How can you travel to two places at once?
Pack your bags for a reading retreat – where your destination is one world, and your mind’s eye is the other. We suggest some ideal stays for literary lounging that inspire the imagination.
By Shannon Melnyk
FOGO ISLAND INN
Fogo Island, Newfoundland
17th-century poet John Donne once said, “no man is an island,” but then Donne never had the pleasure of experiencing the Fogo Island Inn. Accessible isolation off the craggy Canadian Atlantic coast of Newfoundland can be found nestled on Fogo Island’s remote escape that offers otherworldly seclusion and the wild elements of a subarctic maritime climate.
Not so much a place as a state of mind, the Fogo Island Inn is nirvana for a reader’s retreat. Dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows in each one-of-a-kind guest room are chock full of creature comforts and “hand-made modern” designs typical of local craftsmen and artisans. The cuisine is a celebration of fresh local fare that tells a story of the fishers, planters, hunters, and foragers who share their bounty.
Literary buffs will delight in the Inn’s partnership with Penguin Random House Canada – a curated collection of Canada’s most lauded works. This year’s retreat includes authors Tomson Highway, Miriam Toews and Omar El Akkad and guests who opt-in to the Can-lit program will receive signed copies of the books that can be sent to your home before your departure or will be waiting in your room upon your arrival.
If you agree with poet and author Fernando Pessoa’s claim that literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life, a little literary lazing will be a snap at this little California chill central with your own hand-woven hammock. The Hotel Ynez is a relaxed retrofit of a motel from a forgotten era at the crossroads of Solvang and Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara wine country.
The rustic-chic boutique guestrooms are complete with Matouk bedding, vintage vanities and local art set on two private acres dotted with ancient redwoods, pines, oaks and madrones. Read in your hammock, a handcrafted Adirondack or by the light of the bonfire fire pits under the night sky. If it’s a page-turner, specialty DIY BBQ dinner kits are on offer to help you prepare a quiet dinner on your own Weber grill.
Day breaks call for a hop onto a complimentary e-bike perfect for tootling over to the quirky, authentic Danish village in Solvang, or hit the wineries and bring home a pleasing vintage pinot noir to savour that very last chapter.
North Hatley, Québec
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” So said author Frances Hodgson Burnett and we’re certain she would agree, “the right way” is to look is toward the picturesque private estate of Manoir Hovey, set on 30 acres of woods and English gardens on Quebec’s Lake Massawippi.
The 19th-century mansion was inspired by George Washington’s Mount Vernon residence with stately appointed suites in the main manor or cottages on the property, promising unlimited options to hide away with a good book.
Guests can luxuriate in the gardens, lounge by the lakeshore, peer endless pages poolside or cozy up in front of the fireplace of the estate’s own library. Literary connoisseurs are in for a reading retreat like no other, as Manoir Hovey turns out to be the setting of NYT’s best-selling murder mystery author Louise Penny’s novel A Rule Against Murder.
In fact, guests can immerse themselves in a “Vive Gamache” adventure named for Penny’s main character Chief Inspector Gamache that includes an upgraded suite, autographed copy of her latest novel, gifts and a guided tour of “Three Pines.” Ask the staff about frequent stays by Penny and her latest co-author of the political mystery State of Terror, Hillary Clinton.
FREE SPIRIT SPHERES
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Stephen King once deemed books to be “portable magic.” Imagine, then, taking a little portable magic with you to transcend time and space in your own floating orb suspended in the trees of an enchanting coastal rainforest.
Sprinkled along the woodsy landscape of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island are authentic handcrafted functional sculptures of art you can call home for an immersive experience like none other.
Free Spirit Spheres are the ultimate model of sustainability with clean Scandinavian design and a whole lot of quirky heart provided by its hosts and builders, Tom Chudleigh and Rosie Cowan. Described by a guest as a “unicorn in a field of horses,” the spheres offer a cozy treehouse vibe where you can while away the hours and chapters of your choice and nod off into a magical dreamland with the gentle sway of the buoyant globes.
When you’re not being whisked away into another world, there’s plenty of supernatural hiking, kayaking and underground caving within this British Columbia playground – or wander over to see Tom building his next Free Spirit Sphere onsite, an extraordinary engineering feat designed to encourage meditative and creative states of oneness.
From spa marathons in the South Pacific to leopard-lurking in the Sabi Sands, Vancouver-based journalist Shannon Melnyk seeks to share experiences with her readers that challenge convention, inspire curiosity, induce joy and soothe the soul.
Check out her adventures at shannonmelnyk.contently.com.