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Oui, it’s Bastille Day in Franschhoek

The town of Franschhoek, a tiny outpost of French Huguenot heritage near Africa’s southern tip, splashed out in blue, white and red on Saturday to mark Bastille Day.

The normally sleepy settlement in the fertile winemaking district east of Cape Town came to life for a merry, two-day street festival, attracting hundreds of visitors with French-style wine, cheese and bread.

The tricolour flag decorated lamp posts and shop windows, and champagne, berets and baguettes were in abundance as townsfolk pulled out all the stops to mark the French national day.

The festivities kicked off with a fun run, followed by a sod-turning ceremony at the site where a statue is to be erected for former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela.

In a bid to add an African flavour to this year’s Bastille celebrations, townsman and presidential hopeful Tokyo Sexwale was to lead a community walk from the Victor Verster Prison on the town’s outskirts to the Huguenot Monument to mark Mandela’s release in 1990 after 27 years in jail for his role in the anti-apartheid struggle.

The walk was to retrace Mandela’s first steps as a free man after emerging from prison at the age of 71.

Also on the programme was a symbolic guillotining of crime, one of the country’s main banes.

”By participating in the walk and attending the guillotining, members of the public will be able to show their collective support for the eradication of the social evil,” said a media statement.

On a lighter note, the programme included a wine-barrel-rolling competition and a chefs and waiters’ race, culminating in a formal ball in the evening.

But the main draw was likely to be the food and wine marquee in the town centre, boasting local cuisine and award-winning wines. — Sapa-AFP

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