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Four Teas & a Moving Statue Roadtrip

June 10, 2008

Tea at the Mill

corey says…We pulled into Mary’s driveway right on schedule. Her son Tim was in the yard doing some farm work and Mary was coming out of the door dressed in her Sunday best…including the necklace Liam gave her as a gift a few years back.

Liam, his mom Pat, Mary and I were going on a little outing today. As navagator, my first job was to test some different routes…Liam loves finding different ways to get to some of his regular touring destinations. Having Mary in the car was a great help…she knew many of the roads well and was able to add some stories about many of the places. She pointed out old convents, creameries, houses connected to tragedy and various other tidbits we would have never known.

Our route took us through the Glen of Aherlow…which was gorgeous as usual. Then in Newtown, we headed in a different direction than usual. A few miles later we stopped at a petrol station, so Pat could make use of the facilities. The girl at the counter asked to just wait a second for the owner who was on the phone in the back of the store.

We waited, and a vendor stopped her and asked her a few questions. We were worried that she had forgotten about us, but then she said, “Meet me ‘round the front of the pub.” She had to go into the pub and let us use the bathroom in there. On our way out of the store, an older local man had walked in and was chatting with the girl at the counter, “Ye looked fine on TV.” He then turned to me and said, “This girl here was on ‘Spin to Win’ on the television the weekend last. She won €30,000 for her mum.”

I commented on what a thrill that must have been and then slipped out the door. I sat outside on a picnic table while the ladies and Liam were in the pub. From inside, I heard them chatting away with the owner. She was charming them…and they were certainly charming her.

We then traveled to Glanworth home of Ireland’s longest and oldest stone arched bridge. There, we stopped at the old mill for tea and scones with jelly and whipped ream. The tea shop is perfectly situated next to the river and the bridge and scores high for its setting…just above it is the old castle and down the road are the ruins of the old abbey. The woman serving us made wonderful conversation as well as homemade treat. She made sure everything was perfect as we enjoyed our goodies outside in the sunshine.

After our tea, we stopped in to Nano Nagel’s birthplace. Nano came from a wealthy family and ended up becoming a nun and starting an order that was dedicated to secretly educating Catholics during strict penal times.

Liam and I had visited there three years ago, and the nuns there have been very busy. They have since added an exhibit about the life of Nano Nagel, relocated their living quarters and opened their previous housing up as rentable accommodations, they upgraded their conference facilities and made several improvements to their buildings. All this while still maintaining their organic farm.

We met up with Sister Paula again…she commended us for our excellent memory after we recited several details she had told us before…the Hennessey family (famous for the cognac they made when they relocated to France), her family home near Cashel and their efforts to get some grants for organic and green initiatives.

She took us on a tour of the grounds…including the garden. When she mentioned they had converted to geo-thermal heating, Liam inundated her with questions…he’s been considering it as an option. Sister Paula was also able to talk about their solar panels and their little windmill that powers the lights in the prayer room.

After our tour, we were invited in for some delicious tea and muffins. It was our second tea of the day, but we were up for it. Everything was going well until I popped one of the muffins in my mouth. It was truly one of the driest little buggers I had ever tasted. Pat had timed her breathing wrong and caught some of the dry muffin dust in her throat and started aggressively coughing. Sister Paula immediately fetched her a glass of water.

The rest of us at the table knew it was the dry muffin that caused the offense, but Paula and everyone at the centre were so wonderful, we did everything in our power to downplay the event.

Before we left, we let Sister Paula know that we would like to buy some of the organic eggs and lettuce they were selling. She pointed to the cooler of eggs in the entrance and then disappeared out the back door. A few minutes later, she returned two freshly picked heads of lettuce and several fresh spring onions. Now that is what I call FRESH!

We then stopped in Lismore for lunch and headed up to Mount Melleray to visit the abbey there. We arrived at the gifts hop just before they closed. Then we caught the audio-visual presentation in the exhibit room in the converted cow barn before heading into the church.

It was a very peaceful, enjoyable stop. This was Mary’s contribution to the day, as it was her idea to go here. I think she was a bit disappointed that the tea shop there was closed when we arrived (yes, that would have been our third tea that day).

Mary did get her wish though, because nearby Pilgrim’s Rest Hotel had cream tea. This was very interesting place…as it had a very old-fashioned feel to it. And not medieval old-fashioned or 19th century old-fashioned…no, it felt very 1950s old-fashioned. There were various paintings with cottage-scenes on the walls…except for one out-of-place painting of a scantily clad woman who had a bit of a Vargas look to her.

An English man waited on us, but a teenager (probably his son) brought us our tea and scones. Unfortunately, the teen forgot silverware and plates, so I was sent to round up utensils. The English man was quite embarrassed when he realized the error and remedied the situation straight away.

The tea and scones were delicious…however, I think we were all reaching our bursting point.

We wobbled to the car and headed for the Vee. Before getting back on the main road, we stopped at the Mellerary Grotto. As we walked toward the grotto, we all commented on the beautiful smell of roses. We looked around for the flowers and even stuck our noses into the rhododendrons blossoms nearby, but they weren’t the source.

The grotto is quite large with a pole building-type lean-to facing the statue. There were candles lit, a box for petitions and photos and mass cards scattered about. Three children were dipping mugs into the holy well and drinking up the holy water. They were quite excited to have reached the grotto and could be heard reciting their prayers.

On the way back up the hill to the car, we stopped at the little kiosk holding empty jugs for filling with holy water. Next to it there was a sign telling the story of the grotto and a stack of handouts that were intended for distribution.

Ends up, this was the scene of one of the moving statue reports that swept Ireland in the 1980s. The Virgin Mary didn’t move for us, but we did wonder where that smell of roses came from…

The scenic drive through the Knockmealdown mountains wasn’t in bloom when I was there with Tony’s parents, but this trip it was just starting to burst with color. The top of the hill still hadn’t peaked yet with the blooming of purple rhododendrons that cover the entire mountain, but the color still washed across the mountainside.

The view from the top of the pass was pretty good, but the sun was quite bright and the usually vibrant colors were washed out. At the bottom of the valley, the light was hitting at a different angle and the brilliant pink/purple trees were amazing.

When we pulled into Mary’s yard, Tim was in the haggard cutting wood. He was quick to light-heartedly point out that our 9:30 arrival was much later than 4pm…the time we’d be expected home.

As was custom, Mary invited us in for tea. Yes, this was tea number FOUR today.

As she prepared the tea, I asked her a few questions about her looseleaf tea. “Oh, Cor-ray, ye see I only use the looseleaf. Barry’s,” she said wide-eyed. “You know, there was a time when the teabags had just came out and everyone was talking ‘Oh the new teabags are wonderful.’ Well, the shop in Toor got them in, and I bought a box, ye see. I came home and out with the scissors was I cutting open the bags to make the tea. My husband Brian said, ‘What are ye doing woman?’ I thought the tea bags were for measuring the tea.”

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

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