On board Rotterdam.
The first thing that we learned about this mysterious far-off place is that the name Helena is not pronounced like the town in Montana, but instead puts the accent on the middle syllable, as in he-LEN-a. Second thing we learned was that Napoleon Bonaparte was once buried here.
This was one of those very pleasant surprise destinations along this wonderful journey. St. Helena is British, small, and very much out of the way of just about everything. Located two days’ sail from Namibia and about a third of the way along a diagonal line from the southern tip of Africa and the most eastern tip of Brazil, this little gem sits out in the south Atlantic quietly and comfortably on its own.
The Island is steep, rocky, generally barren and totally enjoyable. The little town of Jamestown is a one-lane village in the middle of a crevasse that breaks the solid line of mountain from one end of the island to the other.
Definitely British in flavor and flair, this spotlessly clean and charming town was a little reminiscent of Bermuda without the tourist shops and the pink-sand beaches. This place could be a world-class destination if 1) it had beautiful pink-sand beaches, and 2) it was within a reasonable distance of a large affluent population center, and 3) if it had an airport.
Lacking all three of those essential items, this little island is faced with a shrinking population and shrinking financial support it receives from a struggling Great Britain. Yet this little enclave of western civilization in the middle of a vast ocean is a delightfully refreshing place to relax and explore.
For the ambitious there is Jacob’s Ladder, a 600-step staircase that takes the hearty to a fort that sits atop the town.
For the historically minded there is the previously mentioned Napoleon’s tomb and his home where he was exiled to in 1815.
For the more socially minded there was Ann’s Cafe, located in the castle’s gardens which served up good local fare, cool drinks and a very rare touch of the 21st century — WiFi access.
As we sailed out of Jamestown, St. Helena, we were treated to some of the most beautiful vistas of the whole journey.
Mike and Denise Feeney are future cruise consultants on Rotterdam.