Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fogo Island and the Fogo Island Inn

It's finally time to catch the Ferry

Brand spanking new....only been in service since May"ish".  Very nice.


Holds approx. 70 cars depending on how many large trucks and semi's are on board.

There's so much in my head about this trip and I can't really sort it out.  I do know that this trip to the easternmost point of our continent worked it's way into the top five on my all-time list.  But to put it into words is really difficult because it was the intangibles that made me love it so much.....the kindness of the people, the tranquility of the island, the step-back-in-time vibe despite the overwhelmingly contemporary structure that is the Fogo Island Inn.  It seems to be a complete contradiction.....this Inn and this Place....but it isn't.  I'll do my best to convey the allure.

Before I introduce you to Fogo Island Inn, read this 2012 NY Times article or this Globe and Mail article on the Inn's founder, Zita Cobb, and how inspiration for the Inn came about.  We had the pleasure of chatting with Zita over cocktails one night and she's a true representation of the island and its people.  Intelligent and charming.  Also, do yourself a favor and search her name on youtube and watch a couple of her speeches.

The first glimpse on the ride in.






Our room.....all of the furniture, and I mean ALL including the accessories, quilts,rugs, etc. are made on the island by the locals.   Even down to the handmade beds.  It's really quite amazing.



This is not the normal Exclusive Resort room (this one is a bit smaller).  I do believe ER's normal sized room was reserved by a much more prominent guest and his travel party.  More on that later.  It didn't really matter to us.  The bed was amazing, along with the views and we really didn't spend much time here except for me to enjoy the first few cups of coffee every morning in my jammies staring at the water.  


Speaking of the coffee....no need to call for room service.  An adorable little basket is waiting for  you outside your door every morning with a steaming thermos of coffee, juice, and freshly baked pastries.  It was one of my favorite parts as I HATE waiting for room service to arrive when I want my damn coffee.  #spoiledbrat






We arrived at the Inn around cocktail hour so after checking out the room, we headed to the bar and ordered a bottle of wine.  The bartender suggested we enjoy it on the roof to take in the amazing views.  If you insist!!!  The delivered the wine along with glasses to the roof and we "oohed" and "ahhhed" and "omg-ed" like a couple of idiots!  But c'mon, dude......









Even the roof of the dining room is pretty.  Details.  Everywhere.




Casual elegance without an ounce of pretense ANYWHERE


They normally have two seatings for dinner every night, 6:30 and 8:30.  We opted for the early one because we're old.  Don't count on your typical restaurant.  The portions are small by American standards (hallelujah), you get a choice of 2-3 appetizers and entrees of locally sourced/fresh ingredients and dessert.  (Food is included in the price of your room.....alcohol, not.)  All of that being said, this is an extremely talented chef and let's not forget, the livelihood of this island is fresh seafood.  Simply fabulous.



 

The atmosphere doesn't suck either.

One part of your stay at the Inn includes a 2-3 hour tour of the island with a "community host"....meaning a local and most likely in their personal car.  Whatever you do, don't skip this.  Even if tours aren't your thing.  Our community host was Fergus Foley......Irish much??.....and I'll never forget him.  Meet Fergus and two of his six brothers.....



Remember those stilts.......

Fergus picked us up at the Inn around 10am and off we went.



That knobby looking hill in the distance is Brimstone Head which, according to the Canadian Flat Earth Society, is one of the four corners of the earth.  So, yeah.




It also happens to be a fabulous hiking spot which unfortunately we didn't have the time for this trip.



It's also freaking windy at Brimstone Head.








Fergus is a retired fishery officer (and does he have stories!!) so when he spotted a few of his buddies taking a smoke break outside the fish plant (?) he starts giggling and says, "I'm going to stop and talk to these guys just to see if you can understand a word they say!!"  We didn't.  Fergus has a thick Irish accent, but these dudes were speaking a different language!





The view from the Marconi Wireless Interpretation Center.  Another great place to hike.



"The Marconi Wireless Interpretation Centre officially opened in 2007, and is a monument to the important role that wireless communication played in Newfoundland and Labrador's history. The original Marconi station was built in 1911, and for many years was the only station between Cape Race and Belle Isle. Through interpretative panels, the site tells the story of the ebb and flow of communities and culture and how wireless technology kept those in the fishery safe, prosperous and in touch."






Apparently, this is architect, Todd Saunders, inspiration for the Inn's design.



I see it.



Last stop of the day was in Tilting, home of Fergus Foley, and a photographer's dream.  I wish I talented enough to do it justice.  (This is a great resource.)






Squish studio.....one of the four Shorefast Foundation artist studios



















Everytime the Inn comes into view, the contrast is a fabulous shock to the senses.




And no trip to Tilting is complete without a stop at Phil's Shed.  Phil is Fergus' brother and he works at the Inn and THIS is his shed.  



Yes, Newfoundland has it's own time zone.  That half hour screwed with me all week!


I guess the best way to describe it is the Foley brothers' man cave and they often have the more prominent Inn guests here for "kitchen parties".   I was having a little trouble swallowing that until I had the opportunity to attend one of those kitchen parties the next day.  More later.


This trip to the shed was just Fergus, hubs and I, and Phil's wife of 21 years, Maureen!  I know that because today happened to be their anniversary.


Had the "pleasure" of trying some of their screech.  You guessed it.....moonshine.  One sip was enough.  And yes, that's actual iceberg ice in that glass.  Fergus says the best thing about iceberg ice is it never melts with just one drink, so you can't waste that ice....


Music is a huge part of life on Fogo.....specifically old Irish folk songs which they'll break out at these kitchen parties.  But they also love themselves some country music.  They tried to convince me to sing some country music with them but there isn't enough screech in the world to make that shit happen.


Fergus dropped us back the the Inn in time for a late lunch and a little chill time before dinner.  We didn't really plan this, but our reservations at the Inn just happened to coincide with their annual Chef's on the Edge event, where they bring in prominent Canadian chefs to cook at the Inn for Canadian Thanksgiving.  Their Thanksgiving falls on a Monday so they use the previous weekend for the event.

Friday night's dinner was the first event for the weekend and was a family style dinner at big tables with a shit ton of wine.  I sat next to Zita Cobb's (the Inn is her brainchild) brother who runs the Shorefast Foundation and was a very interesting dude, but I also sat next to Heather and her husband Jim (who I later discovered was the Prince of Winnipeg) and they were FUN!!  So much fun, we made very drunken plans to go hiking together in the morning.  Because I'm an ambitious drunk.

Well, we run into each other the next morning at breakfast all a little rough around the edges and we proceed to make every excuse to not go hiking.....the obvious hungover one, the it's probably too cold one, etc., etc.  But then I walk outside and it the nicest day we've had so far, meaning NO WIND so we decided to suck it up and go.

Good decision.....


We opted for Joe Batt's Point Trail because it was closest to the Inn and we needed to be back by 12:30 for the kitchen party/crab boil at Phil's Shed.  Who in their right mind would miss THAT?








This is another four artist structures on the island.  Rumor has it this artist-in-residence grant is the most sought after in the world.  That's the rumor.




























This is Colleen's brother's place!





The statue of the great auk....a now extinct bird that once called these parts home.  There's a sign at the Inn saying "Have you hugged the auk today?"



So we all hugged the auk.







Punts....used in the Fogo Island Punt Race
This explains the punt races!





After the hike it was back to Phil's Shed for the "boil-up".... we'd call it a crab boil.  There was singing, story-telling, freshly steamed crab, homemade fishcakes, alcohol, etc.  It reminded me of the neighborhood parties my parents and their friends had when I was a kid.  Minus the singing.  Thank God.




Squish House.........another of the artist studios.










From the time we arrived at the Inn there had been buzz that a French VIP was staying in-house with a group of friends.  On our hike, we were all speculating on who it might be.....a political dignitary?  a celebrity?


Then I overheard talk at the boil that it was Prince Albert of Monaco.  (Whenever I say Prince Albert, I can't stop myself from repeating the prank call my friends and I used to make when we were kids..."Have you got Prince Albert in a can?  Yes.  Then you better let him out?")  We were in grade school.  We thought we were hilarious.

Anyway, we heard his whole party would be joining the rest of us common folk (besides the Prince and Princess of Winnepeg) for dinner that night. Rubbing elbows, people.


On our ride back to the Inn, Fegus unexpectedly pulls off the side of the road to this green shed, gets out of the car, crawls under the shed and comes out with this.  I have video of the guys trying it but my laughing in the background saying I'm gonna pee my pants is so loud and obnoxious, I'll save your ears.



I mean when was the last time someone pulled their stilts out from under their house and made you try them??  Me either.



Then Fergus made another sharp detour and took us to his favorite berry picking spot.




Partridgeberries.  The Partridgeberry Festival was also happening the weekend we were there, but we opted  out.

Wild Blueberries







Dinner sunsets are stunning.  Every night!


Then Prince Albert makes his royal entrance.  Actually, it was all pretty damn anticlimactic to tell you the truth.  He made a little speech during dinner wishing his friend a happy birthday....blah blah.  But the best part was when Jim stood and introduced himself as the Prince of Winnepeg to the entire room and wished Heather a happy 21st (I think?) anniversary.  Mic drop.

Albert


This was the last night of the Chefs on the Edge event and we were treated to a six course (don't quote me on the number.....it's a bit hazy)  dinner with wine pairings.  It was amazing.

All that royalty in one pic.

And then since the opportunity doesn't often present itself, we hung out with Albert and a few of his friends in the bar until after midnight.  Morning flight be damned.  Until the next morning!!

Even better than Prince Albert that night was the former head of the NFL for ESPN again tweaking my fantasy football line-up.  I finally won a match-up that week!!

Up at 8am to catch the 10am ferry and another hour drive to Gander airport.  I didn't even mind the mild hangover because I can't remember when I've had that much fun on a trip.  All of the people on the island and associated with the Inn were the warmest, most welcoming we ever come across.  Meeting new friends was a fabulous bonus that made the trip all that more memorable.  Thanks for letting us celebrate your anniversary with you!

So that's Fogo Island and the Fogo Island Inn.  Put this on your bucket list while you may still be able to possibly get a reservation.  There are only 29 rooms and it's booked solid for the next year, at least and Oprah was just quoted saying it was at the top of HER bucket list, so.......

Go.  Allow yourself the chance to get to know the people.  Relax.  Unplug.  Make lifetime memories. You're welcome.
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