Friday, November 18, 2011

Santiago: Top Of The List You Go

I really like this town of 5 million. Tthe ebb and flow of the Metro as its brilliant, the streets wide and tree lined, the traffic flow, well it flows and it does not take itself so seriously. Toronto you could learn from Santiago, well except for the violent history,  political and business corruption and the student protests that escalate into violence on a weekly basis.

Putting things into perspective Chile ha been through the grind of wars, repression, corruption, and all the good things that go along with it.  Pinocette was as crazy a dictator that there ever was and that list is long. However Chile has brilliant Naval History and during the War of the Pacific they kicked Boliva and Peru's collective butts. That kind of history builds character. 

I have spent that last few days jumping on the Metro and going to different neighbourhoods. I went to the end of the Red Line to San Pablo and found a great market. While wandering the market I noticed I was getting more than my share of strange looks. A bit weird but no worries. Then I stopped to buy socks (yuppers socks at an outdoor market) I got talking to the woman behind the counter. She asked if I was a student or working in Santiago and as the conversation went along and I told her I was visiting Santiago and riding the Metro to different neighbourhoods she smiled and said that they dont see many tourists in the market (hence all the looks). The she gave me an apple and told me to enjoy the market, it was safe.

Ahhh, Lunch!! French fries, beef, sausage, sweet onions and topped with 2 fried eggs and a hot chile sauce (red bottle on the left) while washed down with a large Coke. How can it get any better than that! This is a standard meal in a restaurant along with hot dogs. These people can not eat enough of them. They top them with avocado, mustard, tomatoes, onions and a crazy amount of  mayo. Its an event to even eat one. This meal put me back about $5 and it was great. I have been pretty lazy this weekend. The was a trip to MacDonalds and KFC but now my bodies is crying for fruit and veggies. Maybe tomorrow.

Ok, back to the Metro. For starters you buy your ticket from a kiosk that is not attached to the entrance so there are no long lines of people getting pisses when someone is asking a question or fishing for change. You buy your ticket or pass then walk the 10 feet to a series of turnstiles and off you go. BUT there are two turnstile areas. One for entrance only and one for exit only.
The same goes with the exit and entrance to the trains. To keep the flow of people going smooth there are two sets of stairs, oddly enough below the aformentioned turnstiles. To go in you go down one set of stairs, to leave, the other. There is no mish mash of people fighting their way up or down like a salmon going up stream. During rush hour there are Metro staff in bright lime green vests standing along the platform moving people along to even them out. Everyone to a person was a part of it. When the train stopped and the big doors opened everyone WAITED until the last person left the train before they got on. This happened everywhere, what a crazy concept.
The stations are all big, clean and free from the clutter of advertising. Its there but not everywhere. The station personel are dressed in clean uniforms, are helpful and friendly enough (nobody can be super friendly working on a metro, it has to be a brutal job) and people cued when needed. I am sure there are issues but compared to the TTC this was a euphoric transit experience. My day pass (electronic and modern) costs me 1300 pesos or $2.61. A single ride was $580 pesos or $1.16.

I have been on mass transit in various big cities around the world. Santiago has it figured out in a very big way. Well done Santiago, you are now at the top of my list.

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