Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guard L'Est

I left Paris last night by train, leaving from Paris Gare De L'Est (see, the title's a pun. Mull it over, it doesn't get funnier, but it does get less heinous with time). I would strongly recommend thinking four distinct times before starting any trouble at Gare De L'Est.

First, there are the platform wardens. These old men and women can ask to see your ticket. They probably will not stop you starting trouble, except maybe fare evasion. Second are the station guards. These guys are hired by SNCF, the rail provider, and wander around in pairs carrying batons and tasers. I imagine most people would reconsider causing trouble upon seeing these guys.

Apparently not. Also on patrol are small groups of gendarmes, a helmet and shield short of full riot gear. These guys carry batons and holstered pistols and look fairly intimidating. If nothing else, they do have firearms available. Surely, by now, you'd think there was enough security to keep a train station under control? The French would disagree, so they have a couple of dozen Légion étrangère on patrol. Who are the Légion étrangère? Good question. You might know them better as the French Foreign Legion, aka a bunch of total badasses. A regiment made up of guys like this:

So they just wander around with their assault rifles drawn, I'm going to assume with the safeties on, but who knows, it's the French Foreign Legion. Suffice to say, I made damn sure I put my litter in the provided receptacles, separating recyclables where possible.


  1. Two questions:
    1/ Did you take the above photo?
    and if so,
    2/ Where did you need to 'secure' your camera to avoid having it taken away from you at riflepoint?

  2. God no. I entertained the thought of taking a photo of the actual guys, but then considered both the giant scary dude situation and the drawn weapon situation and decided not to. Took a couple of pictures of pigeons at the station though. Good times


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