Happiest countries on earth in Scandinavia .. New luxury hotel in Saskatoon
There's a lesson in here somewhere.
A new United Nations report lists the happiest - and least happy - nations on the planet. As you might have heard, Canada came out fifth - the best mark outside of northern Europe. And signficantly ahead of the U.S., which was down there at number 11 (but still pretty good).
It's actually quite fascinating to look at this report in some ways. You might not get the Prime MInister to agree, but it seems to me that the most EXPENSIVE countries to live in and the ones with some of the highest taxes are places where citizens are the most happy.
I mean, it ain't the weather that sparked Denmark (see photo of Kronborg castle) to make the top of the list. They do have some of the world's best restaurants according to the fancy magazines I sometimes pick up. And they seem to have a lot of bicycles. They also pay something like $20 for dinner at McDonald's, I've been told. But they don't seem to mind, possibly because they get good goverment for their money.
Ditto for Norway and Finland, which came second and third. The Netherlands was fourth in the UN happiness study, followed by Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.
Interesting stuff. Here are a few other random placements I spotted: Israel 14, Luxembourg 16, United Arab Emirates 17, the UK 18 (probably worried about Olympic traffic), Iceland 20, Spain 22, France 23 (ooh, behind the Brits). Here's a weird one: the economy is booming and they have all those great beaches but Brazil was down at 25. Italy was 28th, Germany 30th, Argentina 39th and Greece 42nd.
I've read lately that Bulgaria is the cheapest country to visit in Europe. Yeah, but they're all miserable sods. The UN report put them at the top of the bottom 10 in world, surpassed in misery only by the Congo, Tanzania, Haiti, Comoros, Burundi, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Benin and, worst in the world, Togo.
I remember when I worked at the Star on general assignment back in the mid 1980s. There was some sort of spy scandal involving Bulgarians in, I believe, Niagara Falls. Anyway, I was sent up to the Bulgarian consul general's office, located in the financial district near the old Winston's restaurant.
I entered a large but older-looking building and got to the floor with the consulate office, only to find furniture that looked like the set of the old Barney Miller tv show; all stuffy and worn. There were out-of-date magazines showing old women stomping grapes and other idyllic scenes. But the best part was the big guy (I seem to remember him being in uniform but probably not) who was there to answer my questions. He had one eye-brow and a rich, thick accent and looked at me with a very serious face and said, "So, how come you never write anything good about Bulgaria?"
I didn't know what to say. I still don't. Except I hear Sofia (see photo above) is kinda pretty. I found a picture and it looks nice. And did I mention it's cheap? Miserable people, perhaps, but cheap to visit.
MEANEST USA AIRLINES
Another fun report that came out this week is the 2012 Airline Quality Ratings, sadly only focussed on the U.S. but still interesting. According to this report, which took into account everything from on-time arrivals to bumped passengers to mishandled baggage, the bottom six airlines in the U.S. were Delta, Southwest, US Airways, American Airlines, Continental and United. The bottom regional carriers were SkyWest, Atlantic Southeast, Mesa Air and American Eagle.
Consider yourself warned.
Best airlines, according to the survey, were AirTran, Hawaiian and JetBlue, followed by Frontier and Alaska.
SASKATOON GOES LUXE
The 59-room James Hotel has opened in Saskatoon. Hotel officials claim it's their first luxury boutique hotel in the city.
"The calibre of the James, both in its design and approach to service, sets it apart from all other hotels in Saskatoon," said Paul Leier, President of Cavalier Enterprises Ltd. "This investment is a testament to the strength of the local economy and the type of traveller the city now attracts."
Officials say they took inspiration from "the refined intimacy of a classic European hotel" but also used a "modern and welcoming design aesthetic," whatever that means.
They're promising "unparalleled service" at the James, formerly an apartment building. Many rooms boast larger than expected floor plans and all suites have private,furnished balconies with city or South Saskatchewan River views.