Taxi only took about 30 minutes from the airport, and arrived at my hotel, the Epic Sana Luanda, around 10:30am. The hotel had plenty of rooms available, but wanted to charge a half day to check in early. They told me to come back at noon and “maybe” I could check in then with no charge. I stored my bags with the valet, and asked to see a manager about an exception. They ran around for about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to handle someone who challenged their “no” and eventually, one of the front desk guys told the other guy to just let me check in…victory…and he also apologized and offered a room on the top floor. Score!
Originally, I was torn about booking this hotel. Hotels in Luanda are insanely expensive, but after my less-than-happy evening in Cabinda I figured for one night I could afford to splurge. At $495 a night, the Epic Sana was definitely a splurge! Got up to the room, which was nice and comfortable and had great views of Luanda looking out onto the waterfront and corniche, where I’d walk later:
Jordan had gone to check into his hotel, so once I settled in I went across the street to a small market to get some drinks and water, and then set out in search of lunch. I couldn’t really find anything enticing in the immediate area, so settled for the hotel’s third floor rooftop/pool restaurant. The menu came….and the Luanda sticker shock set in again. If I was considering champagne, I had another guess coming! The prices were stratospheric!
…and this folks, is what a $34 cheeseburger looks like. At least it was reasonably tasty!
A short while later Jordan came back, fresh from being attacked by a group of local thugs walking out of his hotel. Ugh, it’s the first violent incident me or anyone I was traveling with has ever experienced, and it was a bit of an eye opener. Fortunately he got away unharmed, but it definitely kept us extra-vigilant during the afternoon. We set off to walk towards the waterfront, which along with a few churches were listed as the few “things to see” in Luanda. Near the waterfront, what I seem to remember was the National Bank of Angola:
Construction of the waterfront had been going on for many years, and was just recently completed. It was quite nice with lots of people around, but also quiet and clean. I was impressed with the job they’d done. A nice walking/bike path went along the length as well:
Lots of cities now have some sort of animal statues displayed all around the city, with different ones sponsored by different people or companies and decorated differently. Here in Luanda it seemed to be a gazelle of some sort (corrected by a reader, it’s a Giant Sable), and they were all gathered along the boardwalk:
Looking east on the waterfront. Lots of construction!
…and skateboarders! That was a first for me in Africa outside of South Africa. As bad as people said Luanda was (and Jordan’s attack proved there is definitely a sinistre side) I was quite impressed that there were definitely some quite nice parts to Luanda.
Next up was the first of the churches we’d hoped to see – Nuestra Señora de los Remedios – or Our Lady of Remedies:
We sat in the courtyard area, near a fountain for a bit, to cool off and rest a bit. A woman overheard us speaking English, and started talking to us. She was a professional dancer from New York, and was in Angola studying local dance and just getting experience. What a cool job! She’d been in Luanda a few weeks already, and was supposed to leave the next day. We were the first tourists she’d encountered in her whole time there, and was fascinated people were there voluntarily. She was also loving Luanda, and was sad to leave, so was glad to hear we had a pretty good impression so far.
Walking a bit farther, we stopped at a small bakery for a snack, located on this interestingly-named street:
After walking a bit longer, we came upon the next church – the Igreja do Carmo – the Carmo Church:
By this point, we were exhausted from walking around in the heat for several hours combined with the early morning. We headed back to my hotel to chill for a bit, before finding a taxi to go to dinner. It was on the water, so I wanted to make sure we were there before sunset. There ‘s a strip of land that surrounds the bay called the Ilha:
Our first choice of restaurants was closed when we got there, so we settled on our second choice, a place called Esplanade Grill which was pretty good. We could sit outside on the water on their patio, and it had a huge menu and seemed reasonably popular. The coast along the Ilha:
Sun setting…got lucky again to get birds in the pic!
So dinner…I only got one pic before it got too dark, but we got some complimentary olives and cheese, and ordered tasty caipirinhas. I had a steak which was recommended and was good, but not amazing, another caipirinha, and a apple tart desert, and it came to nearly $85. Angola certainly wasn’t cheap!
After dinner the hotel called us a taxi, which came pretty quickly, and took us back to our hotels. Jordan negotiated with him to come pick us up to take us to the airport in the morning (since there weren’t many taxis in Luanda, we wanted to reserve one while we had the chance) and we called it a night.
When I got back to my room, it was rather warm. I called down to the front desk that the air conditioning didn’t seem to be working, and they said they’d send someone up. 15 minutes later, nothing. Called down again, same thing, and 15 minutes later, still nothing. At this point, I threw a minor fit on the phone, and the duty manager himself came up. Confirmed they knew the AC was broken in many rooms, and he apologized for the delays, because “many things are breaking tonight – this is Africa” and he rolled his eyes. I asked where he was from, and he was Portuguese, so that explains it a bit. 😉 They moved me a couple of rooms down the hall, helped me move my few bags, and threw in a 1/2 bottle of red wine as an apology – so things were made right.
The next morning, I got up early enough to lounge around a bit, and enjoy breakfast which was included (It sure better be for $495!) It was quite tasty, and a huge spread. Pastries, salad bar, eggs to order, meats and cheeses, several different fresh juices, and coffees/espressos made to order. Exactly what I would have expected, and given Luanda prices, I actually thought the hotel delivered decent value for money and was worth the splurge.
Back to the room to pack up, and wait for Jordan and the taxi to head off to the airport!