The secret of the south Atlantic is about to be discovered BIG TIME with the announcement in London this week that the Lonely Planet guides have included St Helena into its top 10 places to visit in 2016.
This will have a marked impact on the numbers of visitors here once the airport opens and also an increase in confidence here that business is going to be hectic next year.
Other destinations on this exclusive list include:
Transylvania, West Iceland, Waiheke Island New Zealand, Valle de Vinales Cuba and also Hawaii which I guess they mean the island of Hawaii rather than the islands of Hawaii.
Our tourist office is receiving more enquiries as the months tick by to airport open date as are individual businesses.
We have also received the news this week that there is to be another confirmed flight to St Helena from the UK. This is initially going to be a one off charter but if successful will become a regular trip. The airline are called Atlantic Star and have been keen to operate a route to and from St Helena for a number of years now.
Atlantic Star have teamed up with TUI-Fly, Europe’s largest tour operator to provide flights using a Boeing 737-800, flying out of Gatwick and refuelling in Banjul Gambia.
Sunday March 20th is the planned date for the inaugural flight, which is planned to match the Easter break which is a great time to be here.
Prices are yet to be confirmed but the word on the street is that a return fare is going to be in the region of around £1200 economy. This is less than the cheapest fare by ship and plane which comes in at about £1500.
People here are already talking about and planning for the visits from relatives who can’t get over because of the time element involved in travelling by ship. What an Easter its going to be!
150 or so guests had been invited to attend a cocktail party at Longwood House.
Hosts of the evening were the Fondation Napoleon as part of the 200th Anniversary commemorations of Napoleon’s arrival on St Helena which was on October 15th 1815.
Part of the evening was given to the distribution of honours and gifts to a variety of people on the island who have contributed in some way to preserving the Napoleonic history here.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see these awards as I was busy assisting with the food effort with JJ who with his partner Michel manages the Longwood estate and all things Napoleonic. Michel is the honorary French Consul General here on St Helena
The team had created a variety of items, from rare beef fillet on olive scones and smoked salmon with lemon mayonnaise to miniature fish cakes, king prawns in St Helena tomato sauce and local tuna with Dijon mustard and almonds. Also on hand were an assortment of delicious French dried sausages and meats which were simply served to show off their flavours.
Before we started serving we had to manage a kitchen which was packed with trays and dishes of delectable items, it was hard to know where to put everything.
As soon as the signal was given to start serving there was a flurry of activity as much of the food was assembled at the last minute in order for it to be at its best when served. Trays returned from the party empty and kept doing so for around 45 minutes. It was battle stations for that time, with the kitchen team working as if they had worked together for years…These are the moments that those of us in catering really love as the fruits of our labours are being appreciated and the hours of prep and organisation are reflected in an effortless service!
The team of staff at Longwood House are made up of local ladies and men, most of who have other jobs and have worked at the house for a number of years. They were a pleasure to work with, smiling and ensuring that their guests have an evening to remember. In fact as sometimes happens, the evening was so successful, it was hard to get people to think about going home!
Eventually it was time to wind down and one of my treats from the evening was a superb cold glass of Pouilly Fume, all the way from the Loire Valley in France. Such a rarity on St Helena as the vast majority of wine here is from South Africa.
Friday morning will see the French delegation depart on the RMS for Cape Town. Their visit has been packed with memorable moments and interactions.
The week they were here will be remembered not only by the visitors but by many of us who were lucky enough to be on St Helena in the anniversary year of Napoleon’s arrival.
Sunday 11th October saw us up early to get ready for a food festival to be held on Longwood Green which is in front of Longwood House, home to Napoleon. The day was one of the windiest days on the island. As I drove there I encountered broken tree limbs on the road and leaves everywhere, which considering its spring here, shouldn’t be happening!
Gazebos and tents were erected in true St Helena style, in spite of the gale howling around. Johnny Dillon and his team did a great job getting everything ready for the stall holders to set up.
The weather stayed kind to us with some bright spells between the clouds which rushed across the sky and the rain stayed away.
Once the music started and bar opened, the crowds arrived to enjoy a variety of food and drinks not often seen in one place on St Helena. Kids had face painting and bouncy castle, and loads of space to charge around. There was even a scarecrow competition! A great atmosphere and a lovely day out.
Our Chief Executive is blessed with an incredibly talented family, especially when it comes to the arts. Niall’s wife Aine, who is an accomplished artist, has spent the past months depicting a variety of representations of Napoleon’s time here on St Helena.
The showing of these paintings was held at the St Helena Museum and had all the trappings of a Bond Street event. The location was perfect with lighting to highlight the paintings, it soon became packed full of jolly folk, glasses of wine in hand, mulling over the merits of one picture over another.
Aine was for sure the star of the evening, gracefully moving from group to group, smiling modestly as if these were just a few scribbles that she had knocked up the night before. The praise for her efforts was unanimous and many of the works sold within the first hour of the event. Anyone who was there will remember it as a fabulous evening and one which should be repeated more often.
The heading to this Blog is taken from the island of Maui, part of the Hawaiian Islands where I have spent many happy hours wondering around the town of Lahaina where every Friday they have Art Night. Lahaina has many Art Galleries and they all open their doors each Friday to anyone who wishes to just meander around absorbing the atmosphere and the paintings. And what paintings I have seen, Picassos, Warhols, Norman Rockwells, Ronnie Wood of Rolling Stones fame to name just a few.
Islands are great places for art galleries (and jewellers) as security can be managed more easily than in a city. If anyone is reading this who has such a business, please consider St Helena as we are one of the safest places on the planet and open for business!
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.