Just off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland lies an island remote enough to have its own time zone; one and a half hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time to be precise. Fogo Island is governed by a sleepy, bygone way of life where traffic lights, advertising billboards and fast food joints are unknown.
Not much attention would have been paid to this treeless, rocky outcrop – indeed it might even have been completely forgotten – if it weren’t for the efforts of one particular woman who is largely responsible for putting Fogo on the map, or at least in the press. After making her fortunes in Silicon Valley during the digital boom years, island native Zita Cobb decided to retire early and reinvest her earnings into Fogo’s community with the creation of the Shorefast- Foundation. The non-profit organization aims to stimulate the islands economy by making its residents less dependent on fishing as well as promoting the local culture abroad.
The one hundred square mile island is reached by a forty five minute ferry journey from the harbor town of Farewell, which is a sixty mile drive from the nearest airport in Gander. Northern Europeans, who then proceeded to make fishing their way of life, were the first permanent settlers here in the eighteenth century and today Fogo is dotted by small villages, each with only a few hundred inhabitants and story book names like Little Seldom and Tilting.
Cobb’s achievements culminated with the recently opened Fogo Island Inn – designed by Canadian born, Norwegian based architect Todd Saunders – which although sufficiently striking, looks more like an Antarctic research station than an upscale hotel from the exterior. Inside it’s a different story – warm and modern wood clad spaces are flanked by huge floor to ceiling windows allowing for spectacular landscape views. Aside from twenty nine sea facing rooms spread over four floors, the building houses a restaurant, library, movie theater, art gallery, conference room, lobby and rooftop spa complete with sauna. The inn was almost entirely built, furnished (including hand made wooden beds, hand woven quilts) and staffed by the islanders. It’s also strictly eco conscious, fitted with solar panels and electric cars for guests. Apart from ensuring that everything which exits the hotel kitchen is handmade on the premises, Canadian chef Murray McDonald gives an almost haute cuisine twist to humble local ingredients like caribou, lamb, plenty of seasonal fish and foraged produce.
For a better picture of Fogo’s unique character follow this link.
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