Seven months pregnant, I stepped off the plane in Burlington, Vt., ready to begin my babymoon. On the short drive from the airport to the bed-and-breakfast where I would spend four nights, I could tell right away that Burlington was a crunchy pregnant mama’s slice of heaven.
My husband, Danny, and I had been married seven years and tried for nearly two to get pregnant. We were already raising a 9-year-old boy, whom we had assumed custody of from a relative three years prior, which kept us plenty busy. Now, we were about to have our first baby, and I knew mothering a newborn would be its own adventure. This time I would not bypass baby snuggles, diaper changes, sleepless nights and midnight feedings.
In the weeks before I was to give birth, I wanted a reprieve from preparing the baby’s nursery and plotting my birth plan. Babymoons are meant to be a time for centering yourself before welcoming a newborn — and acknowledging that this could be your last relaxation opportunity for a very long time. I went looking for rest and a chance to reflect on how much life was about to change.
The weather in Burlington was perfect for my final getaway. It was mid-August, but the night air was cool, a pleasant reprieve from the dog days of summer. There were yoga studios dotting the downtown core, excellent restaurants and boutiques, and an open-air market filled with handmade and organic baby gear.
My sister Shauni, who does not have children, was my companion for the trip. Babymoons, which have been popular for years, can be lavish escapes for expectant parents, but the kind of last hurrah I envisioned included prenatal exercise classes, window shopping, and leisurely meals packed with super-foods such as kale and chia seeds. I knew Shauni would enjoy those activities more than Danny, who prefers a more high-octane vacation. On our honeymoon in Costa Rica, Danny and I dipped in hot springs, ate street food, flew across the country in a small plane and zipped through the rainforest on a zip-line. Bed-and-breakfasts are not his thing.
And I was in need of some low-key sister time. I had been nesting like crazy at home, and between working, staying fit and gathering the long list of must-haves for my baby, I was tired. I dubbed the Burlington trip part of “Operation Relaxation,” my plan to de-stress during the final trimester of my pregnancy. In choosing our destination, I had a few requirements: The weather must be cooler than Washington’s steamy summer, and the town should be walkable and near a body of water. I also didn’t want to deal with a long flight.
Burlington — a short hour-and-40-minute flight from the District — sits on Lake Champlain, which, at 120 miles long, is one of this nation’s largest lakes. It fit the babymoon bill perfectly.
My sister and I decided to stay at Made INN Vermont, a four-room bed-and-breakfast with a funky vibe near the downtown shopping district. All of the inn’s rooms, which sport what the owner calls “urban chic” decor, have record players, and old albums are stashed in lounge areas around the building, available to guests who want to give them a spin. Vintage toys, lava lamps and LED lighting below the bed contribute to the lighthearted atmosphere. Shauni played a Donny Hathaway album on the record player our first evening at the inn as we chilled out. Linda Wolf, the innkeeper, serves as hostess, bartender and tour guide, lavishing her guests with attention.
I intentionally refrained from overprogramming our trip. Shauni and I hoped to adopt a more leisurely rhythm than our hectic schedules usually allowed. We were, however, warned by Linda to make dinner reservations weeks before our trip if we hoped to dine in Burlington’s most popular restaurants. The city, known for its progressive politics and being central to the local food movement, has become a foodie mecca, so we knew gastronomy would be central to the babymoon. Other than that, we wandered as we pleased.
On our first morning in town, we walked down to Church Street, a brick open-air pedestrian shopping and dining mall, where we did a little window shopping on our way to Penny Cluse Cafe. We walked about two miles through the travel-brochure-beautiful downtown. The exercise felt great, and by the time we reached the cafe, baby was hungry. Penny Cluse, known for the lines that form at the door for its homey brunch, was the perfect place to arrive with a hearty appetite. We sat at the bar to cheat the long line and enjoyed warm zucchini French bread, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage and chorizo egg tacos.
After breakfast, we walked back to the inn, where we had a nap before lunch. I flipped through magazines and pulled out pictures of peaceful scenes: a calm beach, a beautiful room painted in pastels, photos of flowers. I planned to tape them into a journal because they helped me envision the kind of calm and serene birth I wanted — or at least the mind-set I hoped to take into the delivery room.
While I reflected, Linda made Shauni a glass of sangria. The Spanish wine punch is my favorite cocktail, but neither it nor Citizen Cider, Vermont’s award-winning brew, were on my menu this time. Instead I sipped water and green smoothies, readily available in the cafes around town. On our walk back into town, we took in the sights and sounds. From the top of the hill where Made INN Vermont sits, we could see the vast Lake Champlain. We strolled down tree-lined streets while appreciating the historical architectural beauties, brick buildings and Victorian-style homes near Burlington’s downtown.
The locals were friendly and lived up to the town’s hipster reputation. The guy next to us at lunch wore a Bernie Sanders T-shirt, and it seemed every other person had a beard or wore thick-framed retro glasses. At Revolution Kitchen, a popular vegan restaurant, we arrived 20 minutes late for a 6 p.m. dinner reservation. There was a wait, but the hostess was accommodating when she saw my pregnant belly and ushered us to a table, saying that her daughter had given birth just seven weeks ago. I enjoyed the meal and talking to my sister, not fully realizing how difficult it would be for me to get out to nice restaurants in the months to come.
The next morning, Shauni and I called an Uber and headed to Chace Mill, an old red-brick mill on the Winooski River that had been reimagined as an office building. It was home to two yoga studios. We arrived early to Prenatal Method, a yoga studio that caters to expectant moms. My sister, who was not pregnant, was game to try the class and was encouraged to stay by Beth Kruger, the instructor.
Our class was called “Energy,” and it was vigorous, including a move that took us from planks to downward dogs and modified push-ups. Beth had us do extended wall-sits and encouraged the half-dozen expectant moms in the class to think about how we would manage the pain of contractions as we pushed our backs against the wall and lowered our hips until our knees formed right angles. I found that low breathing while lightly massaging my thighs helped me endure. We worked up a sweat. Shauni mentioned that she felt the workout in the back of her legs after class, but we were, indeed, energized as we headed to the Church Street farmers market.
There were lots of well-behaved dogs on leashes, home-brewed root beer and a glorious array of cheeses to sample. I bought a chunk of smoked cheese to take home to Danny as well as hot sauce and an expensive handmade organic cotton baby hat for the baby that I couldn’t pass up.
On our last full day in town, I enjoyed a prenatal massage from a local doula who specialized in massage and reflexology. That afternoon, Shauni and I walked to Waterfront Park to spend some up-close time with the lake. We found a bench and watched people walking the path along Lake Champlain. Boaters sailed by, and a family hiked down from the walking path to a sandy patch on the edge of the lake to dip their feet in the water. I daydreamed and thought of Danny and our growing family.
Later that evening, I noticed my feet had begun to swell — probably from all the walking — but I did feel rejuvenated, relaxed and ready to welcome the baby. My goal had been to slow down and enjoy the last bit of pregnancy. And I had. The short break from my responsibilities enabled me to focus on the baby in a way I couldn’t before. During the trip, I stopped thinking about all of the things I needed to do to prepare for the baby and got excited about what it would be like to actually meet her.
For our final outing, Shauni and I went on another hike — sort of. This one was up two narrow flights of stairs to the roof of our bed-and-breakfast, where we watched the sun set behind the Adirondacks across Lake Champlain.
More from Travel:
Made INN Vermont
204 S. Willard St.
This four-room bed-and-breakfast is a restored 1881 Victorian mansion offering views of Lake Champlain. Located a short walk from Church Street. Rooms from $230 in low season.
Hen of the Wood
55 Cherry St.
This fine-dining restaurant provides locally sourced food in a warm environment. The menu changes with the seasons, but this much-loved eatery is a staple of the foodie scene. Entrees start at $25.
9 Center St.
Founded in 2013, this vegetarian restaurant uses fresh, local and organic ingredients. Its dishes are infused with Asian spices and Vermont ingredients. Entrees start at $17.
Church Street Marketplace
Church Street between Main and Pearl streets
Filled with restaurants and stores large and small, this open-air mall is central to town. You can shop at more than 80 stores and enjoy the architecture of the historic buildings in the marketplace, which dates to the 19th century. Festivals also take place here year-round.
10 College St.
Find a bench or a spot on the grass and watch the sun set across Lake Champlain. A bike path follows the lake. Park is open sunrise to sunset.