For a better short break just fly long haul
For the ideal short break, go long haul. By Tom Barber
Way back in 2003, my co-founders and I launched Original Travel with what we felt then (and still do now) was a rather clever idea: the “Big Short Break”. Until that point, a long weekend away most likely meant a few nights in Paris, Barcelona or — if you were feeling particularly adventurous — New York. We all subconsciously realised that what our dear departed AA Gill once called, typically succinctly, “an espresso break” could provide us with a short sharp hit of otherness, but the options just weren’t there.
Enter three blokes with an idea in a spare bedroom and a list of new flight routes, and the world was suddenly our oyster. Everywhere we offered had to work from a flight perspective for maximum experience from minimum time off, but the key factor had to be “bragability”. Was the guy at next door’s desk on a Monday morning going to die a little on the inside when you tell him you’d just been mushing your team of purebred Siberian huskies through the snowy forests of Swedish Lapland at the weekend? If yes, job done.
Fifteen years later, we offer much, much more but our Big Short Breaks remain hugely popular because when executed perfectly they can make it feel like you’ve been away for a week or more without having to tackle an email mountain on your return. Joy unconfined.
So, here are a few ideas for Big Short Breaks emphasising long haul destinations. Before we start, though, a few basic principles: to make the most of the long weekend you have to hit the ground running on arrival, so try to adapt to your destination time a day before, or push on through with a big first night. Secondly, it really helps to turn left on the flight because a few hours kip in the pointy end of the plane can make all the difference, especially on the return leg if you want to look/feel even half human as you walk into work.
Where first? Look no further than the quintessential long-haul long weekend destination, Cape Town. Overnight flights both ways and minimal time difference mean that even though the flight is a good 12 hours you’ll arrive ready to take all the Cape can throw at you. Eat incredibly well (and cheaply, relative to the UK), drink exceptional local wines, cage dive with great white sharks, trek up Table Mountain (tablemountain. net) and stay in the stupendous new Silo
Hotel (theroyalportfolio.com), stuffed with contemporary African art, in the buzzy Waterfront neighbourhood. Tick.
Next there’s Hong Kong, where the expat community still party like it’s 1996 and China has yet to regain control of the territory. The flights ain’t so easy as Cape Town as you’re flying west to east across several time zones, but on arrival the city’s sheer energy will guarantee a second wind. Eat the world’s best dim sum, drink in some of most jaw-dropping skyscraper bars imaginable, see the ultimate laser show illuminate the harbour (ideally on board a junk) in the evening, stay in the revamped and iconic Mandarin Oriental (mandarinoriental.com) and repeat for three full-on days before a late night flight that lands in London in time for work the next morning.
OK, with an eight hour-ish flight there burning a day — not ideal on a holiday allowance-scrimping weekend — Washington DC is still worth it. Trump’s town (at time of going to press) is a hive of intrigue, gossip and power plays at the best of times, but the current administration is pure theatre. Pull up a front row pew at any of the many drinking dens where wonks and policy-makers in the world’s most powerful nation plot and pull their hair out. Get fresh air on a kayak paddle along the Potomac River flowing through town, before the red-eye flight back to London.
In Washington DC’s historic Georgetown district, find settler homes, art galleries and artisan cafés alongside the Potomac River
Camps Bay offers Cape Town residents and visitors golden sands and a tidal seawater swimming pool right on the edge of town Hong Kong, a city that both works and plays hard, has a soaring skyline that dominates both shores of the famous harbour