During the last weekend of September, and in the middle of an unseasonable heat wave, I was lucky enough to tag along on a work trip with my husband to Fredericton, New Brunswick. We spent every moment we could, between his professional engagements, exploring and getting to know the city. We sat in beautiful restaurants, ate amazing and very reasonably priced local food, drank unique craft beer, listened to live Celtic music, visited farmers’ markets, toured a small local history museum and met all those polite and friendly Canadians I’ve heard so much about but have never met at home in Ontario.
Let me start with the food, because that’s always my favourite. All of the catered and chain restaurant meals we had as part of my husband’s work actives were someone strange to my Ontario palate. It seems like they have two main flavours out east: sweet and salty. Everything we had in the hotel, at the country club work dinner, etc was liberally seasoned with one of these too flavours – to the point where some of it was hard to eat for this girl who prefers sour, bitter or savoury flavours. All the local restaurant, food truck and home cooked meals we had were completely different and completely amazing! We were able to eat fresh, in season, local foods for way under budget when we ate downtown and at farmers’ markets. We ate fishcakes, donair and samosas along the banks of the Saint John River and felt like we were getting a crash course in East Coast food culture. I was worried, travelling as a new pescatarian, but it was very easy to find delicious, healthy, protein rich vegetarian and pescatarian meals in the more trendy parts of the city.
We did a local brewery hop with some of my husbands co-workers to pass the time between morning checkout at the hotel and our evening flight back home. We hit Grimross Brewing, Picaroons Traditional Ales, Trailway Brewing Co and Greystone Brewing. Picaroons was very good and had a beautiful space but Greystone was my favourite! East Coast craft beer is much smoother, creamier and more mellow than it is here in Ontario. It’s also a little more expensive, but well worth the price.
Being of Irish-Canadian heritage, I’ve always dreamed of experiencing live Celtic music in a cozy East Coast pub. I was finally able to achieve this goal in Fredericton. We had to rush across town from a work commitment to catch the end of their session but it was so worth it to drink great local beer, eat fishcakes and take in the sorrowful, yet comforting, kind of Celtic storytelling, poetry and music that gives me goosebumps.
We visited two farmers’ markets on opposing sides of the river over two days. The south side market was bursting with lovely local produce, crafts, food trucks and something Ontario is sorely lacking: craft cider. This is where we found the Fredericton food culture quirk that is samosas. The north side market was less impressive but contained many of the food truck type foods that locals repeatedly told us were the best in the city. We had our first-ever donair at this market.
The Fredericton Region Museum, seen in the pictures, was a quaint little non-profit museum all about the history of the area. It was only $6 to enter and didn’t look like much at first but was actually very interesting for two people who didn’t know much more about the area than what we learn in elementary school. The best part was getting to explore the inside of such a beautiful and historical building.
Now the part that sticks with me the most since being home: the people. The people in Fredericton are some of the nicest, most upsettingly friendly people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. You can’t pass by someone without them greeting you. Strangers will ask you how your day is going and be genuinely interested in your answer. I made the mistake of wearing a shirt that said “weekends are for waffles” to a busy market and had to change after because I couldn’t handle any more conversations about waffles! All of my husband’s East Coast office co-workers that I met were touchingly warm and welcoming; one of them even invited all of us Ontarians to her home to experience an authentic East Coast corn boil while we were there. I like to think of myself as an extroverted introvert, or an ambivert, but these very social people tired me out every time I left the hotel room. I had a small talk conversation with a member of the hotel staff while getting tea in the lobby that went on so long my husband asked if I somehow knew her from somewhere else. One person I met told me that she had a problem of not understanding “stranger danger” until it’s too late. These people are the Canadians we all want to be.
This trip, although only a few days long and only a two hour plane ride away, has affected me in so many ways. I will never forget the food, the beautiful buildings or the wonderful people in the capital of New Brunswick.
Sunglasses The Bay
All photos by me and Matt.