An exciting day for a couple of reasons...my first time in Angola and my Birthday! We were met at the ship by EcoTur and Ann, Cathy, Janet, Mike and I were off to see Luanda and the Angolan countryside...Our driver Kita spoke very good English. On the way out of Luanda, we had a quick tour of the downtown highlights...Perched on the Atlantic coastline, driving along the seaside Marginal promenade, we passed the beautiful National Bank Building. Passing the Agnostinho Neto Mausoleum dedicated to the first president of Angola is a obelisk like structure towering above the city and impossible to miss. Travelling out of the city, we passed the Favelas (Slums) and many villages on our way to the Moon Viewpoint...a set of cliffs 40 km south of Luanda, in the municipality of Samba...Over time, erosion caused by wind and rain created the kind of lunar-Martian landscape. On our return to Luanda we stopped at the Slave Museum and the Benfica Craft Market. Back in Luanda we visited Fortress de São Miguel. Built in 1627, the administrative center of the colony and a major outlet for slave traffic to North America and Brazil...Inside the fort, elaborate ceramic tiles tell the story of Angola from early years...the courtyard housed large, imposing statues of Portugal's first king, the first European to reach Angola, Vasco da Gama, and other notables. We then toured the downtown area, stopping at; the Iron Palace...this building is believed to have been designed and constructed in 1890 by Gustave Eiffel in Paris and dismantled and rebuilt in Luanda, the Senhora de Nazare and Senhora Los Remedios churches. Travelling up to the Cidade Alta (High City) where the presidential palace and high ranking officials offices are located with security everywhere and no picture taking allowed....This is where the disparity between the “have and the have-nots” can be really be seen! Our touring was completed with a drive along the Ilhara do Cabo/Luanda, a 12km sand spit forming the outer arm of Luanda...a very popular area for the beaches, restaurants and bars for Angolans, expats and tourists. On our return to the ship, we stopped at a souvenir shop and the craft market for some shopping. Luanda is very much a place in transition, with slums surrounding the city to the shiny new skyscrapers, albeit a huge security presence, we never felt unsafe...We had a fantastic day in Angola! To add to the day, I had a wonderful birthday evening with close friends joining us for a menu created of my favorite foods and a best ever birthday carrot cake in the design of a can of Diet Coke...a great evening topped off with a fun time in the Crow’s Nest! Many thanks to everyone (staff and friends) involved in making this a special evening.