Florence’s Place: A Home away from Home
By Cassidy Jackson - Carroll
Upon disembarking the ferry terminal at Saleologa I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia that I can only imagine claims many a traveller who can’t pinpoint why they feel as if they’ve returned home, despite never having visited the tropical island before.
Savaii, the ‘real Samoa’ as many a Samoan will inform you, is an island with a rustic feel and enchanting allure.
The largest of the Samoan islands, Savaii is located 80km North West of the main island, Upolu, and is accessible by plane, but more commonly by ferry. (An inter-island ferry service runs continually back and forth on a daily basis.)
The comfortable charm of Savaii extends further into an endearing familiarity when staying at Florence’s Place. Located 10 minutes from the wharf, in the picturesque village of Faa’la, is Florence’s Place - warm and welcoming bed and breakfast run by Ruth and Kelvin Aickin.
Having relocated back to Samoa themselves 5 years ago, the enthusiastic couple understand the necessity of having that ‘homely feel’ when travelling.
The delectable freshly cooked meals, clean comfortable beds, spacious bathrooms, and the breezy sitting room filled with books overlooking the pristine ocean are all elements that work together to make you feel at home whilst nestling in at Florence’s.
By far the best feature at Florence’s Place that truly allows any visitor to feel at home is the Property’s hosts; Ruth and Kelvin. Their warm and inviting nature as well as their easy sense of humour has captured the hearts of many travellers who have graced their bed and breakfast.
Like your favourite aunty or colourful girl pal - Ruth openly shares her family history having spent her childhood years growing up in Fa’ala and is happy to explain what ‘Fa’a Samoa’ (The Samoan way) means and how it is a crucial part of every day living in Samoa, particularly in Savaii.
Kelvin, a New Zealander of Maori descent, will entertain his guests with tales of his previous life (pre-Samoa) and his stories of being a palagi (foreigner) in a small Samoan village.
I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of days at Florence’s Place during my New Year’s get-away in Savaii. While relaxing after a divine dinner, nursing an organic cup of lemon and ginger tea harvested from their kitchen garden, Ruth and Kelvin extends their hospitality even further.
They insisted I join them on their farm the following day and make me feel like part of the family.
Just a 10 minute drive inland from Florence’s Place is Rea Farms, a 150 acre farm named after Ruth’s family. The lush cattle farm is an abode to an array of animals and numerous crops. I was invited to potter around the gardens with Ruth while she took me through a taste tour of her orchard. After collecting an abundant basket full of pineapple, papaya, passionfruit, tomatoes, oranges and limes – Kelvin encourages me to help him feed the animals.
With 80 cattle, 50 odd chickens, 8 pigs and 2 goats, the feeding task is no easy feat. Having grown up on a farm himself, Kelvin knows first hand how to maintain and look after his animals. At one point the cows create quite the ruckus moo-ing in a crescendo that fills the vast highlands until Kelvin feeds them their favourite food of papaya which he believes is the secret to the cows’ healthy coat and makes a tasty beef product.
My day at Rea Farms finishes with a stunning sunset, one of Ruth’s famous cocktails and at times hilarious conversations with the farming couple. Relaxing back with a cold beverage while listening to the cluck of chickens climbing the trees to sleep for the night and the cows mooing in the paddocks - one can’t be blamed for suddenly feeling as if the farm is a home away from Florence’s Place!
The tranquillity of the place, soothing cool breeze, exquisite ocean views and surrounding wild bush are mesmerising and refreshingly heart-warming.
Savaii, Florence’s Place and the farm in particular, are indeed the ‘real Samoa’ – more than a home away from home – a home of any traveller’s heart.