Auckland - best viewpoints and coffee shops

Auckland was the first stop on my trip to New Zealand. Some people have told me that there's not much to do and see there but they turned out to be wrong. I have really enjoyed its relaxed vibe combined with all the advantages of being in a big city and spent some time exploring its coffee culture.

In this post I'm going to focus on best viewpoints and coffee. I will share more of my NZ adventures in the next post.

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Best view points

Auckland is very hilly due to its 48 volcanoes so comfortable shoes are required but you will be awarded with amazing views. Mount Eden, the highest of Auckland volcanoes, is first in the list.

The view below was taken from Sky Tower that offers 360-degree views of the city.

One Tree Hill is another volcano and a great viewpoint, a bit further from the city centre than Mount Eden. Its highest point is topped with a monument, and the grave of Sir John Logan Campbell who gifted the park to the city.

Cafes and coffee shops

New Zealand has a really impressive coffee culture. There is an ongoing debate of the origination of flat white coffee between New Zealand and Australia so it made total sense for me to focus on flat white.

Queenies is pretty inside and out.

Winona Forever is another place I absolutely loved! Everything is so well thought through - beautifully presented food, interior and even lots of cute props if you are after taking photos. Sadly I was 10 minutes late to order food as the kitchen closes at 2:30 pm so I had to go with a dessert and borrowed someone else's french toast for a photo.

Mojo coffee was recommended to me by a local and the coffee was one of the strongest which I liked.

Espresso workshop Britomart is another nice coffee shop. In Auckland coffee shops are on almost every corner and I wish I had more time to try them all.

As for restaurants I didn't take any pictures but have enjoyed Ortolana and Amano.

I was a guest of New Zealand Tourism Board. All views are my own.

Visiting Brussels ahead of Banad Festival

Two weeks ago I was invited by Visit Brussels to explore a few interesting buildings taking part in Banad Festival that focuses on the Art Nouveau and Art Deco heritage of Brussels.

You'll be surprised (as well as I was!) to discover how many Art Noveau and Art Deco buildings can be found in Brussels - some of them are hotels and public venues, while others are private properties and can be visited only during the festival.

This year the festival runs from the 11th to the 26th March so if you are in Brussels there are still a few days left to get involved.

Of course, no visit to Brussels is complete without an obligatory shot of the Grand Place.

One of my favourite places I first discovered this time was Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a glazed shopping arcade that preceded other famous 19th-century shopping arcades like the one in Milan. The gallery consists of two major sections each 100 meters long called KIng's Gallery nad Queen's Gallery, and a smaller side gallery called Gallery of the Princes.

The pictures below are from Flagey House. This townhouse is one of the pair of semi-detached houses designed by the architect Ernest Blérot in 1904. The interior includes an ramazing stairwell, topped with a stained-glass skylight. The hall floor is decorated in mosaic. 

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Below is a photo of a former Radio House of Belgium, established in 1930 under the name of National Institute of Broadcasting (INR). The building is compared to a steamer with its bridges and long corridors. The interior has retained its original Art Deco style furnishings. After renovation in 2002, it has regained its original function with the creation of a musical space with recording studios, concert halls and cinema.

Gustave Strauven excelled in the design and building of narrow houses on irregularly shaped plots of land in Art Nouveau style. In 1902, he built the below house (facade with green details and red stairwell) for himself on a banana-shaped plot barely 375cm wide! 

I've also added two pictures below from my previous visit with Radisson Red last year just before Christmas.

This wonderful rooftop view is from Parking 58 that I found after some research.

I also wanted to share the places where we were taken for lunch as their interior is impressive too! First one is Osteria delle Stelle.

Pictured below is La Quincallerie restaurant.

Visiting Nice during Carnival

If you are following me on Instagram you could have caught a glimpse of Nice Carnival when I used Instagram Live for the first time. It was not the only reason to visit Nice but Carnival played an important role in making our visit even more special. Coming from London where winter sunny days are rare it was so inspiring just to see the mediterranean colours of the buildings and to fuel my mind and body with some sun.

The above view over the old city of Nice is from Castel Hill - it's possible to take a free lift or climb the stairs to go up.

I couldn't get enough of the colours of Nice Old Town - it's narrow streets and brightly coloured facades that reflect the colours and style of Sardinian architecture.

I have to be honest - I don't normally like big crowds of people and was a bit sceptical in the beginning about visiting Nice Carnival. I was surprised how well it was organised and how much fun it turned out to be! We visited on the day of Light Festival. It lasts for 2 weeks and there's also a Flower Parade and lots of other events - more info can be found here.

I was a guest of Cote d'Azur tourism. All opinions are my own. We stayed in Hotel Ellington that has a perfect central location - a few minutes walk from the old town and Nice Carnival events.

What to see in Slovenia

Every time before I travel to a new country I try to do as much research as possible and it's never easy to find all the useful information together in one place. I usually combine reading a guidebook with browsing through different tags on Instagram and then google places I'd like to visit separately.

If you are planning a trip to Slovenia I hope you will find my information useful.

We stayed in Ljubljana for the whole trip and it was perfect as the city is centrally located and you can easily drive from there to the sea or to the mountains (the time it normally takes to cross London from North to South).

Ljubljana - the capital, one day is enough to explore the central part with highlights being Ljubljana castle offering gorgeous views of the city (we didn't go in) and city centre with all the lovely markets. In terms of restaurants, we were recommended by locals to try Druga Violina and it didn't disappoint - hearty Slovenian dishes at reasonable prices. Slovenska Hisa is another nice place for a drink and/or snack.

If you want to enjoy another rooftop view of Ljubljana and to see Ljubljana Castle from the other side I highly recommend going to Neboticknik - Skyscraper for a drink.

First days of our stay were foggy in mornings and sunny later in the day - the mist and the sun created those gorgeous colours at sunset!

Lake Bled is an absolutely magical place and is definitely must see in Slovenia. It seems very touristy at first but it's very easy to find spots without people. The little church on Bled island is a popular wedding location. Traditionally it is considered good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the steps on the day of their wedding before ringing the bell and making a wish inside the church.

On the way from lake Bled we made a quick stop in Radovljica, a small town with houses dating from the 15-16th centuries.

Predjama castle (below left) was built within a cave and was first mentioned in the 13th century. 

Piran, a lovely seaside town was another highlight of the trip. 

For the view below climb the bell tower of St George's church.

I loved that most of the churches in Slovenia are built on hilltops. Church of St Primoz has one of the most beautiful locations high up in the mountains with more mountains as a backdrop. I was hoping to see it on a misty day but we got sun instead. Maybe that's a good reason to come back?

We also visited Plansarsko Lake (Zgornje Jerezersko) that was partly frozen but so far no snow for us this year. Still hoping it might snow in London!