Hilary Moriarty was delighted when her doctor prescribed a holiday. But it wasn't quite the relaxing break he had in mind ...
When I went to the doctor with what I thought was a cracked rib, I didn't expect him to send me and my husband off on holiday. "Those children have worn you out - leave them to their grannies!" he declared. So we did.

We were gone in less than a week. Just time to get the car serviced first. And not really time to get my younger daughter - just over a year old - weaned off the breast-feeding which the doctor swore had contributed to my exhaustion.

So it wasn't surprising that I was in agony by the time we were ready to leave - if the dry-you-up pills were working, why were my bosoms swollen like balloons and hard as bricks? Why was I nauseous? On the other hand, it was surprising that the car wouldn't start.

Five hours later, we departed for Dover, on the first leg of a two-centre driving holiday to France. The romantic dinner for two in the hotel had already gone. We checked in at 11pm; room service was over. Check tickets for the morning sailing - it was dockside at 8am, wasn't it?

Er, no, actually, it was dockside at 6am. Leave hotel at 5.45am. No, madam, breakfast is not available at that hour. Retreat to bath to bathe bosoms and weep. Refuse husband's offer of massage.

The next morning was blowing a gale, so though we were on the dockside, the ferry was not. The two-hour delay meant we could have had breakfast. We ate on the boat, and I threw up - the weather? The pills? Who knows.

Northern France was a rainswept quagmire reminiscent only of trench warfare. In Paris, we could see the hotel, drove round it several times, but the one-way streets turned the city into a maze. When we finally reached the hotel, it was functional and cold - like the whole of France for that week in July - and the crockery was chipped. Out into the city for a romantic dinner? Yes, but the nausea continued and while my husband ate, I drank water. Husband quipped: "Eau no!" Bosoms still painful but subsiding.

On to Blois, for the chateaux of the Loire. Our room with en suite facilities turned out to have a shower in the corner of the room, screened with a curtain, and a loo on wheels. Don't ask. My husband is an engineer, and it mystified him. When I showered, and reached that blissful soap-all- over moment, the water stopped. It didn't go cold, it didn't trickle, it just stopped. And the hotel was freezing.

Dressed again, in my husband's sweater because I hadn't packed one, I swore I would not wash again until Dover. Which might be why the hotel's patron banged a brandy down on the table the next day and spat out the information that the only good thing about the British was that they had fertilised the soil of France with their blood.

Trying to get home, the continuing storms diverted us from Boulogne to Calais, from ferry to hovercraft, which bucked and reared its way across the Channel like a runaway lift and everyone was sick, so I had plenty of company. We stumbled into the Holiday Inn at Dover, where I spent two hours in the bath, two in the restaurant and another hour on the phone.

The daughters had had a wonderful time. "And the baby never missed you at all - I don't know what you were doing, still feeding her at her age!" Right on, Mum, right on.

Share your holiday nightmares by sending a 600-word account to: Holiday Disasters, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. E-mail: sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

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