Sunday, September 3, 2017

Fogo INN

The sun was shinning from very early in the day so I went for a walk in the community of Seldom, where we are staying. The air is so fresh.

Fogo Island's economy was entirely based on cod fishing decades ago and there are still many fishing stages all over the island. 

Today, instead of boats bringing in fish, we see tourists moving around, exploring the area and helping to support the local economy.

I believe there are not many more tourists around because it is so hard to get here. 
As a person living in Toronto, I found it already challenging and expensive to travel to Newfoundland's capital St. John's, where we stayed in a hotel for the night. 
The next day we drove a rental car for about 4 hours to Gander, in the north of the province. 
Once in Gander, we drove another hour to get the ferry boat for an hour ferry ride to finally arrive at Fogo Island. 
It can easily be a full day or a couple of days- with all the stops -  to get to this paradise. 
And that's exactly the secret, I think. 
It's still a paradise because not too many people have discovered it already. 
I hope it remains like that. 

Lobsters traps are everywhere.

We had an authentic Fogo island breakfast with toutons - which is pan fried bread dough - with molasses.
In a Newfie accent toutons rhymes with 'doubton'. 
We learned it at a restaurant when the waitress nicely corrected our pronunciation: "no doubton you are having a touton." (it pronounces: T-out-ten)

The sunny and fresh day - about 12-15 degrees - could not be better for a hike to Joe Batt's Point, an incredible piece of the coast.

This was the beginning of our 1 hour and half hike.

During the whole hike we could see the majestic Fogo Inn in the background.

This is a hunting gaze. 
Hunters hide behind these rocks waiting for ducks.    

In this photo you can have an idea of how close the Fogo Inn - white on the right - is from Joe Batt's Arm's community. 
While staying at the Inn, guests receive a tour of the island with a community host-  a person native from the island who was trained to be a tour guide. 
We are so lucky to stay in the house of one of Fogo Inn's community host.
Blanche is not only a wonderful community host for tourists (like us), but an incredible person as well. 
If you ever visit Fogo Island look for her in the community of Seldom. 

The long studio is an art studio for artists in residency visiting Fogo Island.
It is run by Shorefast Foundation, which has fascinating residency programs from one to three months in length.
It's every artist's dream.

The side of the art studio.

A view from the entrance of the studio, at the back of the structure like the entrance of many houses in Newfoundland.

The long studio entrance - at the back.

Craig and Julia were on the quest to find the Great Auk, a big bird that used to live here but has been extinct since mid 1800s.


The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) is a species of flightless alcid that became extinct in the mid-nineteenth century. It was the only modern species in the genus Pinguinus. It is unrelated to the birds now known as penguins, which were discovered later and so named by sailors because of their physical resemblance to the great auk.
It bred on rocky, isolated islands with easy access to the ocean and a plentiful food supply, a rarity in nature that provided only a few breeding sites for the great auks. When not breeding, they spent their time foraging in the waters of the North Atlantic, ranging as far south as northern Spain and along the coastlines of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Ireland, and Great Britain.
The great auk was 75 to 85 centimetres (30 to 33 in) tall and weighed approximately 5 kilograms (11 lb), making it the second-largest member of the alcid family (Miomancalla was larger). It had a black back and a white belly. The black beak was heavy and hooked, with grooves on its surface. During summer, great auk plumage showed a white patch over each eye. During winter, the great auk lost these patches, instead developing a white band stretching between the eyes. The wings were only 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, rendering the bird flightless. Instead, the great auk was a powerful swimmer, a trait that it used in hunting. Its favourite prey were fish, including Atlantic menhaden and capelin, and crustaceans. Although agile in the water, it was clumsy on land. Great auk pairs mated for life. They nested in extremely dense and social colonies, laying one egg on bare rock. The egg was white with variable brown marbling. Both parents participated in the incubation of the egg for approximately six weeks before the young hatched. The young left the nest site after two or three weeks, although the parents continued to care for it.

Fogo Inn and the community of Joe Batt's Arms.

"Simple but classy." 
My friend Ed chose well the words to best describe one of the most expensive hotels in Canada, the Fogo Inn - according to their website, the cheapest room is CAN$ 1675 a night.
This non-for-profit minimalist hotel has been a successful case study since it opened its doors five years ago.
It was designed by newfie architect Todd Saunders, who lives and works in Norway. 
But really the biggest name attached to this magnificent piece of art and social change is Zita Cobb, a native of Fogo Island.
There are many articles and videos about this fabulous woman and her incredible ideas online, but basically everything about this project is to celebrate Fogo Island culture and its people. 
From the construction to the hotel daily management, locals are part of every detail. 
Unlike many other fancy hotels around the world, it doesn't feel like the Fogo Inn is trying to impress anyone, but it is just being what the island and islanders really are: simple, cozy and warm (even though winters are brutal here).
Like I said before, we are luck that our friend Blanche works for the Inn and she was kind enough to take us on a tour of the space. 
What a place! From every piece of furniture, every detail of the architecture to the choices of ingredients in the menus and the friendly staff, Zita and her team found a way to involve us deeply in the island's intimacy. 
As soon as you walk in the culture embraces you in the most cozy way, making you feel like a grandmother will walk in at any minute bringing you tea and a quilt to warm you up. 
It really makes you feel welcome... and taken care of.   

The girls hanging out at the reception before getting our tables for lunch.
As I mentioned in my post yesterday, all this furniture was locally designed and made, at the island's wood shop.
The Inn also uses cushions, covers and other artcrafts hand made by local artisans.
The staff is mostly from the island.
The meals are included in the daily rate, but the hotel encourages the guests to try different restaurants on the island, covering their bills and supporting local businesses.


"The cylindrical hanging light fixtures in the dining room were fashioned from ordinary rope, and they form an elaborate, airy pattern that brings to mind the making of fishing nets or sailing knots. “There was an imperative to avoid anything mass produced,” Cobb explains. “The last thing we wanted was a boutique hotel like every other boutique hotel around the world.”

At the Fogo Inn restaurant.
Like at the restaurant, each of the 29 rooms has big windows overlooking the ocean. 
You never forget that you are on an island, surrounded by water.

I tried the traditional Cod Chowder.
It was really good.

This is another building being built beside the main building.

Top floor of the Inn.

The view is spectacular and guests can appreciate it from a hot tube.

It was an incredible experience to meet you, Fogo Inn, but Blanche's house is just as good and cozy. :)

Leaving the Inn in style.


I just love the clothes lines.

This is suppose the best ice cream on Fogo Island. 
I didn't tried, but the girls loved it.

The weather changed drastically by the afternoon...
 and we ended here our wonderful tour of Fogo Island.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Out & About with Blanche

Out & About is the tour that our friend Blanche does for visitors of Fogo Island, mostly for guests from the Fogo Inn.
Today she was kind enough to take us on a tour for hours, showing us this beautiful place and talking about the people and their traditions.
There are 11 communities in the island, and today we got to visit five of them: Seldom, Fogo, Joe Batt's Arm, Deep Bay and Shaol Bay.
Blanche is the 7th generation on the island and raised her two sons - Craig, my friend, and Colin - here as well.

Our first stop was the Brimstone Head in the community of Fogo. 
What a view from up there!


A hike up a dramatic landscape of rock with steep terrain on either side dropping to the aquamarine shoreline, Brimstone head walk/hike leaves the campground for some of the most stunnning vistas on Fogo Island. 

The girls had a great time picking wild blueberries.

The weather was not the greatest, but that didn't stop us from  get up on the rock and enjoying this amazing scenery.

Some people believe that the Brimstone Head is one of the four corners of the earth, because they also believe that the earth is flat.

Modern flat Earth societies consist of individuals who believe that the Earth is flat rather than an oblate spheroid. Such groups date from the middle of the 20th century; some adherents are serious and some are not. Those who are serious are often motivated by pseudoscience or religious literalism.
In the modern era, through the use of social media, flat Earth theories have been increasingly espoused by individuals unaffiliated with larger groups.

Uncle Ed and Uncle Craig were incredibly nice taking care of our little girls all day.
They absolutely love their uncles.

Me. Happy.

More blueberries, blackberries and partridge berries.

Pine cones.

Lots of residents of Fogo Island use wood to heat their houses.
They are already stocking up for the intense winter to come.

We stoped at Nicole's for lunch, a cute restaurant in the community of Joe Batt's Arm.

I had a traditional dish called Fish in Brewis, which is basically cod fish with potatoes and hard break soaked  in water. 
It was delicious and filling.

Cheers with a local Newfie beer: Quidi vidi 1892.

In the afternoon we visited more of the community of Joe Batt's Arm.
That's a well known community because it is where the Fogo Inn is located, but we'll leave that for tomorrow.


Here is an Anglican Church in Joe Batt's Arm. 
Every community has its church and its religion: Anglican, United Church, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Jeovah's Witnesses, or Gospel Hall.
In the old days, people's religion would determine which community they would live in and even what school their children would attend on the island.

Another great stop on Blanche's tour was the Wood Shop, created initially to build all the furniture for the Fogo Inn. 
Before the hotel opened its doors, many designers from all over the world were invited to come to Fogo Island and research traditions and design pieces of furnitures. 
Today, the shop is opened to the public with incredible pieces of art, and hires dozens of local people.

We also visited a couple of art studios. 
Here is the Winston and Linda Osmond art shop at Shoal Bay.
Beautiful art.
Actually, this place is a magnet for artists.

This building would be just an ordinary building in the community of Deep Bay, but it is now a touristic attraction because it is the building that inspired the architecture of the Fogo Inn. 
You can see the similarities of the tilts.

A peculiar detail in this house in Deep Bay also makes for a tourists stop: it's the so-called "mother-in-law door."
No relation to my lovely Margie.

Everywhere we looked there was a beautiful building, an incredible view, a mix of nature and tradition to remember forever.
It was hard to stop photographing all I was seeing.
Here are some pictures of pieces of communities.
Enjoy, but be aware that no picture can make justice to what our eyes can see for themselves.