It’s Bastille Day on 14th July, celebrating the moment in history in 1789 when French Revolutionaries stormed the Bastille. So we thought we’d take a look at some of the French influences in the Cape:
1. East Fort on Chapman’s Peak Drive: It was 1781 during a Dutch and French alliance that French forces sped to the Cape to protect this strategic trading route from the English – their arch enemies. After about a year and a half of waiting in vain to blow English ships out of the water, they got fed up and left! But not without leaving behind a gun battery, cookhouse and pizza oven on Chapman’s Peak Drive. I bet you didn’t know that!
2. Louis Michel Thibault: The Cape developed great style and elegance in the late 18th century as a result of three prolific men, one of whom was Parisian architect Louis Michel Thibault. As the VOC’s chief military engineer he was responsible for many buildings like the Slave Lodge façade, the iconic Cape Dutch Groot Constantia gables, homestead and wine cellar and other manors like De Oude Drostdy in Tulbagh. Much of the rich architectural heritage seen in Cape Town today can be attributed to this Frenchman. Merci Monsieur.
3. French Names: Surnames like Joubert, De Villiers, Malan, Du Toit (badly mispronounced in SA), Du Plessis, Du Preez and Malherbe are common in the Cape, as are the Christian names, Francois, Pierre, Etienne, Jacques and Louis. Research has shown that the contribution of Huguenot genes to the Afrikaner people amounts to some 24%, but within two generations of the French arriving, their home language had largely disappeared, but their legacy lives on in the daily lives of South Africans.
4. French Winemaking: The French had a hand in improving the woeful wines of the early Cape settlement when Huguenots arrived in 1688, after fleeing persecution in France. They settled in ‘French Corner’ aka Franschhoek and almost every estate here still bears a French name. While we can’t call our bubbly Champagne, we can lop off the top of the bottle with a sabre in true French Sabrage style – best seen at the Cabrière Estate every Saturday on their 11am tour or perhaps if our very own Restaurant Manager, martin feels the urge…
5.Maps and Murals: Many Cape maps and artworks of the 17th and 18th century were notated in French and these were copied by skilled artists for use in Cape Grace décor to set an historic and authentic scene of the Cape. Come along and see the beautiful murals in the foyer, Signal Restaurant and all over the hotel and read more of our blog posts for the inspiration behind the Cape Grace suites.