Interview with Marie-France Gravel, Away by TTI Travel Advisor
What was the purpose of your trip?
Every few years, my friend and I travel to a new destination for an active girls’ getaway! Our last trip took us to Tuscany and Umbria, and this year we wanted to stay closer to home. Given my knowledge of experiential travel and love of remote destinations, Fogo Island, Newfoundland was the perfect choice!
Tell us about your itinerary.
Fogo Island Inn in Joe Batt’s Arm sits on an island, off an island, at one of the “four corners of the Earth” (according to the Flat Earth Society).
Each of their intimate 29 unique guest suites has dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows with unbroken views of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Inn features a rooftop spa, library, high-end personal service and luxe décor based on local traditions. Most suites have a wood-burning stove; all are furnished with quiet luxuries and handmade furniture and quilts. The award-winning Inn is a community asset, with 100% of operating surpluses reinvested into Fogo Island.
After a short flight from Toronto to Gander, Newfoundland we picked up our rental car, and drove the scenic 1-hour drive to the ferry dock at Farewell, where we caught a 40-minute ferry ride to far-flung Fogo Island and its eponymous Inn, our home for the next 3 nights.
One of the aims of the Inn is to make connections between guests and island communities. So after settling in to our beautiful suite, we headed on a personalised island tour with our ‘community hosts’ – locals who introduce you to important components of island heritage.
There happened to be a rug-hooking annual conference close by. Our host introduced us to over a hundred rug-hookers from across the country, who had gathered to promote the art of traditional rug-hooking and share their camaraderie. This half-day outing offered fresh perspectives and insights, as well as plenty of laughter and local stories.
Back at the Inn, it was now time for dinner. For me, travel is a multi-sensory experience and food is key. I am a firm believer in eating local and the dining experience at Fogo Island Inn exceeded my expectations. Executive Chef Murray McDonald, a native Newfoundlander who has worked around the globe, along with his culinary team, find inspiration in the ocean’s bounty and from ingredients grown on the island. The dining room was both cozy and breathtaking, offering gorgeous ocean views. The locally sourced menu was fine dining, and the overall experience was 10/10.
After breakfast (a delicious salt-cod variation on eggs Benedict), we set out to experience the landscapes, seascapes, and icescapes of Iceberg Alley during a half day excursion aboard the MS Ketanja. We circumnavigated several icebergs, amongst puffins and razorbills, and a few lucky fellow travellers even caught a glimpse of a whale.
The highlight for me was a shore excursion to Little Fogo Islands. Once a thriving port and home to a year-round fishing community, Little Fogo is now inhabited only in the summertime. Of special interest was a peek inside St. Anne’s Catholic Church, a beautifully restored heritage site. On the way back to the Inn, the sun setting over the Atlantic with icebergs in the distance was up there in “I love my job” moments. After another fabulous dinner, we headed up to the hotel’s wood-fired rooftop sauna and hot tub to unwind, and enjoy spectacular views of the night sky.
We woke up with a special surprise just outside our door: a delicious tray of pastries served in a “Tackle Box.” After breakfast, we hiked the short but beautiful Lion’s Den trail, which followed the coastline through abandoned communities and offered breathtaking panoramas.
Back at the hotel, we headed to the state-of-the-art digital cinema to take in a screening of the “Fogo Process,” a documentary of stories of Fogo Island and the legacy of its people. That evening we spent relaxing in the beautiful lounge, with traditional local musical entertainment.
After a leisurely morning of reading in the hotel’s cozy library, we decided on another self-guided hike – this time to visit the Inn’s art project, the Long Studio. We then stopped by a local furniture shop just down from the Inn for a briefing on traditional outport furniture and how it has given rise to some of the amazing pieces at the hotel. My favourite was the Punt Chair – made with the same traditional techniques used to make small fishing boats, known as punts, on the island. The day ended with a final gourmet lunch of lobster. It was time to say a fond farewell to Fogo.
“There are no strangers here. When you leave, you’ll be leaving home” – Fogo Island Inn.
What was your Most Memorable Moment?
Too many. But one that comes to mind was listening to the snap, crackle, pop of the 10,000-year-old ice cube that was slipped into my drink. “That’s iceberg ice,” I was told.
What surprised you most about the destination?
I believe that the more remote and mythical a place is, the more impact it has on you. At Fogo Island, I was awe-inspired by the beauty of the surroundings, the incredible heartwarming Newfoundland hospitality of the local people, and the extraordinary level of service at the Inn. But probably what surprised me most was my insatiable appetite: I could eat lobster and crab everyday and never get tired of it!
I highly recommend this destination for honeymooners, adventure seekers, foodies, retirees… And anyone looking for a weekend retreat.
Photos Courtesy of Marie-France Gravel