I last visited New York two years ago, as the final stop of a three month global adventure that started in Borneo, rambled through Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, trundled up the coast of California, and finally wound up in midtown Manhattan.
At the time I wrote that New York didn’t really get a fair shakedown from me, as it represented the end of three months of freedom and a gateway back to London and work and real life. So when Chris and I made a plan to visit his brother, who moved to the city last year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see the city again and really enjoy it properly.
Rather than playing guidebook bingo and attempting to tick off as many museums, galleries, and landmarks as possible, we took a gentler approach to our holiday. Which was handy for me as at 26 weeks pregnant I was starting to get really big and couldn’t really handle a frenetic schedule.
What to do
We stayed with Chris’s brother on the Lower East Side, and when I had gently rolled myself out of bed we would spend lazy mornings pottering around looking for breakfast. On a weekday I recommend Clinton Street Bakery; it’s a justifiably popular brunch spot with a queue out the door and around the block at weekends. But on weekdays you are likely to be seated quite quickly, which is very welcome when you are pregnant and need pancakes as a matter of urgency.
I love to mooch on holiday; rambling up and down side streets and poking my nose into unusual shops. And bookshops. Oh I do love a bookshop, and even exhausted pregnant me will walk many blocks for books (especially when fuelled by pancakes). Strand is a bit of a New York institution, and is definitely worth a visit for any bookworm. They claim to have eighteen miles of books in their store, and I will quite happily browse through all of them. McNally Jackson is also worth a visit for being simply beautiful, and having a lovely selection of books and stationary.
I did take one trip into Midtown Manhattan to visit Mood Fabrics, the Disneyland of fashion, design, and dressmaking. You may remember them from such shows as Project Runway and RuPaul’s Drag Race. I allowed myself a blissful hour lost among their shelves lusting after end-of-roll designer suiting and gorgeous printed silks.
Something I love to do in every US city I visit is go to see a home team baseball game. I never expected to love baseball, after all the game has a reputation for being overly long and extremely complicated, but after six hours in the rain at Fenway Park watching the Boston Red Socks I was completely hooked. Yankee Stadium, the Bronx home of the New York Yankees, is well worth a visit. I highly recommend booking tickets online in advance, particularly to scoop up the cheaper tickets. And if you are a baseball novice be sure to read Moneyball by Michael Lewis (or watch the Brad Pitt movie!). We ate hotdogs and popcorn in the sunshine (which is basically mandatory for a baseball game), cheered for the Yankees, and soaked up the unique atmosphere of one of the most iconic venues in modern baseball.
On the way home from the game we meandered along the High Line, an old elevated railway through the Meatpacking district now converted into a tree-lined walkway that offers incredible views of the city. Eventually we wound up on a rooftop bar somewhere watching the sun go down over the Hudson River, before heading home for pizza and Last Week Tonight. And to put the preggo to bed.
How to survive travelling while pregnant!
Actually, speaking of pregnancy and travelling, this holiday brought me face to face with my new physical limitations. This holiday coincided with a big bump growth spurt, leaving me very achy and tired. Just in case I can help any fellow pregnant travellers out there, here are some of the things I found really helpful. While I wrote them with New York in mind, I think most of them are fairly universally applicable for use pregnant ladies!
Get an aisle seat on the plane. I flew at 26 weeks, and found the pressure on my pelvis throughout quite uncomfortable, particularly during takeoff. Being able to stand up, stretch, and go for a walk, made a big difference. Also bring your own bottle of water, and if you are flying on a fairly budget airline as we were, bring a supply of snacks to supplement the airline “food”.
Starbucks is your friend. No, not for the desperately sub par coffee, but for the abundance of restrooms. New York is infamous for a lack of public bathrooms, which can be a bit of a problem when your unborn child is using your bladder like a bouncy house. Thankfully Starbucks shops are everywhere, and the vast majority have restrooms that you can easily sneak into, even if you have no intention of buying anything.
Be up front about your physical limitations. New York is a walking city. Everything is “a couple of blocks” in one direction or another, and most of the time walking anywhere is only marginally slower than a cab. This would have been fine for me, except that this trip apparently coincided with an enormous growth spurt for the small. Suddenly I found myself dealing with lower back and pelvic pain on a daily basis. The solution is moving slowly, sitting down often, and not being afraid to demand an Uber ride rather than doing battle with the subway. When you’re in a group of energetic non-pregnant people this can be really tough, and I’m the worst for stoically soldiering on. Luckily Chris is a total champ and stepped in on a couple of occasions to order the cab when he could see that I was flagging! Which brings me to my next point…
Have a plan for resting. I found I needed at least an hour each afternoon to lie down, work out any aches and pains, snooze, and regroup for the evening. Working out when I would get my nap time became a critical part of each day!
Above all, my main tip would be to be gentle with yourself and have a wonderful holiday!