everything to order. But perhaps the most exciting attraction for eating and drinking is the Olympia Farmers Market, a year-round indoor emporium where the region’s freshest flavors have been on display for 45 years. Riana has a few vendors that she regularly visits, like Johnson Berry Farm. “My favorites are the sweet and mellow popular Tayberry or seasonal Little Wild Jake Blackberry jam,” she insists. “But you can also go spicy and savory with their spicy varieties like the XXX spice Blackberry Habenero or Raspberry Chipotle.” In a clever move, they sell carry-on-friendly sizes, so stock up. She also has a special place in her heart for Skipping Stone Garden, a husband-and-wife-owned farm that peddles thoughtfully grown organic vegetables. Down the street is 222 Market, a more modern artisanal food hall in a 1940s-era building that originally housed a car dealership. One of Riana’s favorite stop is Sift and Gather, another husband-and-wife-owned business, this one famous for its gooey sticky buns. Just be sure to heed her warning: the pastries go on sale at 10 a.m. and when they’re gone, that’s it. Better luck tomorrow. Sofie's Scoops is a must for its small-batch gelato. Their imaginative flavors include candied ginger, cardamom, and salty butterscotch. If you’re looking to sit down for something a little fancier, she recommends the Bread Peddler, a refined yet laidback French-inspired bistro with superior local mussels in hard cider sauce. The sister café, also in the market, sells coffee drinks, sandwiches, and pastries until afternoon each day. Get Out Hiking and camping are one of Washington’s most terrific attractions, and outdoorsy types will find that Olympia’s surrounds are among the region’s finest. Take, for instance, the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest temperate rain forests in the country. A big reason it stands out, Riana notes, is that it’s the starting point of hiking trails that run through Olympia National Park. Another option for getting out of the city for the day is Ruby Beach, a rugged, rural oasis that’s about a two-hour drive from the city. Riana has mastered the way to enjoy the place: “Walk north along the beach to the mouth of the Hoh River. The seastacks are beautiful!" she says. "Go at low tide, and definitely be mindful of the tide tables or you won’t be able to return to your car if the tide gets too high!” Getting to and from Ruby Beach is part of the fun because along the way you can stop at Kalaloch Lodge, a collection of rustic-chic cabins that overlook the water and you can find rates that hover around $100 in the off-season, but she strongly recommends stopping here even if you’re not planning an overnight because its Creekside Restaurant is an absolute gem. She speaks whimsically about watching the ocean as you tuck into an exquisite dinner made of local products--especially during storm season. It’s one of the greatest perches for storm-watching around. There’s plenty of natural beauty in the city as well. Riana’s go-to for nature walks is Watershed Park, a 1.4-mile loop trail a few minutes from the Capitol Building that she describes as an "urban oasis." You can wander amid native plants, huge maple trees, and a variety of moss and fern species. There are more than 20 bridges and boardwalks that cross over natural springs and the gorgeous Moxlie Creek, so carve out some time to explore. Shop Around Local retailers embody Olympia’s creative, smart indie spirit. Riana is a big fan of Pieces to Peaces, a gift stand in the Farmers Market that sells a assorted styles of adorable handmade headbands (Riana has more than a few), including some for pets. Owner Danielle Hale, who Riana describes as an “incredible, badass mom,” has created something of a mini empire with her accessories, selling them far and wide by mail order. Downtown, Radiance is well worth a visit, not least because it captures the essence of the town’s freewheeling vibe. The fragrant, relaxed shop is stocked with essential oils, natural skincare products, bulk teas, and other holistic-minded goods. Psychic Sisters, which you can find by looking for the neon sigh that reads “The psychic is in,” sells funky gifts and jewelry as well as visions of your future, thanks to the mediums who work there. And, she notes, their second-hand clothing selection is a site to behold: everything is sorted by color. Got kids with you? Make sure to take them to Captain Little, a toys shop with delightful toys, puzzles, games, quirky gifts. And then there’s Browsers, an 80-year-old bookstore where you’re almost guaranteed to lose track of time. Riana loves it for the beautiful bright loft upstairs with spacious work tables and free WiFi, not to mention the Pacific Northwest-inspired postcards and books about the region.
San Francisco's 5 Best Fog-Watching Spots
On the spectrum of anthropomorphized inanimate objects with a hefty social media presence, San Francisco’s Karl the Fog (@karlthefog on Twitter and Instagram) is a clear favorite. Emerging in 2010 as the voice of the city’s seminal weather event, he’s since become a cultural touchstone, earning mentions in local weather reports and online media and even featuring as an answer to a question on Jeopardy. (“I'll take ‘Never Saw That Coming’ for $1,000, Alex,” he says.) Though the person behind the accounts has chosen to remain anonymous over the years, Karl’s fame has only grown, and he’s picked up a few well-known fans in the process—actresses and Broadway bombshells among them. “One of my favorite followers is Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc),” he says. “Not sure how she found me all the way from NYC, but I'm ready to perform a duet any time she's up for it.” For the release of his first book, Karl the Fog: San Francisco’s Most Mysterious Resident (on sale June 11), we asked the newly published author to tell us about the best places his fans can go to pay their respects. "While you can love (or hate) me from anywhere in San Francisco, these are a few spots that rise above the rest," he says. 1. Mt. Davidson "If you're looking for my chilly embrace, this is the best place to find me. It's the highest naturally elevated spot in San Francisco, so I chill here a lot. And on a few lucky days of the year, I don't make it to the top so you can stand on the edge and look down at a sea of me." (From Karl the Fog, by Karl the Fog, published by Chronicle Books) 2. Sutro Bath / Lands End "Iconic spot to enjoy San Francisco past (Sutro Baths), present (trails around Lands End), and future (me coming in from the Pacific Ocean in about 20 minutes)." 3. Cupid's Arrow / Bay Bridge "Tony Bennett claims he left his heart in San Francisco, and anyone who stands at Cupid's Arrow and watches me sweep over the Bay Bridge on a Fogust morning could claim the same thing." (From Karl the Fog, by Karl the Fog, published by Chronicle Books) 4. Bernal Heights Park "Excellent location to watch me bubble over the hills of Noe Valley and Twin Peaks and jog toward downtown and Salesforce Tower, my new arch-nemesis." (From Karl the Fog, by Karl the Fog, published by Chronicle Books) 5. Mt. Tamalpais "Wanna get high? Like, really up there? Drive up to the top of Mt. Tam before dusk and plant yourself somewhere with a view. Watch the sun slowly set across the sky into me, creating an ocean of red and purple cotton candy."
The First Thing to Do in These 7 European Cities
After arriving in one of Europe’s cultural capitals, you could check into your hotel and take time to rest and reset. Or you could hit the ground running – what jet lag? – and make the most of your trip. From hiking to Prague Castle to people watching in Paris to soaking in thermal waters in Budapest, here are the best ways to spend your first hours in town. 1. When You Arrive in Rome: Stroll Around With a Gelato in Hand The quickest way to start your Roman holiday is to find the nearest gelateria (ice cream shop) and order a cone to go. Traditionally prepared in small batches using natural ingredients, gelato (Italian-style ice cream) has less sugar and fat (and more flavour) than regular ice cream. In spring or summer, choose a flavour made from seasonal fruit, like limone (lemon) or fragola (strawberry), or opt for local favourites like nocciola (hazelnut) and pistacchio (pistachio). Traveling with kids? Ask for stracciatella – it’s the Italian version of chocolate chip. Then take a passeggiata (a leisurely walk) around Rome's beautiful fountains and squares. Staring at the Trevi Fountain or walking through Piazza Navona while gelato drips down the side of your hand is a rite of passage for first-time visitors to Rome, and you’ll see plenty of locals doing exactly the same thing. For the best gelato experience, look for signs indicating that the gelato is made in-house: key phrases are fatto en casa (homemade) and artigianale (artisanal). 2. When You Arrive in Barcelona: Pedal Along the Beach There’s no better way to shake off travel fatigue than to hop on a bicycle and pedal along the beach, watching waves crash in the distance as locals play volleyball on the sand. It’s easy to do in Barcelona, though it’s worth noting that the city bikeshare stands are only for residents. No problem: outfitters all over town rent bicycles starting at around €5 an hour. An hour or two is the perfect amount of time to explore the seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta and the Passeig Marítim de Barcelona, or waterfront promenade, on two wheels. It’s also a great opportunity to scope out the ideal sunset spot or tapas bar to come back to later: Barceloneta is home to a number of low-key seafood restaurants. 3. When You Arrive in Prague: Hike to Prague Castle for a Beer Overlooking the City Don’t let your non-existent Czech skills stop you from jumping immediately into the fairy-tale scenery of Prague. To get started on an adventure in this city, you won’t need much time to get oriented. Prague Castle looms high above the city: just locate it on the skyline and start walking toward it. If you’re coming from Staré Mesto (Old Town), where many travellers base themselves, the walk toward the castle will take you across the incredibly picturesque Charles Bridge and through the winding streets of Malá Strana (‘Little Quarter’) until you reach the steep uphill climb to the castle. You’ll be rewarded at the top with sweeping views over the city’s red roofs and romantic spires. Many cafés and bars feature outdoor terraces where you can stop for a cold pivo(beer) and toast your good fortune – after all; you’ve just arrived in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 4. When You Arrive in Budapest: Soak in Thermal Waters Whether you’re arriving in Budapest after a long plane ride or a journey by train, you’ll be glad to soak away travel-related aches and pains in the healing waters of the city’s famed public baths. One of the largest natural hot-spring spa baths in Europe, the Széchenyi Thermal Baths is not a tourist attraction (expect to be at least somewhat confused by the signs in Hungarian, not to mention the staggering number of options at the ticket counter), but a functional wellness centre and social space that’s regularly used by locals and visitors alike. Bring flip-flops, a swimsuit and a towel, if you can: towel rental is available, but bringing your own is easier. Check out the website for more information on prices and packages, and book online ahead of time if you’re hoping to try an additional service, like a massage. Note that Széchenyi isn’t your only option in town. There are more than a dozen other public baths to check out. 5. When You Arrive in Paris: People-Watch at an Outdoor Café First-time visitors to Paris often make a beeline for the Eiffel Tower. But there’s a better way to ease into the Parisian lifestyle that doesn’t involve battling crowds of tourists. Simply take a seat in an outdoor café – Le Marais is the perfect neighbourhood for this, but any arrondissementwill do – and watch the world go by over a café (espresso) or café crème(espresso with milk). 6. When You Arrive in Lisbon: Go for a Ride on Tram #28E If you’re feeling too jet-lagged to brave the hilly streets of Lisbon on foot, your next best option is to see the city on the historic tramway. Climb aboard tram #28E, a vintage yellow tram that travels through some of the city’s liveliest neighbourhoods, including Graça, Baixa, Alfama, and Estrela. A 24-hour pass, available in metro stations, costs around €6, and you can hop on and off at key stops along the way, like sweeping views over the city at the Alfama miradouro (viewpoint) and Chiado, Lisbon’s arts district. Don’t be deterred by the long lines at the tram stops: most travellers in line are just waiting for a tram with available seats, but you can climb right on if you don’t mind standing. 7. When You Arrive in Amsterdam: Wander Through the Flower Market There’s so much to see and do in Amsterdam. A great way to get into the swing of things during your first hours in town is to visit the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). At the city’s iconic marketplace, which dates back to 1862 and is located on the Unesco-honoured Canal Ring, glass-encased barges house countless varieties of tulips, peonies, violets and orchids. Especially after a long trip, a wander here is a fragrant and colourful (read: Instagram-worthy) way start to your exploration of the city. Rain or shine, it’s open every day except Sunday.
Discover the New Frontier of California Wine Country in Paso Robles
One of the most delicious and inspiring ways to spend a day on California’s Central Coast is to drop by one of the fine wineries that are charting the next frontier of California Wine Country. We recently caught up with Eric Jensen, owner and winemaker at Booker Vineyard, in Paso Robles (the up-and-coming wine region about midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles). Jensen shared some tips for first-time vineyard visitors, his top recommendations for wine and coastal fun, and some exciting news about Booker’s most recent bottlings. What are your top tips for novice wine tasters headed to California for the first time? Eric Jensen: Decide what’s most important before you book and this will help set your budget. Is it all about the wine? If so, look for lodging close enough to wineries that is bare bones but clean. If it’s about the area and enjoying the surroundings and you won’t be spending all your money on wine, then you can look for a hotel with amenities like nice pools, restaurants, areas around the property to bike and hike, etc. Don’t forget though, our Paso Robles region has incredible hiking, biking, and gorgeous beaches all within just 30 minutes. What are your tips for aspiring wine collectors who want to shop for wine in California? E.J.: Try it all! Find the varieties and styles you’re passionate about. For me, it was big Syrahs and bright red Grenaches, so I chose Paso Robles as this region just does Syrah and Grenache better. It took me trying lots of bottles though, because, like most, I thought there was only Cabernet and Chardonnay. After finding passions, trust your palate and don’t just drink wines that a sommelier or wine critic says is supposed to be great. I’ve found out I don’t like most of those wines. Also, it’s very important to find the salesperson who learns what you like and seems to always be right. This could be the person at the local wine shop, supermarket, or could be a wine critic. That individual becomes your personal sommelier/critic. Any advice for Budget Travelers who are seeking world-class wine bargains? E.J.: Paso Robles is a world-class bargain. You can stay in a hotel for a third the price of Napa, taste wine and purchase world-class wines with the highest of critical acclaim for $25-$75 that would be $75-$800 in Napa, and be on the beach with your partner, dog, and a glass of Champagne to watch the sunset! Paso also boasts a great food and cocktail scene at small-town prices, great boutiques, and one of America’s great small towns (San Luis Obispo) just 20 minutes away. What do you love about the Central Coast, and Paso Robles in particular. E.J.: I love that there’s no traffic, none of the pretension that sometimes comes with a wine country (think fancy watches and expensive cars), and that I can hike a ridge overlooking the ocean in the morning, eat lunch in the vines on a vineyard, do a bit of wine tasting, and then head to the beach for a relaxing sunset. Paso Robles is that friendly “Mayberry” town where everyone seems to go out of their way to treat you well regardless of the size of your wallet. Tell us about the varietals that you grow at Booker. E.J.: Booker started as a Rhône house, with predominately Syrah- and Grenache-based wines. We have added a world-class Cabernet that outscores every cab in its $79 price point with Robert Parker by a long shot. It has a 12-year history of around 97 points. We would love to hear about your latest offerings. E.J.: Our main wines are Oublié, which is a Grenache-based wine that also includes Mourvedre and a small amount of Syrah. Similar to the French wine Chateauneuf du Pape. Oublié was just Wine Spectator’s No. 10 wine in the Top 100 in the World. Fracture is our 100 percent Syrah and is one of the most coveted Syrahs in the world, selling out in a matter of hours on our list. My Favorite Neighbor is our version of the California Cult Cabernet, critically comparing to the rarest Bordeaux’s and Napa Cabs, but doing it for $79! Are there any Booker wines that might be categorized as “budget”? E.J.: We always make a diverse blend that is usually Grenache-based called RLF for $45 that sells like In-N-Out Burger at a crowded music festival. We have a new Cab-based blend coming out in June called Harvey and Harriet which is $50 and received a 96 point score in barrel, separating it from all the Cabs in its price category. To learn more, visit bookerwines.com.