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Even on Urban Excursions, Finding Mother Nature's Charms

Category: Lifestyle,Travel

Public parks aside, getting a dose of nature can be a tricky task during an urban escape. But nature should and can fit into that city getaway, according to Kally Ellis, the founder of the London florist company McQueens and the in-house florist for the Maybourne Hotel Group. “Connecting with the natural world wherever you are is a great antidote to jet lag and travel tiredness,” she said. “Plants and flowers can refresh us, boost our energy and help us recalibrate.”

Below are some tips from Ms. Ellis on incorporating nature into your next city vacation.

Head to the Flower Market

Midsize and large cities usually have flower markets that sell a large variety of plants and flowers from around the world. Ms. Ellis highly recommended visiting one. “You’ll be treated to different smells and colors,” she said. “Leisurely stroll through and let your senses be engaged.” Know that most open early — in New York’s cluster of flower markets, in Chelsea, for example, shops are typically open before 6 a.m. The earlier you go, the quieter it will be.

Check Out a Community Garden

Thanks to a growing number of community gardens in cities all over the world, you don’t have to head for the big city parks to get a pop of nature. These gardens, typically run by locals, are intimate and grow everything from herbs and vegetable to fruits and flowers. Some are even open year-round. Check one or more out in your destination — each is different, and you’ll likely meet locals and learn about what they are most interested in growing. Weather permitting, Ms. Ellis likes lingering in a community garden with a book. “It’s relaxing, and you don’t see other tourists,” she said. Some cities have websites listing local gardens; greenthumb.nycgovparks.org, for example, has a list of ones in New York City.

Book a Room With a View

Request a hotel room with a balcony or a window with a view over a park, garden or interior courtyard — it can help you get in touch with the outdoors, sometimes without leaving your bed. Sometimes, park view or balconied rooms may cost more than standard rooms, but interior courtyard rooms usually don’t.

Take a Garden Tour

Many cities have large gardens that you can visit on your own or see via a tour, which are often free. Do a web search for garden tours in your destination, and you’re apt to find a range of options. In Washington, for example, the Smithsonian museums on and near the National Mall have 13 picturesque gardens spread over nine acres around the museums, and the D.C. area itself has more than two dozen other gardens; DCGardens.com has a list.

Go to a Farmers’ Market

Ms. Ellis is a fan of checking out local farmers’ markets when she travels because they often sell indigenously grown flowers and plants that are far less cultivated than ones produced on a larger scale. She suggested buying some and taking them back to your hotel, where you can request housekeeping to put them in a vase for you. “They’ll brighten your room,” she said.


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