I have never been so excited about a trip to Fogo Island! Counting down the sleeps was no joke! Finally, the Fogo Island Inn was open and welcoming guests.
Searching Fogo Island and/or Zita Cobb will give you great articles and background to this amazing venture and the history and geography of this island off the coast of Newfoundland. Other’s have told those details better than me.
My partner was born and raised in Island Harbour, Fogo Island, so this was not a new destination or unfamiliar journey. Our specific destinations were three of the newest ventures in a string of artistic and economic endeavors in the area.
Herring Cove Art Gallery, located in Shoal Bay is a new construction in a traditional style.
Winston is a painter documenting traditional communities and ways of life in Newfoundland. His landscapes are available as prints and cards in many cases and are very specific to Fogo Island. Houses, gardens, landscapes and past ways of life are many of his subjects. In addition to painting, he turns his hand at a few wooden projects including making a killick wine bottle holder. An avid gardener, he also sells fresh produce to the local Farmer’s Market and raises fowl. Need a few dozen quail eggs? Winston’s are organic.
Winston’s wife Linda makes traditional patterned quilts and hooked rugs as well as her own designs. They both feature work in the Wind and Waves Craft Guild in Joe Batts Arm. Not to be outdone by Winston, her sideline is making delicious salsa, pickles and relish from his produce which is also sold at the Farmer’s market. I got smart last year and bought a case of pickles and relish.
The second half of the Shoal Bay Gallery tour is Adam Young Studios, only a kilometer down the road. This “Young” teacher, father and painter is also drawing from Fogo Island tradition for his subjects. His bright colours and gaggles of fishing stores seem almost animated.
Adam Young gives personality to the traditional fishing sheds and they dance or march on long legs at wild angles. His colours are also reminiscent of the Jelly Bean Row houses in in St. John’s in their many flavours. A prolific painter, Adam sells originals and prints and has painted some commissions.
Adam needs a bit of signage but he’s the first house after the bakery, on the same side of the road. Ask anyone where Mr. Young, the principal lives. (2018, he’s now a big grey newly built house in Joe Batt’s Arm with great signage and a new red shed studio.)
Our ultimate destination on this trip was to be guests of the Fogo Island Inn, opened only two weeks previously on May 15, 2013.
The Fogo Island Inn is the grandest of ideas realized to date by the Shorefast Foundation. I won’t try to tell the story. Again, there are enough magazine articles if you search and I’m still sorting truth and urban legend from what I have heard. I will tell you what I saw with my own eyes.
Inn guests park in a lot with it’s own non-parking lot look. Carved a bit into the landscape on the side of the main street, parking places are designated by borders of mounds of soil and I can imagine this growing up into a natural parking “garden”. The shuttle service will pick you up in the parking lot or at the ferry or in Gander, depending on the arrangements you make.
Because the Inn is newly opened and word is just getting out, everyone seemed available and there to greet us. All smiles, the reception staff are taking turns welcoming guest to their rooms. We were in number 15, on the third of four floors. After a tour of our room and it’s amenities, we were offered a tour of the Inn.
Starting on top, we viewed the outside sitting areas, hot tub area and twin saunas. This Inn is build on the rocky shore of the North Atlantic. The view is breathtaking as sea birds fly past the windows and waves break on the rocks and shoals.
Not quite open yet, the fitness room, like every other has an amazing view. I can’t remember if the gym was on the fourth floor……we didn’t have time to get back there. It wasn’t located near our room, the restaurant or bar areas. 😉
The Inn was also designed to be a cultural centre and features an art gallery and digital theatre, both of which were getting finishing touches. A reception or conference area was in use and the Harris library was open and welcoming. A selection of Newfoundland and Labrador titles donated by the wife of the late Dr. Leslie Harris features fiction and non-fiction books and magazines. Newfoundland Quarterly magazines and aged sealing books share the shelves. This room reminds me very much of the Marine Interpretation Centre’s store museum in Seldom, Fogo Island.
The library, gallery, dining room and bar are all located on the first floor of the Inn. After our tour we tried the dining room. Our rate included meals so we started with lunch.
The Fogo Island Inn upped the scale again. Great work Chef Murray McDonald!
Following our lunch, we retired to our room to giggle a bit and ocean gaze. Can you blame us?
Every room faces the ocean with wall to wall windows and blinds that retract to the ceiling. Beds, chairs and tables were designed based on traditional forms and shapes and built by Fogo Islanders. Crocheted rugs are placed bedside and the colours compliment the quilts commissioned from Fogo Island quilters and the Wind and Wave Craft Guild. Every room has a functioning wood stove and the whole Inn is heated by wood heat. Even the wallpaper featured on one wall in each room is uniquely designed. I think each room has a different pattern but I’ll have to stay 28 more times to be sure.
As Leo napped I rubbed it in to my Facebook buddies. Afraid we might be missing something we returned downstairs around 2:30 to find the lobby quite busy. Hikers had arrived off the trail with their guide Fraser Carpenter. A prominent Canadian actor was allowing some fan photos in the lobby and tea was set up on the wood stove in the foyer. Not being tea drinkers, we introduced ourselves to Jacob whose smooth talking and offer of iceberg ice was just to hard to refuse.
June 1 was the official day that the Inn opened it’s common areas to the public. This whole building belongs to the community. The rooms are the only exclusive area. Eager locals stopped in for a tour or a beverage and a few booked tables for supper. The mayor was there for a visit. A group of local women were the first paying customers who were not Inn guests. There was a quiet excitement and a palpable pride in staff and visitors. The visa machine acted up and the fresh new staff finally got it figured out with someone called in and a number of phone calls. First day glitches. All handled and figured out.
The afternoon was spent in banter and visiting and a steady stream of staff greeting us, asking where we were from and then trying to place themselves in relation to Leo’s Fogo Island roots. One was going out with a son of a distant cousin, one’s grandparents live in Island Harbour, another’s father worked with him at one time or place. They were all eager to hear our impressions of the Inn so far and spoke with pride about working there.
Not only are jobs being created here, staff will be offered benefits such as medical insurance, something that is unheard of on Fogo Island where most are seasonal workers.
We met some other guests and saw lots of ‘business’ going on as meetings were held in a steady stream with Innkeeper Zita Cobb. She was on hand and in action all the time we were there.
We planned a late dinner, hoping the dull day might still provide a sunset. Neither dinner or the sun was a disappointment. The view is mesmorizing from your table or your room.
I could write a post on each of those course but I’ll spare you. Book for yourself. Dining room is open to the public by reservation.
Before supper, I was asked if we wanted turn down service. Sure, of course. And what did we want for ‘day break’.
Tea, coffee, juice.
Oh, Coffee please.
Early to bed and awake early we opened a window so we could hear the surf pounding on the rocks below our room. Around 7:30, I peeked out and found my ‘daybreak’ box.
You’d think I’d be done by now, but no.
I had to leave the shower to get the tablet to take this picture.
In each room, a few lines of Wadham’s Song is etched in the tiles. Written in 1756, this song was written as a navigational aide for illiterate fishermen to navigate around the area. Innkeeper Zita told me that if someone stayed in every room they’d get the full song. I hope to be the first!
Staff awaiting our reviews. Fun. We loved it all. Really!
Next stanza of Wadham’s song. September if all goes as planned. Room 15 can be checked off our list.
Rates will soon be posted on the Inn web page but lets just say we had a ‘grand’ stay. Our Full Board Rate included accommodation for a night, three meals and all beverages desired.
For more information about a the Fogo Island Inn search in this blog or my new blog Findfogoisland.com.
Also check out other areas of Newfoundland in FindNewfoundlanddotcom
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