Fogo Island

Last summer we went back to Newfoundland for my grandmother’s 85th birthday.  She is still as spry as ever and seems busier now than she’s ever been.  Every month she visiting her grandchildren and children who live across the province, or visiting with family and friends in the small town where she lives.  She’s an amazing woman, but I’m a little biased.  She’s my grandmother after all.

So, because of her birthday we decided to go out for a few days earlier and stay a few days later to do some sightseeing.   I must admit that I’ve seen more of the island going back to visit than I ever did when I was living there.  You don’t really appreciate something until you leave it behind.  If you haven’t been to the island, but have seen the tourism commercials, you’ll know what to expect.  In the summer, the island really does look like the commercials.  There are kids playing on the streets, the line of washing swaying in the breeze, and the distinct smell of sea air along the coast.

Deep Bay: view from the Writer’s studio

One of the great gems of Newfoundland is Fogo Island. It’s the largest island off the main island.  You can get to Fogo via ferry near Twillingate, which is in the center of Newfoundland.  A short drive from the Trans Canada will get you to the ferry and it’s only a short ride over to the island.  Of course, Fogo has more recently become famous for it’s new hotel, the Fogo Island Inn. Prime Minister Trudeau took his family there for Thanksgiving a couple years back.  You’ll need a car to get around on the island, but nothing is really that far apart from anything else.

Fogo is rich in history and culture.  The Irish settled there back in the 18th century and the community of Tilting, on the east coast of the island, is a National Historic Site.  We were lucky enough to get a room at a Bed and Breakfast in Tilting for a night.  The weekend we chose to go was the same weekend as the Brimstone Head Music Festival, so all the rental suites were packed.  We called and only got in because someone else cancelled.  We stayed at the Tilting Bed and Breakfast and were treated to a wonderful full breakfast in the morning with freshly made scones.  One could go to Fogo and explore Tilting for the day and have plenty to see from early morning walks along the shoreline to see caribou, or staying in town to see all the historical sites, but we wanted to explore.  Please give them a call if you visit the island.

Squish Studio
copyright Saunders Architecture

One of the great things about Fogo is the Shorefast Foundation.  This foundation was created to help the people of Fogo Island have a livelihood as the fishery was slowly dying.  By creating projects like the inn, all the proceeds from those projects stay on the island and contribute to the social growth of the island. There are four artist retreats located around the island where artists can hole up and create.  In Tilting, close to where we were staying, is one retreat called the Squished Studio.  There was a lovely sea urchin sculpture outside the studio that someone created.  It just added to the uniqueness of the island.  That’s one of the great things about the island: the little surprises that are hidden for people to find.

Another gem is Nicole’s.  It’s located in the community of Joe Batt’s Arm and is within walking distance of the Inn.  It was recommended that we call ahead for a reservation as they were always busy.  Especially since is was the weekend of the music festival. (Remember that?)  Nicole’s got started with a grant from the Shorefast Foundation.  So we called and got a table just before their last sitting.   Owned and run by Nicole Decker, Nicole’s offers the familiar flavours of Newfoundland but re-imagined: a salad with a fresh blueberry vinaigrette, or fresh pasta with pulled salt cod.  And they serve Growler’s ice cream for dessert.  Their menu is seasonal and try to use locally grown products, so go and enjoy.

Growler’s, also in Joe Batt’s, makes their ice cream in house, and incorporates all of Newfoundland’s wonderful flavours.  You can get such flavours as partridge berry tart, jam jam, or raisin bread ice cream.  If you don’t know the first two flavours I’ll have to enlighten you in a later post.  Open seasonally, you’ll have to check them out when you’re back on the island.

One last place we went to was the Flat Earth Coffee Company.  We were jonesing for some caffeine and we saw the store front as we were driving by to get to the B&B.  “Let’s go there after,” I remarked as we were trying to find out where we were going.  The next day we went back.  Three friendly faces greeted us as we opened the door.  Each person behind the counter was working on some delicious looking cupcakes.  We placed our order for coffee and noticed the Society attached to the cafe.  We went in and got a lovely tour and was informed that Brimstone Head is considered one of the corners of the flat earth.  If you stand on top of Brimstone Head and look out towards the sea, it’s easy to see why people would think the earth is flat.  So we enjoyed coffee, the museum, and cupcakes.  A good day all around.

So the next time you visit the island, visit the smaller one too: Fogo.  Take a couple of days and go along the shore to look for caribou, try some local food, check out the museums all across the island, and try not to fall off one of the corners.