Winding down a great week

Friday was our last day in Rio! We enjoyed breakfast and then decided we really needed some beach time. So we slipped into our swimming costumes and headed across the street for some relaxing on the sand. The ocean water is entirely too icy for our liking so we avoided that!

After our time in the sun, we headed to check out the major Barra shopping malls. We started with lunch at Joe & Leo’s Burger Place – not your traditional Brazilian name – but nevertheless, the beef burgers were excellent! We wandered around the malls a bit – could have been most anywhere – except maybe for the Palm trees and the Portuguese books in the bookstore.

We then returned to the hotel. Glen left at 5 pm to catch an American Airlines flight to Dallas. Liz, Harvey and I decided it must be time for one last beach stroll. We wandered along the beach and stopped at one of our favorite beach stands for a sunset cocktail.

Later we had snacks at a nearby bar and packed up our suitcases for the journey home.

On Saturday morning we were able to enjoy one last Windsor Barra breakfast before heading to the airport and embarking on our many hours of travel. We had long layovers in both São Paulo and Toronto but all our flights went well. Even despite boarding in Rio, looking for our seats in Row 28 and discovering the plane only had 24 rows! It quickly became a ‘seato libre’ flight and we all sat somewhere and were on our way. We arrived safely in Edmonton at noon on Sunday, Glen had arrived late Saturday night.

It was a wonderful trip – to a city we had never imagined visiting!!

So – thanks for reading – until next time in the long and winding journey….


Bev & Harvey
and our great travel mates,
Liz & Glen

That’s the first portable sugar cane press that I’ve ever seen!

We had an activity planned for Thursday that we were very much anticipating. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed across the city to the neighborhood of Lapa. The traffic in the Ipanema area was at a standstill but that apparently sharpened Glen’s photographic skills.

Many months ago, Harvey happened upon an article in the Globe & Mail describing things to do in Rio. One item, a walking food tour, caught my eye. I checked the website and was very interested. We emailed the tour guide and were easily able to schedule the tour.

Tom Le Mesurier is a young Brit who a few years ago was touring South America when he met and fell in love with a Brazilian girl, who would become his wife. He moved to Rio where he worked in IT for a couple of years before deciding to follow his dream. Tom now is a food writer and gives walking food tours of Rio several times a week.

We met Tom and the other 4 people on our tour at Nova Capela restaurant. It was a great group, with Austin & Fiona from Ireland, Fifi from Austin, Texas and Daniella from France. Coincidentally, Austin is a past president of ISQua and had also been at the conference.

To start our food journey at Nova Capela, we had a bolinhos de bacalhau (salt cod and potato croquettes) with suco de abacaxi com hortelã (pineapple juice with mint). The croquette, which is one of the national delicacies derived from Portugal, was crunchy and delicious and the juice was delightfully refreshing.

Leaving the restaurant, we walked the streets of Lapa. This journey showed us the working class of Brazil in their home environs. While not in the state of abject poverty that is evident in the favelas, this rough and tumble neighborhood is also quite removed from the touristy opulence of Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra.

Tom pointed out many of the street murals, many by well-known local artists.

We passed under the Arcos da Lapa. This aqueduct was built in the mid-1700s to transport water from the Carioca River to downtown Rio. The 42 arches stand 64 meters high. Later, a tram (bonde) ran across the top of the arches. This was discontinued in 2011 after a tragic accident. The plan is to reinstate the tram but there have been many delays. Currently, they say it will start to run again sometime in 2015.

We were fascinated by the Escadaria Selarón, 215 steps leading into the hilltop area of Santa Teresa. Jorge Selarón started the creation of the steps in 1990 and continued adding to the tiles until his untimely death in 2013. It was never conclusively proven whether he was murdered or committed suicide but he was found early one morning dead on the steps.

We then visited a local street market in Lapa. These outdoor markets operate in different locations several mornings each week. The colors, smells and tastes were amazing.

As we passed through the market, Tom had us try:

Tapioca (tapioca pancake). This is a fascinating item, made from manioc flour from the cassava root. The treatment of this flour results in a powdered product, which when placed in a frying pan, melts together to form something that resembles a crepe. Brazilians fill it with many things – ours had queijo (cheese) – or just eat them like we would have toast. It was interesting to watch them prepared and it was tasty and quite chewy – probably not our favorite item on the tour, but it was definitely great to learn about it and give it a try.

Manga and Bananas. The fresh mangos and bananas were delicious.

Sapoti. This fruit tastes of dates but has a fleshy texture. It was yummy! It was also our first glimpse of the wonders of Tom’s backpack as he whipped out a full knife to carve off pieces for us!

Caldo de cana. We arrived at a booth where a lot of activity was occurring. Full canes of raw sugar cane were being pushed through a press and the resulting sugarcane juice was being collected. The juice was then filtered and cooled and dispensed in bottles. Out of the backpack came glasses for us all. First we tried the plain juice – this was met with various reviews. I personally didn’t mind it but some of the others found the raw, sweet taste quite unappealing. Then out of the backpack appeared a container of sliced limes. We each took a couple and squeezed as much lime juice as we could into more of the caldo de cana. The resulting mixture was greatly enjoyed by all; Tom tells us it is a great hangover cure. I must also mention that next out of the infamous backpack was water to wash the lime juice off our fingers.

Bala de coco. Our final tasting in the market was this delicious candy, a mixture of coconut and evaporated milk, enveloped in a hard caramelized sugar shell.

The trip through the market was fabulous and Tom was able to provide us with so much information about the items for sale.

Our next stop was at a juice bar. These small shops are ubiquitous in Rio, with one on most any street. The juices are mixed ‘smoothie’ style, with a bit of sugar and ice. Out of the backpack came small cups and we all sampled 3 varieties: Acerola (a vitamin C hit!), Graviola (claimed health benefits) and Cupuaçú (related to Cacau, tastes like Skittles, with a bit of an alcohol or chemical taste).

We passed through Glória, Flamengo and Laranjeiras, soaking up the atmosphere of these neighborhoods. Our travels included a ride on the metro – always fun to do in any city. It was modern and clean. If we had more time in Rio, we definitely would have used this mode of transportation. But alas, it currently doesn’t extend to Barra where we were located and the complications of adding bus travel didn’t fit into our time constraints.

We visited a small cafe, Tacacá do Norte, serving traditional Amazonian fare. Here, in bowls from the backpack, we sampled Tacacá – an Amazonian soup, prepared from a plant that contains poisonous cyanide. The process to detoxify the plant is quite arduous, with a couple of three days steps, and one wonders how this process was developed – how many Amazonians were sacrificed determining the required time periods to arrive at a safe edible product? The soup broth was quite tasty; it also contained a heavily salted shrimp, which most of us found quite dreadful and greens which are often referred to as ‘the toothache plant’ as they left one’s tongue and mouth somewhat numbed for a few seconds after chewing them. The soup was accompanied by two Amazon beers, which, like most Brazilian cervejas we have tried, were very good.

After wandering through the Laranjeiras neighborhood, we completed our tour at Severyna. Here, we were treated to a veritable feast of northeastern Brazilian food:

Pastel. These deep-fried pastry parcels, resembling empanadas, were filled with a variety of cheese, shrimp, crab and beef.

Carne seca com abobora e feijão corda. This platter contained air-dried, salted beef (reminded us somewhat of the corned beef of our youth) with a pumpkin purée and beans. All elements were extremely tasty.

Moqueca de camarão. This dish was a wonderful stew of shrimp, made with coconut milk, peppers and palm oil.

The meal was accompanied by copious amounts of Theresopolis Gold (a pilsner beer brewed in a town one hour north of Rio) and Caipirinhas, flavoured with fresh strawberries that Tom had bought in the market.

The afternoon was wonderful and far exceeded our expectations. Tom is an excellent guide and we would highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Rio. I apologize to Tom for any errors I’ve made in my description of the tour.

Leaving the restaurant, we again couldn’t find a cab that would take us to Barra so we once more stopped in Copacabana. We found a lovely table at the Bacardi beach shack where we people watched, drank more caipirinhas and cervejas and did some shopping from the beach vendors. It was a great evening of laughter and story telling! We finished with a fun cab driver on our trip back to Barra and a glass of wine at the hotel.

This was one of our best days in Rio and we really must again thank Tom and his EatRio Tour for providing us with an unforgettable experience. For more on this tour, and valuable Rio info, visit .


B&H, L&G

Amazing Views!!

Wednesday was the last day of the conference. It began with a great video inviting everyone to Qatar for next year’s meeting. This was followed by an extremely moving plenary session. Susan Sheridan, from the U.S., told us her story. Her son has permanent brain damage, due to undiagnosed kernicterus. Then a few years later, an error in reporting of pathology results contributed to the untimely death of her husband. Susan has become an active advocate for patient engagement in all aspects of the healthcare system. Her presentation was emotional and inspiring!

We then spent some time looking at many of the posters presented at the conference and attended sessions that focused on accreditation and healthcare assessment.

When we returned from the conference, we found Glen and Harvey relaxing on the beach. It was again a beautiful sunny day!

It was then time to hop in another cab to head for Pão Açúcar, Sugar Loaf Mountain. Inaugurated in 1912, the cable car was the first in Brazil and third in the world. Starting from the Vermelha beach, the first cable car connects Babilônia hill to the Urca hill. From there, a second cable car takes you to the top of Pão Açúcar, which is 396 meters above sea level.

From the top these hills, a breathtaking city landscape unfolds, including Botafogo bay, Copacabana beach and the entrance to Guanabara Bay. We arrived in time to see the transformation from day to night, which was amazing!!




Coming down from the mountain, we hopped in a cab that would only take us as far as Copacabana. This was fine as we walked the beach, had a bite to eat and beverages on the beach. We also did a bit of shopping at a beach market.

Another incredible day in Rio!


B&H, L&G

High 5 for Us!!

Tuesday at ISQua started with an interesting plenary session discussing healthcare quality reform initiatives in Colombia and Brazil. Next up were the ISQua Accreditation Awards where the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta was one of ~10 organizations acknowledged in the session. Liz and I were very proud to receive this validation of our laboratory standards.

During the day, we attended some very interesting presentations in the accreditation track and toured the exhibit area.

While we were at the conference, Harvey and Glen wandered around Barra, checking out cars and other sites.

We met up with the boys and headed to Ipanema Beach where we stopped at a few shops and then had a bite to eat at the Devassa Grill.

The beach at Ipanema is similar to Copacabana – wide with lots of white sand and people enjoying the sun.

We watched the sunset while enjoying caipirinhas and cervejas and then returned to Barra where we stopped in next door at Fratellis for a late night snack!


B&H, L&G

Not that Village Mall

The conference official opening was held on Monday morning, followed by the morning plenary sessions. These sessions, as well as some of the others we attended later in the day, focused on the effects of accreditation programs on patient safety. There were also some interesting discussions on the use of health information technology.

When our conference day ended, we decided it was time to visit Cristo Redenter. While waiting for our turn to ascend the mountain, we visited a beautiful church that was just across the street.

You reach Cristo Redenter by way of a steep cog-train ride. This journey takes you through Rio’s tropical rainforest.

Cristo Redenter, the 710 m open-armed saviour, has stood at the top of Corvocado Mountain since 1931. The statue is a remarkable work of artistry, dominating its position high above Rio.

The other amazing aspect at the top of Corvocado is the panoramic view of tropical rainforest, beaches, ocean, islands and mountain peaks, as well as the metropolis of Rio.

After admiring the statue and views, and taking many,many photographs, we took enjoyed the view with light refreshments.

Returning to the hotel, we had a quick break and joined our ISQua colleagues on buses headed for the Networking Reception at the Village Mall. Contrasting our visit to Cristo Redenter, this evening was quite under-whelming – at times on the verge of an epic fail.

The bus ride was to take 20-30 minutes; in reality, the trip took 1.75 hours. We think perhaps the trial run had been done on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, rather than in Rio rush hour traffic. Arriving at the venue, already cranky, we were expecting something special – it was advertised at a “traditional Brazilian evening” and the tickets had been fairly pricey. In actuality, the venue was a large reception room in a mall (albeit a very upscale mall). The food consisted of small canapés, passed by waiters; the caipirinhas and wine were good, and well needed by this point.

The band played typical reception-type music, breaking into what might be called typical Brazilian only for a couple of numbers where Samba dancers were briefly featured.

In the end, we felt that the whole event, as it was, could have easily taken place at the hotel – or an actual “traditional Brazilian evening” could have been better searched out and presented. Hopefully, the ISQua conference organizers will learn some lessons from this.

By the way, the bus ride back to the hotel took 12 minutes!

We ended the evening with a nightcap in the bar, and determined the day was quite enjoyable, despite the misadventures of the evening.


B&H, L&G

OMG – I have the meat sweats….

Welcome to ISQua 2014!

Today was the pre-conference day. Liz and I were up early and had a good breakfast, with our husbands, before picking up our registration packages and heading off for the day of accreditation topics. It was an interesting day. We picked up some good pointers for our practice. Also, we felt that the presentations and group discussions provided us with validation that what we have been doing with standard development and assessment processes is very much on the right track!

We connected with some acquaintances from Canada and the AABB and made some new friends from those with whom we interacted. An excellent start to the conference.

When the day ended, we returned to the hotel to find that Harvey & Glen were missing in action. Not letting that slow us down, we headed across the street to a beach kiosk. While we were enjoying our caipirinhas, the boys came wandering down the street. They had spent several hours walking around Barra de Tijuca and feel like they know the neighbourhood quite well.

For dinner, we headed out on foot to the area we had visited last night.

First we stopped for drinks on a nice patio bar. We were entertained by a singing cab driver on the sidewalk.

We continued walking to a Brazilian Grill that had been recommended to us – the Barra Grill! It was a fabulous experience! All of the food and wine was excellent – the appetizers, the salad bar and the overwhelming amount and variety of meats that were brought around. A Brazilian grill is a great experience – and to experience one in Brazil was amazing!

We walked home from the restaurant, next to the beach. It was a lovely evening and we certainly needed some time to digest! The sidewalks in Rio are quite delightful.


B&H, L&G

What’s your name? Harvey. Oh sh*t!

Our first full day in Rio was great!!

Glen had arrived late last night, after a direct flight from Dallas to Rio and a quick trip through customs.

We started the day with a fabulous buffet breakfast that is included in our hotel rate. The variety was wonderful.

Then we hopped in a taxi and made our way to Copacabana. Yes, in the words of Barry Manilow – the hottest spot south of Havana!

The beach was great – long and wide; warm, white sand; waves crashing in. We wandered up and down the beach, enjoying the scenery. The beach wasn’t crowded and despite all of the warnings, we felt completely safe. The temperature was in the low to mid 20’s, which was perfect in the sun.

After some time in the sun, it was time for a beverage – caipirinhas for Liz and I and cervejas for the boys. We enjoyed the drinks, the sights and chatting with a great wandering vendor – named Mr Eddy (pronounced edgy) International. There was also some interesting ‘people’ watching – definitely all body types on this beach…..

We wandered through a market, scoping out some things we might buy later in the week. The renowned Copacabana Palace, made famous by the aforementioned Barry, still stands proudly across from the beach and we took a trip through, to soak up the opulence.

By this time, we needed more sustenance and visited another beach kiosk for more caipirinhas and cervejas, as well as delicious fish tacos. While relaxing, we watched a local beach soccer game. Also, beach volleyball with a soccer twist – they don’t use their hands, just heads, chests and feet.

Most of the people on the beach appeared to be locals, enjoying Saturday in the sand and surf.

After walking a bit more, and Liz and I getting somewhat wet from a rogue wave, we jumped in a cab and headed back to the hotel. The sun was just setting and we snapped a few pictures from the 17th floor deck.

There are only a couple of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, so we took a quick cab ride to a nearby restaurant and bar district. We walked for a while, perusing menus and atmosphere, and then picked a place we thought looked good. It was a great choice! We all shared a meal of beef tenderloin, cooked on a tableside grill. Accompanied by bacon, rice, fries, onions, tomatoes and broccoli, it was flavourful and fun! We finished off with just a touch of ice cream. 🙂

Back to the hotel for an early night – conference starts tomorrow.

A wonderful way to start our week in Rio!


B&H, L&G

On Our Way to Rio: I Want a Colorful Doughnut

We have embarked upon another adventure along our ‘long and winding journey’. We are heading to Rio de Janeiro!!

Once again, it is a very lucky happenstance that is taking us on this journey. My colleague (and friend) Liz and I are privileged to be attending the annual conference of the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua). At the meeting, the CPSA will be acknowledged for the ISQua accreditation of our laboratory standards, a project that Liz and I have laboured over for the last four years.

For obvious reasons, our husbands thought they should come along on this trip. Liz, Harvey and I travelled together – leaving Edmonton at 1 pm on Thursday for Toronto, where we had a 4 hour layover. We passed part of the time at Casey’s Bar & Grill, and at 11:30 pm, boarded an Air Canada 767 bound for São Paulo, Brazil. This 10.5 hour flight through the night was quite uneventful (as one hopes all flights are) and we all managed to get a bit of sleep.

In São Paulo, we passed quickly through customs – the Brazilian Policia Federal were very friendly. We had to claim our luggage and check in with Air GoLinhas. It was a smooth transition and we had time to wander around the airport and stop for a leisurely lunch.


Quick flight to Rio – about an hour.

Our luggage turned up quickly and we were easily able to get a ‘radio’ taxi. The cab ride to the hotel took about an hour, through heavy traffic. It was interesting to see the favelas (neighborhoods) on the hillsides. It looks like random boxes have been stacked upon one another for homes. Certainly, the first impression of Rio as you drive from the airport is of abject poverty.


We left these areas and arrived in Barra de Tijuca, a modern, upscale area along the beach, west of the tourist beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Our hotel seems very good – fairly large, clean and modern rooms.

After settling in, we took a few minutes to take in the view from the rooftop (17th floor) of the hotel.


Feeling quite weary, and not wanting to travel far in the dark, we went to the Italian restaurant that is right next door to the hotel. It was excellent, quite authentically Italian and with more staff than I think I have ever seen in one restaurant.

Our dinners were excellent – but alas, in our weariness, we forgot pictures until the very end….


During our layovers, we connected virtually with Liz’s husband, Glen. Glen is a pilot who was taking a different path to our destination. Originally, his journey was slated to be quicker, but Mother Nature didn’t agree. He ended up on a somewhat prolonged ‘stop along the way’ in Dallas, due to thunderstorms across the U.S. As our day ends, he is in an airplane somewhere between Dallas and Rio and is scheduled to arrive around 11 pm. We are hoping his journey to the hotel goes as smoothly as ours did.

So here we are – on another continent. We are looking forward to a great week. We aren’t sure how often we will have Internet access so will post blogs as we have a chance.


Bev, Harv and Liz