October 2015 has been prominent on the St Helena Calendar for many years. Napoleon Bonaparte arrived here 200 years ago and is one of the biggest dates to commemorate this year. The RMS had been booked up over a year before by a number of Napoleon aficionados including the President of the Fondation Napoleon and a representative for the French Foreign Minister.
The island’s events for this month are many and varied, from an Art exhibition to a Scarecrow judging competition! One of these events has tied in with a project dear to my heart. Bertrand’s Cottage, which sits opposite Longwood House (Where Napoleon lived) was built to house General Henri Bertrand, his wife Fanny and three children (a forth was born on St Helena). General Bertrand was Napoleon’s Aide de Camp, he had followed Napoleon to Elba and now was with him in St Helena.
The house, like many of this period on the island has buckets of potential and is absolutely charming in location and style. However funding has prevented the property being renovated to a high standard. When the organisation I work for was given the opportunity to work in the building, I suggested that it would make a superb Restaurant with Rooms style business and one which could be used to benefit the training needs of the hospitality sector. That was a few months ago. Fast forward to Friday 9th October and we now officially have Bertrand’s Cottage on its way to being refurbished into a smart Restaurant with Rooms.
The property will have three en-suite bedrooms on the first floor and on the ground floor, will be kitchen and restaurant areas plus lounge and reception area. The gardens in the past were full of fruit and vegetables; one of the trees in the garden was here in Napoleon’s time. At the moment what we have is fennel which has self seeded and run wild! I hope we can tame the garden and get it running to support the kitchen with basic vegetables and herbs.
To commemorate the occasion, there was a small event organised to include our French visitors and many of the individuals on St Helena who support this project.
The Governor gave and speech which also announced the confirmation of another air link to St Helena. This time it will be a once a month flight to and from Ascension Island which is a main hub for many of the Saints who work on the Falkland Islands and Ascension itself. The flight will also enable people who want to fly to the UK that way to still do so.
Slowly slowly we are seeing the results of many people’s hard work, often behind closed doors as much of this work is at Government level involving many different parties. The island is gradually developing and rising to embrace the new opportunities happening because of the airport and it’s a great pleasure to see it materialise.