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Mallorca Look at Daniel Barenboim’s packed performance schedule for this year and you will note that the great pianist-turned-conductor very rarely gives solo recitals. Beyond a couple of appearances at festivals in Germany in May, there is only one, on July 10 – not at a grand metropolitan concert hall, but at the Barceló Formentor, a venerable hotel (est. 1929) in Puerto Pollensa in northern Mallorca. Barenboim will perform pieces by Chopin, who spent the winter of 1838 on the island working on his Ballade No 2 in F major and his Prelude No 15 (the “Raindrop” – he was unlucky with the weather). And just as Chopin had his Pleyel piano shipped from Paris, so the hotel is bringing Barenboim’s Steinway from La Scala in Milan for the evening and setting it up on a specially built stage in the sea-facing gardens. The concert is the first of a series that the hotel will be hosting later this year, including a performance by Kiri Te Kanawa on September 19. formentorsunsetclassics.com
Moscow Russia may be a tough sell as a tourist destination at the moment but UK-based Political Tours seems unfazed. It is running a trip called “Putin’s Russia” (from £3,200 per person, departing June 1), with opportunities to meet “representatives of the authorities and the opposition”. Taking in Moscow as well as Kazan (the capital of Tatarstan), the tour will be led by former BBC correspondent Angus Roxburgh, author of The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia and sometime PR adviser to the Kremlin. Later in June the company is offering a nine-day trip to Samos, Athens and Corinth titled “Greece & the Euro”, while in September there will be a tour of Scotland called “The Road to Independence”. politicaltours.com
London There was once talk that the Shangri-La hotel in the Shard tower would be open in time for the 2012 Olympics. Almost two years on, the Hong Kong-based operator is finally poised to start taking reservations for its first UK property. From Monday March 17 bookings can be made for rooms (from £450 per night) and tables at its two restaurants. The hotel itself will open on May 6, although guests will have to wait until July 1 to use the spa, swimming pool and 52nd-floor bar. shangri-la.com
Beijing It’s a rare thing, then, for a hotel to be ready ahead of schedule but the Waldorf Astoria Beijing has opened at least a month earlier than originally billed. A 20-minute walk from the Forbidden City and just east of the city’s principal shopping street, Wangfujing, the hotel occupies an elegant 13-storey tower, designed by Chicago-based architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, that stands out thanks to its distinctive bronze window surrounds. For guests happy to miss out on a view, the most coveted of the hotel’s 176 rooms (designed by Yabu Pushelberg) are likely to be those at ground level in the adjacent Hutong Villas that surround its courtyard. From Rmb2,200 (£215). waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
Europe British Airways has launched a range of hand luggage-only day return tickets available at weekends between London and six European cities. A day trip to Dublin or Geneva costs £79 (including taxes); it is £89 to Edinburgh and Rome; and £99 for Munich and Vienna. The airline says it intends to roll out the idea to more cities across Europe. ba.com