After two years of talking about it and trying to find the “right” day, I finally made it to Fogo Island with the help of my good friend Pat. Time was getting short with my move to Ottawa less than 2 months away and I couldn’t imagine living on the mainland and not being able to speak about what has quickly become Newfoundland’s most famous and trendy destination. Our own Prime Minister visited last Easter and stayed at the Inn with his family. Sadly my budget did not allow for the $1500 - $2000 overnight stay at the beautiful Fogo Island Inn but nevertheless we elected to do a very full day trip that did not disappoint.
We left on the first departure of the day at 8:30 am on the new and very modern Fogo Island Ferry. The ferry which makes multiple trips daily from Farewell has a reputation for being unreliable even since my days in the early 80s as a tourist information officer. Even this new ship has had its issues with engine failure so packing a light overnight bag seemed like a reasonable plan especially with the high winds in the forecast. But we traveled both ways on schedule and in comfort.
There is no shortage of things to do on the island and I expect most people are like me, underestimating the size of the island and number of communities, each with their own personality. I was grateful that my friend, driver and guide knew her way around. Being late in the season some attractions were closed but there was still lots to see and I wished I had more time to explore the towns on foot and hike more trails.
Our first stop was in the town of Seldom. Surprisingly named because people seldom miss a visit to this quaint town, and not for my assumption that people seldom go there. The main attraction there is the Marine Interpretation Center which includes a very well maintained traditional trading post and museum. It is a beautiful representation of past life with artifacts from jars to old ledgers.
I think what I loved about Fogo was that no one seemed to fuss. The people were friendly and chatty but no one was out to impress or pretend as you sometimes find in touristy destinations. I had a fine chat to this crew who were mending their shrimp nets. One man patiently teaching the new guy.
I have never seen so many churches, new, old, and every denomination. We visited the two hundred year old United Church in town of Fogo or Fogo proper as it is sometimes referred.
Of course no trip to Fogo is complete without the hike to Brimstone Head. I have always heard it is considered one of the four corners of the earth by the Flat Earth Society although some of my research last night questions this theory. The hike was lovely and the trail well maintained. The high winds increased as we got to the top. We met an Irish family descending who warned us that “tis a bit breezy at the top, but worth it”. Truth be told, I was glad I had enough weight to ground myself because it was blowing a gale.
Next it was off to the Fogo Island Inn for a peek around. The hotel is fully booked until the end of September so getting a lunch, dinner or full tour reservation was out. But the staff was excellent and gave us lots of information. We visited the art gallery inside but failed to realize that the white plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling were not just that but instead the exhibit “Light Boiled Like Liquid Soap” by Wilfrid Almendra. It’s a wonder we didn’t pull one down. Oops. We only learned that it was actually an exhibit much later in the day when we saw the poster advertising it at Nicole’s Café, the favored spot for lunch.
I loved the room keys.
Joe Batt’s Arm was another beautiful community with at least three harbors in the middle and another viewpoint for the Inn.
The most unusual little town was Tilting, where there were tons of handmade fences and homes and stages with double doors for entrances. I would have loved to have wandered around here more on foot and read all the historical information posted about the town. We did get to visit Lane House which is another worthwhile museum.
We visited many more smaller communities and enjoyed a picnic before heading back on the 7:30 ferry. It was an unbelievable journey home, warm enough to sit outside with a sunset that could have been a painting . Although I was beat by the time I got in my door at 9:30pm, I was so glad I made the effort. Funny how easy it is to travel the world and miss the gems in our own backyard. I look forward to returning, next time as a true CFA.