Posts Tagged ‘Titanic’

Belfast Counts

Is Irish pollen more intense–like their rock stars and tea consumption? , wonders Sinus Sister

Belfast is no longer a city under siege, but it’s a city surrounded by grassy hills. Where there’s grass, there’s pollen. Sinus Sister stepped off the plane, gripped her umbrella and awaited the inevitable sneezing fit….and waited.

Flying over Ireland, the green-green fields looked suspiciously enhanced by Photoshop. It was impressive, but it set off my worry alarm. Would I sneeze my way through my sister’s wedding? Would Irish pollen be more intense–like their rock stars and tea consumption? I couldn’t recall having wild allergic reactions while visiting Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, but my memories have been wiped clean when it comes to the horrors of childhood hay fever (Mom claims I got allergy shots every week and ate crushed antihistamines on a cookie). The revisionist history ends at university, when there’s no denying that my ivory-covered residence on the banks of the Thames River gave me bloody sneezing fits.

Back in Belfast,  I booked into a swanky hotel that would certainly have a good air filter and an adjustable thermostat, among other comforts (Correct, it turned out, on both counts).  The Merchant Hotel easily catered to the demands of my sinuses. “You’ll not be sneezin’ yur head aff this week,” offered the doorman,adding, “Since it’s bucketin’ down out there.” [translation: because of the rain]. Of course! Saved by the rain, which supposedly cleans the air of pollutants. Allegedly, pollen sticks to wet grass and trees, rather than getting blown up your nose.

The doorman added another wee bit of news: “The Uni [translation: Queens University] just rigged up a system on the roof to read the pollen count each day. Before, the closest pollen count came from Edinburgh.” Good to know. The new, more accurate pollen count for Belfast was, officially and truly, low.

Unconcerned with blowing my nose all week, I was free to enjoy Brendan at the Chelsea, a play at the newly rebuilt Lyric Theatre. I shopped at the quirky boutique-cafe Acova, visited the new Titanic Museum, and toured town in a black taxi with the irrepressible Billy Scott. Trying to wrap my head around The Troubles of olden day, I viewed the political murals with Belfast Attractions (Thanks Gerard McGlade, you charmer!) and decided it was too complicated for a blow-in like me to understand. Best to just enjoy a pint of Magner’s cider cider with the other clueless tourists, then comb the stores for a fascinator to wear to my sister’s wedding (If you can’t wear a fascinator in 2011, the year of The Royal Wedding, when can you?)

Leaving the pub after two pints, Sinus Sister blinked at the mid-day sun and blew a kiss toward the new pollen counter at Queen’s University.