Monday, 14 September 2015


Subtitle: DO GO TO FOGO

Never heard of Fogo? Don't worry; not many have. Travel and Leisure Magazine refers to Fogo as a fishing community off Newfoundland's northeast coast marked by craggy shores and blissful nothingness. I would go further, defining Fogo as a shining example of how a population can retain valuable local traditions from the past while moving boldly into the future. I loved every moment spent on this northern Newfoundland island and would return in a heartbeat.

Perhaps, I should begin my island love letter with DO NOT GO TO FOGO if your preferences lean to shopping malls and designer outlets, chain hotels and motels, gitchy souvenir get the picture, I'm sure.

DO GO if you are into 110-mile coastlines dotted with quaint, colourful little houses, weather-worn fishing sheds shakily balancing on stilts, windswept landscapes, caribou herds munching on bog grasses, small striking art studios, stunning hiking trails and welcoming people. And oh, I shouldn't forget, molasses partridgeberry tarts.

1960's efforts by the provincial government of Newfoundland to resettle Fogo Island residents to the mainland thankfully met with a resounding defeat. Fogo's tight knit outport way of life and fishing industry continued successfully until in 1992 the Canadian government shut down the commercial cod fishing industry in the North Atlantic. As with other outport communities, the economic backbone of which was their cod fishing industry, Fogo Island was devastated. Family homes were deserted for mainland living. Was Fogo finished? 

With determination, great resilience, and the ability to adapt, islanders responded by slowly switching to fishing for snow crab and shrimp. No easy feat given expensive gear requirements and an enormous learning curve.

And then Zita Cobb returned home. One of seven children of an illiterate Fogo Island fisherman, Zita made her way to university, ultimately becoming a multi millionaire as an executive with a Silicon Valley fibre optics firm. So, you say, many Newfoundlanders return home. Yah? The difference? Zita Cobb returned to Fogo Island determined to use her fortune to renewing Fogo Island's economy while conserving its past. She began the Shorefast Foundation which has supported and developed local businesses, attracted a community of artists by offering residences, and opened the cutting-edge Fogo Island Inn.

Constructed on ancient shoreline rocks, the inn's contemporary design can at first appear out of place until one recognizes that the entire structure, built of wood and partially on stilts, pays homage to the aged fishermen's huts. Every employee, whether trained in the kitchen or hotel, is a resident on Fogo Island. Menus in the dining room are based on the local land and sea - berries, cod, mushroom, etc. Guests are introduced to the local culture and traditions whether through music, watching a fishing punt being constructed or touring the island. The list of activities is endless. Profits are ploughed back into the Shorefast Foundation.

Enjoying our last night's sun set, I realize how I am suddenly not ready to leave the following day, how I have fallen in love with the unique beauty of this northeastern Newfoundland island, how the tenacity and warmth of it's people have inspired me and how I cannot wait to return.  

My advice  - DO GO TO FOGO!


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