Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



January 2017

“If we told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”



A Restaurant with Something Extra

Dear Reader,

Our friends, Susan and Michael Paradise, called recently and invited us to breakfast at a surprise location. After first discovering it, they said, “John and Judy would love this place.” We were intrigued, and besides being glad to see them again, we wondered why this restaurant would provide a special treat for us. Was it culinary? No. What, then? Michael said, “If we told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

We set a date and let the idea of a surprise turn into delightful anticipation. On that morning, Susan and Michael picked us up and off we went. It made me think how few times I have gotten into someone’s car without knowing where I was going. But I trusted them completely and relaxed.

Our friends were right: we did love the place. In Union, Connecticut, near the Sturbridge, Massachusetts line, sits The Traveler Restaurant. Walking in, we noticed that the atmosphere was homey – at least to us, because the rooms were lined with bookshelves, brimming with books.

Here’s why Susan and Michael thought we’d enjoy ourselves: customers can enjoy a meal, and then are invited to choose 2 or 3 free books. Some people who know our book-filled house might ask, “Why do they need any more?” Who needs books nowadays, when a device can be substituted for the heft of a real book? Well, we do.

After a delicious brunch, we split up and roamed. I chose a book of poetry by Sharon Olds, for obvious reasons. Then I found one about butterflies. This past summer, binoculars in hand, I learned to identify 6 varieties that visited our garden. Lastly, from an essay series, The History of Nations, I chose Italy, edited by Tara Koellhoffer. No need to explain that.

We wondered how this restaurant started. Our server was accustomed to the question and provided a copy of “A Little History,” summarized here.

The restaurant is owned by the Murdock family, who believe in the mission of promoting reading. In 1970, the previous owner had started by thinning out his book collection and bringing them to the restaurant to give away. The practice grew, with books coming from many sources, private and public. “Our hope is that each and every one of our guests find a book to their liking on our shelves, and we hope to promote reading.” If giving away about 100,000 books a year is any indication of success, then the Murdocks have achieved it.

If you are in the area and have a similar hunger for food and books, visit The Traveler Restaurant, 1257 Buckly Highway, Union, Connecticut (I-84, exit 74).