Time for Tea

A man after my own heart 🙂

Latimer: If there is one thing in life that is the universal response to, well, everything – a piece of good news, bad news or a general break – it has to be tea. A good cup of tea (which must be roughly one out of three cups – I think!), a fine cup of tea, a tasty cup of tea – it must be what dreams taste like.

Dreams, they taste of good tea! At least, our dreams must (I speak for Ridley, hehe, she is like, “Err no, I’ll have you know my dreams taste of chicken! I’ve checked; took a bite out of the last one – chicken!”).

Either way, we adore tea, I mean we really do. It lately seems like we have been visiting tea houses all over the world (well, here and there, now and then!).

For example… Tea in Galway, in the lovely quaint and beautiful Cupán Tae (cup of tea in Irish!)…

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And fancy tea in the Ginza district of Tokyo… (we couldn’t stop going on about how expense tea was in Tokyo – seriously to this day we still talk about it! But well, it was sooo nice here though!)

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So, really how could we go to Oxford, England in general, and not have a cupan tae? Sure we couldn’t; it was top of the list, high-tea (it was something we dreamed of doing when Legend Unleashed was published – to toast it, we dreamed of high-tea in Oxford!)! We researched this a bit, and decided that The Old Parsonage seemed like the high-tea spot of Oxford.

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As the name suggests it is an old parsonage from the 1660s and it’s like walking into a mini-cottage in a forest with twisted, gnarled alien trees with branches that claw at the building.

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It’s fairy-tale like; quaint, English, very lovely. The fire burning in the hearth warmed our chilly bones; for whatever reason Ireland and the UK had been experiencing very cold weather and it was raining and snowing in Oxford.

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It was perfect weather for a hot cup of tea and some cucumber sambos (sandwiches) (that was a first and they are very tasty!) and scones, with clotted cream (which I never really knew what that was, but it’s got the consistency of butter, but it’s yummy!) and strawberry jam. It was lovely; I had the old parsonage blend of tea and Ridley had old English breakfast tea.

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Later that evening we made our way to the famous Eagle and Child pub; this was where the Inklings (a literately discussion group J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis were part of) used to have their Tuesday meetings.

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As we sat and tucked into our fish, chips and mushy pea (and more tea!), supper…

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…we wondered if there were untold stories, or remnants of half-dreamed characters, hidden in the walls, or in conversations waiting to be had… and as we munched away, we dreamed our own Carwick dreams!

Then we toddled off back to our quarters, wandering the dark cloisters of Hogwarts… no wait, Wonderland… ha, Christ Church College 🙂

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Let me in!! Latimer screams…
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Fine, don’t *sniffle, sobble*..

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Find more of our Oxford Tales here 🙂

– Through an Oxford Shaped Looking Glass (Alice’s Christ Church :))

 Forging Magic (Harry Potter-style!)

Go West

Latimer goes West…

Latimer: It’s been a very long time since I ventured to the West of Ireland. I put up my hands here and admit it’s been at least ten years.

I don’t ‘Go West’ often, clearly.

Another admission here is that I don’t think I’ve ever been to Galway (I don’t think even Ridley realises this and it’ll probably come as a shock to her, because she goes to Galway pretty often and has lots of childhood memories of the place I’m sure).

I don’t want you thinking though that I haven’t travelled around Ireland much- the Irish childhood, if you were a child in the late eighties and early nineties (and before this), generally involved great family holidays travelling around Ireland because no one had money to be going abroad.

I have all these vague memories of being in odd places in Ireland; places that have become almost like dreamscapes, because back then I never knew where I was anyway. As a child the places you visit are just backdrops that weave and change without you paying real attention to where or what they are.

Dreamy scapey

I remember being in old manor houses, and stone castles, and forests with waterfalls; and I have this vivid memory of a green valley; standing overlooking massive lakes.

Sometimes it really annoys me, because these are places I would like to visit again.

There’s a massive cave in Ireland; the best way I can think to describe it, is that it appears as if the earth has caved in; you can stand around the edges and look down (WAY down) and this cave opens up beneath you. There are steps than lead down (I remember the walk was a steep decline). And, my memories tell me, that people used to hide down there during Viking raids. The roof of the cave is black from the fires people used to light down there to cook their food when they were hiding. I also have this other memory of someone saying Vikings used to throw people off the edge.

 I would love to go back to this cave, but I can’t remember where it is 😦

Back to the present, I had a ‘fly-by’ visit to Galway this weekend.

Very fly-by; two days, one of which was work related so, really I only had one day to get out and see the small city.

The thing I noticed when I was there was that it was very Irish. I imagine that the image people have of Ireland- the closest thing to it, will be found in the West. There’s this real Irish vibe to the place; which left me feeling weird. I felt like a visitor. I walked the cobbled streets thinking; I don’t know Ireland. It did remind me of when I was young and on holidays. It had been a long while since I had seen the old Ireland. Aran sweaters; the Atlantic… it had been a long time since I stood anywhere looking out at the Atlantic ocean.

I heard people speaking Irish; people just walking along… it’s a sad fact that this doesn’t happen much. I had to turn and think, ‘cad é an scéal!?’ (what’s the story!?). I saw signs in shops written in Irish; I saw the word milseáin written on a sweetshop… It means sweets, but it has been so long since I had said or seen this word. 

Galway is known for having more than the average number of Irish speakers. If you were looking for an authentic, old world Ireland, that’d be the place to go.

The taxi drivers are very chatty too; one I had was telling me all about how he had spent 30-odd days last year doing the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain.

Map of the Camino de Santiago trail

He was so happy he had done it; and he said he had spent his days walking with people he didn’t know, even a French woman who didn’t speak English (‘and me not a word of French!’ he laughed). Still, he said they managed to have a great chat. This is the stamp of a friendly Irish person; they somehow just weave and dive around with random people. He seemed really nice; he spent the drive telling me, ‘you should do it, you should’ so much so, by the end of it, I was thinking’ yes! Yes I will!’ Even though, the Camino is not something I have ever considered!

I have mentioned, our friend Orbie before; Orbie told me two places I had to go in Galway- the breakfast place Ard Bia and the tea shop (whose name she had forgotten. It’s Cupán Tae; when I told her she texted me and said ‘how did I forget that!’…. the term means ‘cup of tea’ in Irish, it’s pretty common! Sometimes Irish people will say, ‘do you want a cupán tae?’).

So I had a mission; Ard Bia for breakfast, Cupán Tae for tea. Huzzah.

Ard Bia is located under the Spanish Arch. I’d heard a lot about this Spanish Arch. The image conjured up a massive arch… actually it’s really a tiny innocuous arch.

However, it was built in the 1500s and has links to the Spanish invaders, so actually pretty historic.

Ard Bia is a tiny stone building by the sea.

It’s a bit like the TARDIS (bigger on the inside :)). But it’s sort of hanging off this stone walk-way. I was staring at if from the outside thinking… that building looks like it’s going to erode into the sea! Well, not for a while, I was alright!

It’s a very sweet and pretty place. You open the door and it smells like freshly baked warm cakes; like a country kitchen (I assume a country kitchen might smell like cakes!). 

The view from my lovely window-box seat was very special.

I had express instructions to get the veggie breakie (Orbie’s favourite).

It was scrummy and very affordable! Got to recommend this place- if you are ever in Galway!

Then, I slipped across the road to Cupán Tae.

It reminded me of Japan. That sounds strange I know; it was packed with floral stuff- cups, tea pots, napkins and tablecloths. The word that jumps to mind is ‘kawaii’.

I got the ‘bad weather tea’ (haha, it rains in Galway a lot, apparently, if not the locals really go on about it- ah the Irish and talking about the weather, we love it) and a slice of biscuit cake… oh heaven on both counts!

And I don’t often like ‘different’ teas! But I figured it was a proper tea place so I should get something different. It was sort of fruity. Very nice anyway, really was.

It cost me 6euro… that in comparsion to our Tokyo tea adventure- 20euro each! I won’t lie, I really enjoyed that tea place in Ginza…

but Tokyo-high-flyers, you got to visit Cupán Tae… put that price in perspective!

After tea, I took a wander around the city (very easy as it’s quite small and nice). Found some interesting places (Druid Lane).

And The Hall of the Red Earl… the remains of an Earls house from the 1200s (lots of history).

There’s a pub called the King’s Head… it’s 800yrs old and used to belong to the Mayor of Galway- it was seized from him by Col. Peter Stubbers following Galway’s surrender to Cromwell; Stubber was believed to have been responsible for beheading King Charles I in 1649 (ergo the King’s Head pub I guess!).

Then there’s the Saturday market- lots of handmade fudge and fresh food- looked yummy (I really love food!)

I also passed a statue of Oscar Wilde (I think I have a thing about statues now…) he was sitting beside Eduard Vilde, as I walked away a child passed with her parents. In a loud, ‘trying to sound adult’ voice she exclaimed, pointing at Wilde; “WHAT on earth is that!”

Poor Oscar!

A nice weekend trip; I should make more of an effort to go West, more often!

Myself and Ridley will be off to the Bram Stoker festival in Dublin next weekend 🙂 Hope to have a lot to say about it!

Nice is for biscuits

Ridley: It’s good that Latimer has a Rickey and Karl and Steven outlet now (see her post below!). I have at times I’ll admit zoned out on that score and stopped listening. But to be fair, while I was never as big a fan of them as her, she is right they are quite funny, esp Karl. Though I am more of a Billy fan. Oh to meet Billy Connolly…. I think my sides would split! Stephen’s Day in our house is eating the last of the tin of Rose’s chocolates and watching the latest Billy DVD you’d gotten for Christmas!

Never trust a man, who when left alone with a tea cosey… Doesn’t try it on.”

And if you don’t know who he is, for shame!! Get thee to youtube and watch him now! Though my dad does tell a tall tale that he met him once in Boston (as in in America) when Billy was only starting out over there and doing small gigs (would have been big enough over here in Ireland/Scotland). Supposedly Billy told him and a work mate of dad’s to come along to his gig the next evening, but Dad wasn’t able to go in the end cause he had to look after us (my brother and I, little wee toddlers we would have been at the time!) I think even now in a way he’s still disappointed he couldn’t go, I feel kinda guilty for that you know! And it’s not like we’ll get to see a gig of his any time soon, when he last came to Ireland, his tickets sold out in minutes. Ah well.

I also think that Bill Bailey (Latimer and I are going to a gig of his soon, very excit-sming!!!) Tommy Tiernan (and we’ll add in Hector of course!) Dara Ó Briain and Dylan Moran are hilarious too (I’ll stop now, you probably don’t want a running list of names!)

Now as Latimer has already told you, I was in Galway this weekend. T’was good crack altogether. And a pity Lat couldn’t come but there will be a next time! The Galway Races were on, we were there for the tail end of it all. We had a nice night out on the town. They’d fenced off parts of Shop Street (the main street) so it was like being outside in massive beer courtyard/garden. Some of the pubs were selling to customers from their front windows cause they were so packed inside, no one could get in. That was the mentalness of the nighttime. Earlier in the day though it was extremely relaxing, we spent it in Spiddal!

It’s only about 25 minute drive from Galway itself. We ate fish and chips and had a ramble on the beaches out there, while trying to practice our Irish- Bhí sé go h-iontach ar fad! (It was great altogether.) Very peaceful setting. There was total silence, you could hear the sail flapping on one of the little boats and a gull crying overhead. There was one little stone pathway overgrown with plants and flowers that we weren’t allowed go down (a big gate with a big paddlock told us No!) It was just off the main walkway, it ran alongside a narrow river which dipped into small rapids further down and flowed out into the sea. I’ve since decided that if ever a little walkway lead to a fairie glade, it was that one! I wish I’d taken a picture, but I was too busy enjoying it. I think sometimes, if you’re stuck behind a camera lense, you miss too much of what you’ve come to see in the first place. Why take photos to enjoy it later, when you should just be in the moment and enjoy it then? Though I’m all for photo taking after the contemplating!

Skipping forward after our day rambling and after a mad night on the tiles, we had breakfast rolls the next morning at the Spanish Arch (at the Claddagh) and counted the swans, well I did, I stopped at 25 when it got dangerous. I’d decided to stop leaning forward too near the water for fear of me falling in on top of them and the ducks, but we did sit with our feet dangling percariously over the edge!  Just call me Danger Mouse!

I have to say standing on the beach at Spiddal (though I’ve since heard from a reliable and informative source there’s way better beaches in West Cork! A place I’ve yet to visit, sad that I’ve seen so little of my own country) but even though of course there were other people round on the lovely white sand, because it was so peaceful, I felt very Monty Hall-esque (anyone watch his shows? On BBC? I love them!! There’s Monty Hall’s Great Escape to Beechcomber cottage and there’s the Great Hebridean Escape, both with Reuben, his gorg black dog!)


Anywhosie, one of my friends got a ‘pensive’ photo of me gazing out across the sea at County Clare. I was teased for my brooding expression for quite sometime afterwards and they were right, I wasn’t pondering the problems of the world, I think I was wondering how long would it take to swim from the beach to Clare. And how cold, in terms of iceberg cold, the water was.

After much thinking, my answers were ‘a long time’ and ‘freezing with small ice cubes’ cold.

Also, my new saying that I picked up in funky Galway (read stole) is ‘Nice is for biscuits…’ and I add  ‘And you know what happens to them, they get eaten!’