Travel: Your holiday disaster
The white wine, Richard Marsden was assured, tasted like paint stripper. But he thought he'd find out for himself...
Sunday 28 December 1997
My instinct is always to go for the red. Cheap red is usually drinkable, whereas cheap white tastes like paint stripper. Lucretia's white was no exception. Having avoided the paint stripper for the first three nights, I thought it was time I experienced what all the fuss was about. I was joined by David, the only other of my party who had been sticking to the red.
Simultaneously, we took our first swigs of the evening. In the split second before I drank I remember smelling the wine. "That's strange," I thought, "no smell." I had missed the only danger signal. David yelled first. Our mouths were on fire. It felt as though the skin on our throats had been ripped away, exposing the raw flesh to a deluge of hydrochloric acid.
Not even cheap Italian wine could be that bad. We soon found out that we had consumed industrial strength dishwasher fluid, otherwise known as potassium hydroxide, an alkali with a pH high enough to dissolve your chemistry teacher. The chalet was linked to a hotel and rather than going to the extraordinary expense of providing the chalets with dishwasher powder, the tour operator was leaving the maids to decant fluid from the hotel vat. Our maids were using empty wine bottles for this task.
David and I reacted by downing water by the gallon, pausing only to throw it up again in a desperate attempt to clear our systems. This was apparently completely the wrong thing to do, as it forced the alkali up and down our throats again and again.
Eventually an ambulance turned up, and we were rushed, with sirens screaming, along dark, blizzard-stricken roads on a hell ride to Aosta general hospital, at the bottom of the Mont Blanc valley. Once there, we were ushered through a warren of corridors and elevators for emergency endoscopies.
Half an hour later I was lying in the geriatrics ward attached to a drip. I was told that there was no space for David and me to be in the same ward. This may have been true, but in fact David was in intensive care, surrounded by an array of tubes and LCD displays.
It was a week before our insurance company gained permission to fly us home. During that time, we had no food and drink but were fed through a tube that ran up our right arm and into our chests. Alternate saline and glucose solutions plus (if we were lucky) a mysterious milky liquid flowed up our arms, day in, day out. The hardest task was going to the toilet attached to a heavy stand containing a bottle and electronic monitor.
Meanwhile, Dave and I are back on our skis. We were in France in January and will be back again in March next year. Anything goes on the slopes, but it is strictly red wine for the apres-ski.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
Are plastic planes the future of flight? Heathrow expansion reopens debate over aviation's effects on the environment
Inside Travel: Greece 2015 Q&A - should we cancel our Greek holiday? Are our flights safe? And what will we be spending there?
The most powerful passports in the world
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
The 10 Best hiking boots
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...
£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...
£22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...