Montana is the best but no one there wants you to know it

A bit of culture shock is expected when you leave your own country, right? Like, oh, I’m going to Paris and everyone is going to smoke everywhere all the time and I don’t have to tip anywhere and I’m going to get dirty looks for even trying to speak French…TRES BIEN. I get it. This is not America and the servings here are not large and I’m ok with that (no I’m not). But, hey, life’s great and I’m eating my weight in croissants on quaint little streets named Rue Saint Dominique and such. Ya know?

But what about culture shock IN America? AS AN AMERICAN?!

I present to you, Montana.

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Glacier National Park

I’ve been to the South. I’ve been to Utah. I’ve been to Texas. I’ve been here and there.

But…

MONTANA.

GUYS.

I loved it. I smiled the entire time I was there minus when the power went out in my Airbnb just as it started to snow and I was all alone but ANYWAY.

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Mission Mountain Range

LOOK HOW PRETTY EVERYTHING IS.

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Lake McDonald

Montana’s the kind of place where folks are friendly for no good reason and it’s weird because NY is, like, well…not like that. I mean, NY is my home and I adore it and I too hate when tourists stop in the middle of sidewalks and/or walk on the WRONG side (people, sidewalks are like ROADS…there is a right way and a wrong way to walk) and people who think Times Square and 5th Ave. are New York City, like, hello no bye.

New Yorkers are blunt, brash, bonkers, and bankrupt because the rent is too damn high.

We run on Dunkin’ and Montana runs on these adorable little coffee shacks that I quickly became obsessed with but oh so embarrassed to drive through in my dumb Cadillac (quick story time: I rented a car and they gave me a Caddy which most would love but I was like UGH and it didn’t have a CD player and I was SO mad because I brought my Man of the Woods CD because duh and I missed my little 2000 Toyota Camry and I felt like I was driving a spaceship and it had Cali license plates to make things worse and it was just so not Montana or me but ANYWAY).

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Cowgirl Coffee where they claim to have “the best hot chocolate ever” so naturally I got it and it was not the best. City Bakery in NYC is still THE BEST but whatever it was chocolate and it was hot so it was nice.
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Not my Caddy but the car I wish I had been driving bc I BET that puppy has a CD player.

Things I did in Montana:

  • Went camping for the first time.
  • Saw the Milky Way with my own four eyes.
  • Saw a half-full milk jug on the side of the road.
  • Saw a few bison!
  • Went to Wyoming.
  • Drank huckleberry wine.
  • Wait, Wyoming is NOT in Montana. Whoopsie daisy.
  • Changed my mind about dinosaurs existing. I blame Zack.
  • Hiked a mountain by myself and thought I saw a bear but it was really a large deer.
  • Pulled over several times to let other cars pass me because I was driving grandma miles per hour to really take in my surroundings. SO MUCH BEAUTIFULNESS.
  • Said “Wow, everyone here is SO nice!” approximately 2,945 times.
  • Said “Wow, everything here is SO gorgeous!” approximately 2,946 times.
  • Couchsurfed for the first time and met the coolest family and fellow couchsurfer.
  • Fell in some mud in a field after dancing to JT on the side of the road. I blame Zack.
  • Turned bright red when my tour group and guide sang ‘happy birthday’ to me on a red bus tour in Glacier National Park the day after my actual birthday only to find out that there was another lady and it was her ACTUAL birthday and then the tour guide was like ‘sorry, we’re not singing again’ and I was like omg I just stole her thunder WHOOPS.
  • Saw Old Faithful erupt! That might’ve technically been in Wyoming but– oh, look! A bison!

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I’ve been to quite a few places. And I always ask myself, “Hmmm, could I see myself living here?” whenever I travel somewhere new. I compare everything to NY. But we all know NY is incomparable. It’s electric, magnetic, rat-infested, and smells like pee most of the time.

But it’s wonderful.

And it’s safe and cozy and I know where all my favorite things are because the grid system is INCREDIBLE but hot damn huckleberry pancakes!

Montana sure felt like home.

Like your favorite worn-out book with all the soft, wrinkly dog-eared pages that you keep going back to, re-reading it over and over because it’s just so damn GOOD and you find new details and bits of gold and coffee-stained spots (whoops) each time you read it and it never ever gets old.

THAT’S MONTANA.

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But the locals don’t want you to know it! They want to preserve the great treasure state– and I don’t blame them.

Here’s the thing. If you go to a place like Missoula or Bozeman, you can’t expect it to be like LA or NY or wherever, right? You have to EMBRACE the simple life. I mean, it’s not all dirt roads and log cabins and fishin’ and all that– in fact, I saw the prettiest Walmart while in Montana. And by “prettiest” I mean it was literally a regular Walmart SURROUNDED by gorgeous mountains and it was unreal and it almost made me want to shop there but I didn’t.

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Ok, so where did I go, exactly?

  • Kalispell
  • Whitefish
  • Missoula
  • Helena
  • Bozeman
  • Big Sky
  • Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, into the woods, down some streets, here and there, you get it.

Right after Montana, I flew to LA for a weekend to visit some friends and, let me tell YOU, flying from the tiny little airport in Bozeman (complete with dinosaur fossils) to LAX (complete with yoga rooms) was culture SHOCKKKCKCKKCKCK. I was like, wait, what IS Starbucks and where are my little Cowgirl Coffees at and why is everyone wearing full make-up and talking about acting and avocados?

I found myself missing Montana as soon as I left. 😭

From the sweeping landscapes and the abundance of mom and pop shops to the suspiciously friendly residents and the unpredictable weather, I am HOMESICK for this state.

So, au revoir New York! I’m excited to call Montana my actual home beary soon.

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Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

“This Is the Best Cheesecake Ever,” Said a New Yorker in Berlin

Ah, New York. Home to the best of the best. From pizza and pastrami to bagels and bodegas, if you want it, NY has it. And it is the best.

Also, apparently home to the “best fly fishing east of the Rockies,” according to the New York State Conservationist MagazineWho knew? 

Of course, the Empire State is also known for its infamous New York-style cheesecake. From Junior’s to Eileen’s Special Cheesecake and S&S, it’s hard to argue with the feeling of your arteries closing as you take ‘just one more bite’ of the creamy cake made of fromage.

I mean, it’s hard to argue with a New Yorker in general. Colin Heinrich offers a guide “how to win an argument with somebody from New York” …but he’s not a native New Yorker so I wouldn’t trust him.

Anyway. 

Back to Berlin. Remember that time I was in Berlin and it was awful? Ok, it wasn’t that bad…just, like, weird and grungy with a real sex, drugs, and rock & roll house music type vibe. Sounds like my kind of place, right?

*Taps ruby slippers off-white BOBS Skechers together, desperately trying to get back to NY*

BUT WAIT.

The cake made of cheese, guys. The cheesecake. 

I was led to a little place called Five Elephant by Loic, the photographer I booked for an Airbnb Experience. More on that in another post…but here’s a sneak peek:

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Dammmnnn, nice photo skills, Loic! Ok, back to the cake.

Loic asked if I’d like to stop somewhere for a drink (beer) or a coffee.

Me: ‘Oh, yeah! Cawwwfeee for sure!’

Loic: ‘Er…’

Me: ‘Great!’

On we went. Loic insisted that the place we were going not only had great cawwfee but the *best* cheesecake as well.

*New Yorker skepticism sets in*

 ewis1.gifWho does this guy think he is? He’s not even from Berlin and now he thinks some random cawwfee shop has the ‘best’ cheesecake. We’ll see about that. Has he ever been to NY? Nope, he hasn’t. WHAT DOES HE EVEN KNOW?!

But…GUYS.

Five Elephant is on an unassuming street in Berlin’s more artsy fartsy district, Kreuzberg. And, well, I’ll try to describe the cheesecake…but first, a photo:

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Do you see that thin layer on the top? Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. But cheesecake will never be the same without it.

And that crust? Yeah, again, I don’t know but it was THE BEST.

And the actual cheesecake? ‘Holy bananas’ is all I can say.

It was as if the cheesecake was whipped for days on end by little elves. Magical, delightful, cheesecake-making elves. (Sidenote: I am ready for snowy weather and Christmas. Can you tell?)

GUYS. I know I can be dramatic, but LOOK at Jonathan’s review. He is a “LOCAL GUIDE.” The internet doesn’t lie! 

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Yo, that guy Jonathan that reviewed this place WAS RIGHT. 😂

The comments go on and on…I’ve noticed folks have knocked off stars for the cafe’s lack of WiFi, but seriously. You will not need to connect to anything except your inner soul once you take a bite of that cheesecake.

I almost don’t want to ‘publish’ this blog post for fear that this place will really catch on and turn into a chain and then it’ll be awful.

But I’m not that popular, so publish I shall! 

Alas, it was a cake made of cheese that left me beguiled by Berlin.

You win, Berlin.

You win.

Spread kindness and cheer (and cheese and cake), xo
Jackie

Geneva: A Beautifully Boring City but a Hilarious Airbnb Story You Need to Hear

Isn’t it a drag when you expect so much from a place only to realize it’s rather quite dull? Or you meet a really pretty/handsome person and then they turn out to have zero personality? Bienvenue à Genève! 😂

Ok, Geneva wasn’t all bad. I’ll give y’all some tips if you decide to venture to this Swiss city…but don’t expect any nightlife or culture or affordable food or, well, anything.

😂

The lower your expectations, the better time you’ll have!

But First…Our Airbnb Host

Alright, this is too good not to share with y’all. Mon got to our Airbnb in Geneva before I did and she recounted the following exchange with our host:

Anna: Just so you know, none of my neighbors know that I run an Airbnb. So, if you see anyone and they ask anything just say you’re visiting.

Mon: Ok, will do.

Anna: Great. My kids and their father are on holiday right now and they don’t know either.

Mon: 🤔😅😂😂😂😂

I DIED WHEN SHE TOLD ME THAT. Mind you, we stayed in HER CHILDREN’S ROOMS!! And her Airbnb has over 100 reviews!! This woman has been conning her family for A WHILE NOW. 😂😂😂 What if her family returned early? What if they arrived in the middle of the night to find us sleeping in their beds!? SO many questions!!!

Plus, while we were there she had another Airbnb guest staying in her other child’s room! 😂

We opted for an Airbnb over a hostel in Geneva because they were essentially the same price and the hostels didn’t look particularly lively.

What to do in Geneva?

If you love the outdoors, great. Head over to the lake and take in the views. For just two francs (cash only), you can access a dock area called Bains des Pâquis.

Mon and I went to a grocery store called Coop and grabbed a bottle of wine (Geneva is open container), some food, and spent the day by Lake Geneva.

There was a cool structure that folks were jumping off of into the lake…Mon did it twice and got a huge bruise on her ass after landing the wrong way…both times. 😂 Whoopsie!

What else is there to do?

You can venture across the bridge to St. Pierre Cathedral. For just five francs you can climb to the top and take in the panoramic views. The staircase up is narrow and not ideal if you’re claustrophobic like me, but having my best friend with me helped. I probably wouldn’t have done it by myself. 😂 It was worth the initial stomach pains though! (I was literally that nervous about getting trapped in the staircase.)

If you’re looking for another cool view in Geneva, don’t miss La Jonction! This stunning spot isn’t too far from the main city center…it’s where the River Rhone and the River Arve meet. The Rhone is the pretty side, while the Arve is rather murky (and smelly! 😮).

See that little viewing platform above? That’s where the walk will take you initially… but see that tree? It perfectly blocks the view of the divide! So, Mon and I saw this bridge (from where these pics are taken) and were determined to get up there…we found a path and made our way up! It was a fun adventure and I definitely recommend it!

Other Tips for Geneva

When most people think of Switzerland, they think of fondue, etc. Well, that’s not really a thing for locals here. In fact, I couldn’t get a good read on what their go-to cuisine was other than expensive. Even fast food will cost you a good $15-20 francs! Stick with grocery store food to save money!

The public transportation is easy to use…there are plenty of trams and buses. It’s similar to Berlin in that it runs on the honor system. Apparently there are random checks for tickets but Mon and I never had ours checked.

If you take the bus/tram to a stop called ‘Nations’ you can see the UN building, as well as the famous ‘broken chair’ art installation. It’s literally across the street from the UN.

While there are cool sights to be seen in Geneva, there is zero nightlife! I’m glad I was with Monica because it would’ve been less fun venturing around alone during the day as there’s not tons to do.

So, I probably wouldn’t recommend Geneva for a solo trip. 🙅 Have you been? Let me know!

Will you runaway with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

Berlin: Where to Stay and What to Do in This Weird Paradox of a City

Berlin: Home to currywurst, spacious sidewalks, tons of graffiti art, a stellar metro system, and grunge fashion.

I spent four nights in Berlin and, at first, I was not a fan.

The city felt cold, dreary, and unwelcoming.

I thought the Berlin Wall had been knocked down…but Berliners still seem to have walls up of their own… especially to block out Americans like myself. 😌

Of course, first impressions can be rather misleading. My first night in Berlin, I stayed at the Singer109 Hostel. It sucked. Do not stay there.

The folks at reception made me feel as though every question I asked was the biggest hassle ever and there was absolutely zero atmosphere. Though, I must say the rooms were rather nice…mine had an ensuite bathroom which is a rare find for most hostels. But still…not worth staying there!

So, where to stay instead?

I followed the advice of The Hostel Girl and checked into The Circus Hostel for my last three nights in Berlin. The atmosphere was night and day. I immediately felt better about Berlin and was excited to see what the city had to offer!

Ok, what should I DO in Berlin?

As I usually suggest…go on a walking tour! Similarly to the hostel in Copenhagen that I stayed at, The Circus offers free walking tours TWICE daily! So, if you sleep in and miss the 9:45 tour, you can always join the one at 1:15.

Our tour guide, Kyle, offered up tons of history about Berlin. For me, the highlight was seeing the hotel balcony (Hotel Adlon) where Michael Jackson dangled baby Blanket from all those years ago. 😂 I had no idea that was in Berlin…RIP MJ. 💙

Pop culture aside, Berlin is home to a lot of dark times in European history. The tour included a stop by the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. Selfies are not allowed (for obvious reasons) and, while you can sit on any of the 2,711 stones, folks should refrain from standing on them.

So, why is Berlin a “paradox”?

Well, Berliners like to think they’re super progressive and forward-thinking…but here are some weird things I learned about Berlin while visiting:

Most of the city is cash-only.

In fact, cash is still the means of payment in some 80 percent of point-of-sale transactions in Berlin! According to Bloomberg, “the use of cash has, to a surprising extent, become a proxy for profound concerns about trust, privacy, and the role of the state.” So, be sure to carry euros ALL the time!

Clubs will reject folks who dress nicely.

Heels, suits, colorful dresses…not cool in Berlin. Even locals suggest wearing all black, sneakers, and anything “grungy.”

If you don’t know your DJs, GTFO.

Again, according to locals and other tourists I chatted with, music is a BFD in Berlin. Bouncers will ask you what DJ you’ve come to see and, if you don’t have an answer, you can hit the road. Apparently, they do this to weed out tourists from the true house-music loving locals…but I think it’s rather unwelcoming. 🤔

For a city that claims to be so accepting and open, the folks here seem to follow an odd set of rules. Someone I met recently said Berlin reminded them of NYC and, being the native New Yorker that I am, I don’t agree. In all my travels, there is no city more open and welcoming to ALL then good ol’ NYC. 😍

Disclaimer: I didn’t hit the clubs while in Berlin…folks in the city START partying at 6AM and also drugs are a big thing (not surprising with the hours they keep), so… not really my scene.

HOWEVER, there was plenty I eventually learned to love about Berlin and I’ll write all about it in my next post!

Have you been to Berlin?! What’d you think? Let me know!

P.s. If you’re not already following me on Instagram, do it now! I’ve been posting plenty of entertaining stories…including a rather claustrophobic experience in Berlin — more on that in the next post!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

Eating Danish Danishes and Other Things: 48 Hours in Copenhagen

The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is home to over half a million folks! It’s a beautiful city with colorful houses and tons of history! Denmark is considered a part of Scandinavia, along with Sweden and Norway.

Thinking of running away to Copenhagen?! Read on for my tips!

Where to stay?

If you’re looking for a true hostel experience, you should definitely stay at the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. It was Monica’s first hostel experience and we arrived late on a Monday night, walking through the PACKED bar/reception area…

“Are all hostels like this?!?” – Mon

Not all hostels are as lively as CPH Downtown, but most have cool vibes! (Except for Singer109 in Berlin…more on that in a future post…but heads up – don’t stay there!!)

What to do?

Copenhagen has a lot going for it:

  • Friendly folks
  • Very walkable, flat streets
  • An abundance of pastry shops

However, this city is expensive!! So, I recommend going on a FREE walking tour through a company aptly named “Copenhagen Free Walking Tours.” 😂

If you do this tour, try and get JAROD as your guide! He is hilarious and wonderful and, like most tour guides, not a native Scandinavian!

He took our group all around the city for about three hours! Mon and I learned that most of Copenhagen’s history involves buildings burning down, being built back up, and burning down again. Whoopsie! 😅

If you’re new to a city, walking tours are a great way to not only learn a bit of history but also to get yourself oriented and discover other things to do while you’re there!

After the tour, Mon and I went to a great outdoor/indoor food space called Torvehallerne. We each had a delicious taco and then a kimchi pancake that was SO good!

^ I tried it…not that hot.

In the same market area, we came across a game of Petanque…known to most Americans as bocce ball. The guys running it asked if we’d like to play a game…so, of course we joined in!

We ended our first day in Copenhagen at the bar in our hostel where we made some French friends. 💁

The second day, Mon and I walked around the second oldest amusement park in the world! It’s called Tivoli and it’s right by the CPH Downtown Hostel.

After that, we wandered around a bit more and went for a canal boat tour. ⛵

On this tour, I learned that the houses along the canal were painted so distinctly because they weren’t numbered back in the day! Mail carriers would literally deliver mail simply by knowing who lived in what colored house! 😂

Finally, for our last day in Copenhagen, I insisted we get Danishes! Mon and I ended up meeting fellow Americans and the four of us went together. Sooo worth it. 😍

Such a fun and beautiful city! Have you been? Are you planning a trip? Let me know!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie