Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rio de Janeiro, Day 6-7, Vidigalbergue

26-27 December 2011

This was my favorite hostel, Vidigalbergue (a pun on the neighborhood, Vidigal, and the word for hostel in Portuguese, albergue).  The owner's family lives in the upper and lower levels of the building and the hostel is on the middle level, so it's really a family home and really part of the neighborhood and community.

When I arrived the first time, to inquire if there would be a vacancy for me, the office was closed, but looking lost, I was greeted warmly by the owner's sister, who doesn't work in the hostel, and who promptly invited me to Christmas eve with her family - a complete stranger!  I regret that after going back to my other hostel, I felt too timid to take her up on her offer, as it would have been lovely. I really didn't know whether Christmas eve would be a family-only or a more open celebration in Brazil - back home it's usually just for family, so I didn't want to intrude.

When I came back a couple of days later to check in, the family's grandpa was outside and upon seeing a stranger, he came and hugged me and made sure that I got settled, it was very sweet. The owner and staff were really wonderful and friendly, and I got to practice my Portuguese, as they were patient enough to let me struggle along instead of switching automatically to English. I got some kind of stomach bug, and so I spent a whole day ill in bed here - the hostel staff took care of me as though I was a family member, bringing me tea and checking on me.  I was very grateful for their care.

Here are some pictures of the interior of the hostel.

The charming weathered blue gate at the hostel entrance made a lovely scene.

 The line of lights on the ocean in these two photos are ships.

More views at night. The lights in the distance are the buildings of Copacabana, and on the right is a giant cruise ship slipping out to sea. One cruise ship passed by really close in front of the islands, and we all ran to try to take pictures and watch, but I didn't get a good photo of it.
 In fact, just after dark there is a steady stream of ships!
  I love how colorful the favela is, especially at night. The multicolored buildings, the Christmas lights.

It is in Favela Vidigal. "Favela" roughly translates as "slum" but more accurately, a favela is a very poor neighborhood with unenforced building codes, where people build one building atop another.  Favelas exist all over Brazil, and to Brazilians are ordinary, but to me they are fascinating.  They remind me of coral reefs - a growing organism teeming with life.  Interestingly, the favelas around Rio are usually on hillsides commanding superb views of the ocean, which in California would be reserved only for the rich (example: Santa Barbara's Riviera district).  Favelas have a reputation for being "dangerous", but I didn't see them being any more dangerous than any other poor urban neighborhood around the world.

Overlooking the ocean, the views here were spectacular.  Since I was stuck in bed all day, I took loads of pictures from the windows in different light conditions and even after culling the bad photos out I still have so many to show you.

Here is the view looking to the left.

To the center, out to sea:

 And to the right:

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