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Catastrophe! Left luggage on the train platform!

My wife and I just returned from 18 days in France and Portugal. We had a major mistake: Mid trip, we took the French TGV train from the small town of Angouleme to Bordeaux to fly to Lisbon. The train doesn't stop for long, and we had a lot of luggage.
In our haste to get on the train, I left a suitcase on the platform. A fellow passenger tried to tell me in excited French, but I didn't understand in time, and but when I tried to dash bash and get it, the automatic doors closed and I the train pulled away as I looked at our sad suitcase sitting by itself on the platform. The same passenger was kind enough to find the train conductor for me but basically no one spoke English and I only have a few words of French from high school, 50 years ago. The conductor took my information and called the station where we left it but said we'd need to go to lost and found (OBJET TROUVÉ) at the Bordeaux station.
We were pretty panicked as you can imagine, and the Bordeaux train station was huge. We did find the right place and the guy there did have good English. I had hoped that they could just put our suitcase on the next train (like an airline would) as they are frequent, but no! French regulations require that you must recover lost luggage personally from where you lost it and you must pay a 10 Euro fine and show your passport. So that was what we did. Two round trips from Bordeaux to Angouleme (we felt we needed to stay together at that point) plus we (of course) missed our cheap flight to Lisbon which was not a changeable ticket. . We were able to rebook arriving about midnight and those two tickets were only about $135 each so when all was said and done we were out several hundred dollars and a very miserable and anxious day, but with the help of Mastercard, we survived it.

Posted by
2455 posts

Sorry you had to deal with this experience. At least you and your baggage survived, and now you have a good “travel story”. I think the key phrase in your post is “…we had a lot of luggage.”

Posted by
337 posts

Oh no! It's easy for this to happen--I did a similar thing at Heathrow--bought train tickets and left a small bag at the counter. I was almost at the platform when I realized that I was missing my bag. It's a terrible feeling isn't it? I ran back and it was still there.

We just took a train to Prague and got off at the wrong station. I can commiserate with you and your wife. The trains can be confusing when you don't know the language. The trains don't stop for long and it's rush, rush, rush. We took the train in Munich last week and due to Oktoberfest, all the stations, including the one we needed, were closed! Luckily an English speaking man helped my husband and I to get on another train that stopped where we were supposed to go.

Posted by
14246 posts

Thank you for posting your experience. I’m sorry you all had such a trial.

As a solo traveler I have to make sure I’m only carrying one bag so I can have a hand free for the railings. I’ve got a personal item slung over my shoulder.

Do you have more trains on this trip? If so can you consolidate so you are each managing one bag plus shoulder item?

For myself also I have to make sure the case is light enough for me to lift.

Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

Posted by
11480 posts

Was the bag and its contents worth what you spent to get it?

Posted by
8620 posts

I am so sorry that this happened to you. I do think this supports the idea that each person should handle his/her own luggage. It might have been less likely to have been left then.
Sometimes, particularly mid-trip, problems like these are only solved by spending the money. I am glad that it all worked out in the end.

Posted by
2 posts

Too much luggage was certainly part of the problem! We had 3 standard roller carry on's plus a heavy lap top computer bag (with books and older computer) plus a cpap machine and a smaller back pack between the two of us. We did plan to do laundry, but we sure didn't pack as lightly as we could have.

Posted by
75 posts

Trust some readers to pass judgement on this poor couple. It must be real nice to be perfect.

Posted by
9856 posts

I am glad you were able to get your luggage back (even though it wasn't easy). That must have been the worst feeling when you realized it was still there, and that the doors were closing !

I hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip.

Posted by
2252 posts

I am sad you experienced this setback to your plans. On the other hand, I think you were so lucky you were able to retrieve your belongings intact and your suitcase was safely reunited with you even though you lost some valuable touring time and are out travel money. I appreciate your posting this unfortunate event. It could happen to any of us! This is so true: “ The trains can be confusing when you don't know the language. The trains don't stop for long and it's rush, rush, rush.”

Posted by
15665 posts

Use this as a learning experience. How can you pack better next time to make your trip easier?

I am constantly doing that. After each trip, I take out items that didn't make sense. Sometimes I replaced them with something better and sometimes nothing at all.

It can actually be fun.

Posted by
9436 posts

I agree with you Les.

laortegren1, so sorry this happened to you. Nice of you to share to try to help others.

Posted by
11480 posts

We had 3 standard roller carry on's plus a heavy lap top computer bag (with books and older computer) plus a cpap machine and a smaller back pack between the two of us.

I count 6 pieces. This is a case where larger, but fewer, pieces may have been a better choice. ( unless the concentrated weight became a problem). Glad it worked out. Hopefully by Christmas it will just be an 'interesting story' to tell.

Posted by
14246 posts

Too much luggage was certainly part of the problem! We had 3 standard roller carry on's plus a heavy lap top computer bag (with books and older computer) plus a cpap machine and a smaller back pack between the two of us. We did plan to do laundry, but we sure didn't pack as lightly as we could have.

When you return home definitely look at writing out a list of what you took including the size of liquids, which bags. etc. I agree with Frank II about analyzing what you actually needed and how you could have lightened your load. I might even do a trial pack right away to see how you can downsize.

I boarded my outbound flight on Sunday with my suitcase, personal item and also a bag of carryout food from an excellent food place in the Seattle airport. I honestly couldn’t get down the aisle jockeying that 3rd item although it was just a small brown bag. It threw me off and I realized if I’m going to stop for coconut cake (lol!!) and a hummus wrap I need to have room to stash it in my personal item!

Posted by
10344 posts

What an awful experience. Very confusing time during boarding.

I hope these help for the future: my husband hands everything up to me before he boards. Some people make a habit of counting pieces each time. Others have distinctive ribbons.

Due to bombings, luggage has to be claimed in person. If the other passenger hadn't found the train employee who contacted the station, the Angoulême station platforms would have been closed, trains delayed, and your suitcase handled by a robot and exploded. Your quick response saved a lot of people from having delayed trains.

Posted by
7065 posts

Oh my, what an adventure! Impressed that it worked out in the end.
You were "lucky" that it happened in quiet Angoulême. At a busier station, your bag might have been blown to smithereens much sooner.

Posted by
79 posts

I finally had to stop putting a loose jacket in the overhead bins of trains and airplanes - I'm down 2 rainjackets over the last many years. Now everything has to be stuffed into my personal item.

Posted by
10391 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s a good reminder to everyone how easy it is to be distracted while in the actual act of traveling. I am always reassessing what to pack. We are in Week 9 of a 10 week trip, with each of us using a carry on bag and backpack. Am I sick of wearing the same things? A bit. Do I wish I had brought more clothes and a bigger suitcase? Absolutely not. I find that travel mishaps make the best stories later. No one cares about what went right.

Posted by
139 posts

In 2006 I was on a France tour with several girlfriends, and we had the opposite problem! We knew we had only a couple minutes to get our luggage off the TGV in Provence, so we were staged and ready at the exit.

One friend had been a triage nurse in the Gulf War. When the train stopped, she went into full gear. She unloaded ALL the bags at the door exit, including those of strangers. We heard much hollering in French, as people assumed their bags were being stolen. Nope, just Jenny getting things done!