In a leap year we’re given the greatest gift of all: the gift of time. This month, February will have 29 days instead of the usual 28 – but how will you choose to spend those additional 24 hours? From Rome to Perth, Seattle to Osaka, here are four dream days to make every second count.
For the Naturalist
Morning: Head to the great outdoors at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge an hour’s drive south of Seattle, which plays host to an abundance of birds, beavers, seals and otters. Idyllic on a crisp, clear winter morning, the seven-kilometre Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk and Twin Barns Trail weaves through dense forest and marshy estuaries with views of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier.
Afternoon: Back in town, refuel at the Pike Place Market: seafood specialities from local favourites Pike Place Chowder or Matt’s in the Market will hit the spot. Next, walk 15 minutes north to the alfresco Olympic Sculpture Garden to admire avant-garde artwork and views of Elliott Bay. Cap off your bonus day at Holy Mountain Brewing Company’s taproom to sample the lineup of funky ales and sours, many of which have been aged in oak barrels.
For the Foodie
Morning: As one of the best food cities in Japan, Osaka is the place to kuidaore – eat till you fall over. Get started early with a morning at Kuromon Market where more than 150 local vendors rustle up fresh, aromatic delights. Snack on grilled prawns, Kobe beef skewers, sashimi and oysters, or follow your nose to bubbling cauldrons of oden – a hot pot mix of fish cakes, tofu and daikon radish.
Afternoon: When in Osaka, okonomiyaki is a must. This grilled cabbage pancake speciality is served to order on an enormous griddle, topped with Kewpie mayo and bonito flakes. Specialists like Chibo and Ajinoya – both near the famous Dotonbori Arcade – regularly draw crowds. End your extra foodie day by tucking into takoyaki, fried balls of batter filled with octopus chunks, at nearby Wanaka Namba, a vendor which has been in business for more than 50 years.
For the Culture Hound
Morning: Spend your bonus day on the finer things. Already bursting with history, arts and stunning architecture, The Eternal City recently added the Italian Museum of Audiovisual Arts and Cinema to its vast repertoire of cultural landmarks. Established by the legendary Cinecittà Studios – shooting location of many a Fellini movie, as well as Roman Holiday (watch it onboard in the inflight entertainment) – the multisensory museum is an audiovisual archive of Italian TV, movies, video games and augmented reality.
Afternoon: Spend the afternoon bouncing around under-the-radar museums such as the Centrale Montemartini, an unconventional art museum set inside an abandoned power plant, where marble statues and mosaics are juxtaposed with industrial turbines. Meanwhile, the imposing 17th-century Palazzo Barberini houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art, showcasing Baroque architecture and Renaissance masterpieces alike.
For the Wine Lover
Morning: Take advantage of Western Australia’s viticultural prowess with a 30-minute drive northeast to the Swan Valley. You can easily visit three wineries in a morning – don’t miss Jane Brook Estate for premium bubbly, Mandoon Estate for award-winning shiraz and chenin blanc, and Upper Reach for a leisurely cellar-door tasting and lunch at alfresco RiverBrook Restaurant.
Afternoon: Stretch your legs (and clear your head) on a walking tour with Oh Hey WA to explore Perth’s cute laneways, street art and new waterfront development, Elizabeth Quay. Once you’ve earned another glass, slink into Shadow Wine Bar for a long, lingering dinner. Operated by the creative folks behind the design-centric Alex Hotel, this loft-like spot pours an excellent mix of wines from Italy, Spain, France and – of course – Western Australia.
History of the Leap Year
The Leap Day aligns the Gregorian calendar with the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Since the length of the solar year is 365.242 days, we add a calendar day to our year every four years. Otherwise, we’d lose six hours every year, or 24 days in a century, and the seasons would shift dramatically. In 45BC, Julius Caesar incorporated the very first leap year into the ancient Roman Calendar with help from his astronomer, Sosigenes.
There’s a one in 1,461 chance of being born on 29 February. Here are five of the most famous ‘leaplings’:
Kiyoe Yoshioka: Japanese singer, 1984
Ja Rule: US rapper, 1976
Tony Robbins: US life coach, 1960
Rossini: Italian composer, 1792
Pope Paul III: 1468