I love books and I love food, so why not combine the 2? I heard about a week-long second-hand book sale taking place in Saint John, NB the other day so I thought I’d also take the opportunity while there to try out a restaurant I had heard of.
The book sale was taking place in an atrium of the Brunswick Square Shopping Centre in uptown Saint John. It is their 14th annual, and supports a local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters. They collect donations of books all summer, sort them by category, and then hold this week-long fund raiser towards the end of summer. As their space is limited, they keep refilling tables as more books are sold. So potentially, you could keep going back every day and find some new, great finds! Prices are a very reasonable $1 – $5 depending on size and type. There were books of every description there: self-help, novels, children, teen, travel, cooking, biographies, history, books in other languages, classics. There were several old books that would look great as a decoration on a mantle as well. I picked up 10 books for less than the cost of 1 new.
Although Brunswick Square has its own parking garage, I parked a few streets away so I could wander through this historic district of the city. Saint John became the first incorporated city in Canada in 1785 but its history goes back a bit further than that. New Brunswick is originally home to the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet nations. They guess that different European fishermen travelled into the Bay of Fundy, and the first recorded instance was by a Spaniard named Gomez in 1524 who named the area where the Saint John River meets the bay Rio De La Buelta, or where the river turns back around on itself. Indeed, Saint John is known for its “Reversing Falls” where twice a day the ocean’s tidal waters forces the river to flow backwards with eddies and swirls in a major force of nature.
In 1604, French explorers lead by Samuel de Champlain arrived to this location and the first permanent French settlement was established in New Brunswick. A fort was built, and it was later taken over by the British. The area quickly grew during the time after the American Revolution in the 1780’s as Loyalists to the Crown fled the newly formed United States to relocate in British territories. Benedict Arnold was one of these, but after some bad business dealings he left for England.
The city saw another influx of immigrants during the Great Famine in Ireland, and you can still see the strong Irish influence in the city today. Many others arrived from various places brought in on this trade route, and Partridge Island served as a quarantine and immigration landing point much as Ellis Island in New York City or Pier 21 in Halifax. Shipbuilding was alive and well here in Saint John as it was in many smaller coastal towns, and the clipper ship Marco Polo – the fastest in its time – was built here. There are a great many sights to see in Saint John – Martello Tower, Fort La Tour, Fort Howe, Loyalist House, the New Brunswick Museum, the City Market, various parks, or just walking amongst the old buildings, churches, and homes in the historic district.
For dinner, I was anxious to try out a vegan restaurant I heard of, Vegolution. Having a severe dairy allergy usually leads to disappointment for a foodie when eating out, and I have found places specializing in vegan food usually have many interesting options to choose from that taste great and you don’t feel like you are missing half the meal in the end. They were also located in the historic district of Saint John, so seating was limited but the interior was very charming. Pressed tin ceilings, plants, and interesting bits and pieces wherever I looked. I took a seat facing the window so I could people watch while I ate. As it was right across a side street from the book sale, I watched as people left with boxes and bags full of books. It made my heart happy. They had special of the day, as well as many interesting vegetarian and vegan things on their menu, but I had my heart set on a donair.
In the Maritimes, our donairs are unique with a special sweet creamy sauce. If you are ever in the area, you definitely have to try one! Many restaurants and diners will sell them, although usually non-vegan ones. Vegolution’s version did not disappoint. Their take on the sauce is made of a cashew cream, and tasted pretty close to my memories of the dairy-filled version. Their donair “meat” was very good tasting as well, and I did not feel like I was missing out on anything. I was hoping to be able to try their dessert, but I was too full so it will have to wait until next time. I would have included a photo of the donair, but I was too excited to dive in to it and was distracted. Besides The Wooden Monkey in Halifax a few years back (who also makes a fantastic vegan donair), I have not had a great donair in about 7 years!
It was a wonderful outing – superb food, books, and a historical city. How can you go wrong with that?