September 21, 2012 9:24 pm

Short cuts: The spirit of Shackleton, luxury in Baku and a peek inside the Foreign Office

A 56-day trip to Antarctica, the Azeri capital’s first Four Seasons hotel and public access to London’s architectural treasures
The TS Pelican

The TS Pelican

Antarctica Sir Ernest Shackleton’s escape from Antarctica in 1916 is often described as the greatest survival story ever told – in a month-long ordeal he sailed 900 miles in a leaking lifeboat, then trekked across the mountains of South Georgia to reach a remote whaling station. The opportunity to take part in an expedition recreating his perilous journey is being offered as the adventure holiday “of a lifetime”. Ten tickets have gone on sale for the 56-day trip, at a cost of £19,025 each. The participants will not sail in the replica lifeboat but will be part of the support crew in the TS Pelican, a tall ship similar to Shackleton’s Endurance. The trip starts on January 3 2013 in Punta Arenas, Chile, and ends in Rio de Janeiro in late February.

www.intrepidtravel.com/shackleton

China Beijing will overtake Atlanta as the world’s busiest airport next year according to OAG, the aviation data provider. Atlanta has held the top spot for 15 years, in terms of total seat capacity, but the latest OAG Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics report found Beijing was fast closing the gap. And it is not alone: “As the demand for air travel grows in China, we are seeing airports such as Guangzhou and Shanghai Pudong moving up the tables of the world’s busiest, rapidly catching the likes of Amsterdam Schiphol and New York’s JFK airports,” said Rob Shaw, OAG’s director of analytics.

Azerbaijan The Four Seasons group has opened its first hotel in the former USSR, a 171-room Beaux- Arts-style property in Baku, the Azeri capital. The hotel has two restaurants, two bars, a spa and pool, an extensive cellar and a “shisha sommelier” to assist guests in selecting tobaccos. Nevertheless, it faces stiff competition from a swath of new luxury hotels in the city. Jumeirah, Kempinski and Hilton opened properties late last year; Marriott’s JW Hotel Absheron has its official opening next month; and a Fairmont launches early in 2013. “This may be the year people finally stop asking, ‘Where is Baku?’,” says Tarek Mourad, general manager at the Four Seasons.

www.fourseasons.com/baku

The Four Seasons in Baku

The Four Seasons in Baku

UK More than 750 buildings across the capital are welcoming visitors this weekend for Open House London, an annual event that allows public access to architectural treasures that are usually off-limits. Some properties have to be pre-booked but the majority are open to all-comers. They range from grand official buildings, such as the Foreign Office, to infrastructure facilities, such as the King George V pumping station at Enfield, and more than 100 private homes.

events.londonopenhouse.org

Doha Airlines regularly announce new menus designed by famous chefs, but Qatar Airways has gone one better, launching a collaboration between four celebrated chefs from different culinary traditions. Its new “culinary ambassadors” are Nobu Matsuhisa, founder of the eponymous chain of Japanese fusion restaurants; Tom Aikens, the youngest British chef ever to win two Michelin stars, the Indian chef Vineet Bhatia and Ramzi Choueiri, who specialises in Arabic cuisine.

www.qatarairways.com

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