Paris, France - We started in Paris with a great spot in Montmartre. This was my first time using AirBnB over seas and it worked great! It's been a couple of years since I've been back so I revisited some great bakeries and ventured off into new areas I haven't been before. The weather was spotty but we made the best of it. The highlight of this visit was Sainte-Chapelle with the beautiful stain glass windows.
I just can't get enough of this city.
Vernazza, Italy - This was my first time to Italy and I used Rick Steves' advice and went straight to the Cinque Terre. It's a series of 5 small cities on the northern coast of Italy that can get somewhat touristy but since we were staying in the city, by mid afternoon all of the tourists have left. There's about a 2 hour hike between each city that was more strenuous than I thought it was going to be but well worth it. This also started the unhealthy trend (addiction?) of eating my weight in gelato. The main road had plenty of shops and side streets to venture out into. Open a bottle of wine and watch the sunset in the evening. It was a very beautiful and relaxing stop on the trip.
Riomaggiore, Italy - You might think if you've seen one small coastal Italian village you've seen them all, but Riomaggiore will change your mind. It is slightly larger than Vernazza and has more shops yet somehow felt less touristy.
Our AirBnB had a balcony that overlooked the harbor so we took advantage of the kitchen and cooked dinner and watched the sunset with a bottle of wine. The rocky beach was a great for an afternoon swim.
Lucca, Italy - This town is about 20 minutes outside of Pisa and well worth it. It's less touristy and more low key than anything else in the area. The highlights are the large towers that pepper the skyline and the ancient wall surrounding the town that was converted to a pedestrian walkway/park. You can really get lost down side streets in this authentic city but somehow all roads lead back to the main walkway.
Take the stairs up to the top of a tower and take a look at the surrounding Tuscan hill sides.
Gimmelwald, Switzerland - One of the last thing I said on my 2013 trip to Gimmelwald was "I have to come back here." This is one of the most relaxing places I've ever been to. It's a small village on a plateau in the Lauterbrunnen valley. We stayed in a chalet which was perfect and taking a hike up to Mürren to get food for dinner was exhausting yet rewarding. You can get local cheese, egg, and sausage through the honor system with neighbors (take food, leave cash). The weather was great and the stay was too short. Would I go back to Gimmelwald a 3rd time? Definitely.
Munich, Germany - Fourth time to Munich, second attempt at Oktoberfest. The thing I learned from the last trip to the fest was that all of the locals told me to go the last weekend. It's less crowded and full of more Germans. Boy where they right. It was still crowded but I never felt packed in like sardines. We made it into the Hacker tent which is famous for the live bands and himmel roof. We also made it up to Freising to visit the Weihenstephan brewery which was really fun. Even though the city is very walkable, I advise buying a 3 day city pass which allows you unlimited access to travel on all local trains/busses/metros.