This article is sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car
A few weeks ago, Enterprise Rent-A-Car launched a niche new promotion for cheap(er) one-way car rentals in France. It runs until 6th September.
One-way rentals are normally more expensive than a roundtrip – most rental car companies charge eye-watering one-way drop off charges which can bump up the price of a rental significantly.
Fortunately, Enterprise capped the first day of a one-way French rental at £2, with day two and three also at reduced rates. We’ve not given total pricing examples here because they vary wildly depending on the start and end point you select and your travel dates.
Enterprise was keen to promote this offer to HfP readers. Whilst they could have booked some ads (and indeed did book a few) we thought the best way to highlight it was to get out there and give it a go.
After studiously comparing the pick up and drop off points from the Enterprise website and cross-referencing it with where I could find the cheapest flights I eventually settled on an itinerary from Paris to Bordeaux.
You need to drive from the north to the south – the offer isn’t available in the other direction. There is no need to start in Paris and no need to end in Bordeaux, but this option worked well for me.
Paris to Bordeaux is just under 600km direct, which Google clocks in at around 6 hours drive if you go straight through. I thought this was a reasonable distance to cross over three days, taking in the Loire Valley, the west coast around La Rochelle before finally heading into Bordeaux and the surrounding wineries.
Our journey starts at Paris Orly airport following a short Vueling hop across the channel. This is my first time at Orly, generally regarded as the more budget Paris airport, but I am surprised how modern it is – much nicer than Gatwick.
Picking up the car is a breeze, with Enterprise occupying one of the slots in the adjoined multi-story car park. As per the offer, Enterprise supplied a compact car – in this case a fairly new manual five-door Opel Corsa. It wasn’t going to set any speed records but had plenty of room for a three day trip for two.
After a quick pit stop to sample the local cuisine (hello McDonalds 😉 ) and to pick up some madeleines at Carrefour we head straight down the A10, driving through one of the worst rainstorms I’ve ever experienced.
Fortunately the weather soon clears and the skies brighten as we enter the Loire Valley and our first stop – Chateau Chenonceau, one of the most iconic chateaux in Loire thanks to its bridge design.
I have been here before, with my family on a camping holiday when I was about eight or nine. I remember being terminally bored, so it was nice to see it again as an adult!
After leaving the chateau at 7pm or so we decide to take the scenic route to Tours, where I had booked a cheap and cheerful Ibis – more on that later – which takes us to Amboise, at the banks of the Loire, before hugging the river down into Tours itself.
Amboise is delightful and we ended up eating dinner here, just outside the walls of Chateau d’Amboise, before a lovely drive down the river as the sun sets:
Tours itself is nothing special – it feels like a bog standard medium sized town and doesn’t have much on offer, so if I were to drive this way again I would give it a miss.
As this was designed as a budget trip, taking advantage of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car discount, I had booked the Ibis Tours Centre Gare – my first ever stay at an Ibis.
The rooms are fine – small, as you would expect, with the world’s smallest bathroom – but must be equally sized to a standard CitizenM room which generally manages to make better use of the space and has a funkier design.
The following morning we set about driving to La Rochelle – another two to three hour drive. One of the delights of renting a car is being able to change plans at last minute, and we decided to spontaneously head to Île de Ré, a little island that juts out into the Atlantic famous for its oysters and sea salt.
It turns out that was the right decision – we ended up driving right to the end of this little island where a local told us we would find the region’s best beaches. He wasn’t wrong:
We enjoyed it so much that we decided to have dinner here too, at Le Tout De Cru in the beautiful little port of Saint-Martin-de-Ré.
Tout De Cru doesn’t quite have the sunny, port-side alfresco dining that some of the more touristy restaurants have but it more than makes up for it with amazing local sea food – oysters, clams, crab, prawns etc. The bill comes as a surprise, if only because it is shockingly cheap versus what you’d expect to pay in the UK.
Another Ibis waits for us in La Rochelle, although after the delights of the Île the town feels a bit like a comedown!
On the third day, water became wine and we drive down to Bordeaux via the vineyards of St Emilion and a delightful lunch at one of the wineries – Chateau de Candale. It’s not Michelin starred but you’ll get a thoroughly decent lunch with views across the countryside.
Life doesn’t get much better than this:
We pick up a bottle of wine at another local winery after we spot a magnificent château at the top of the hill and drive down the driveway to explore, only to be greeted by delightfully rustic working winery with a small shop.
Then into Bordeaux, across the famous vertical-lifting bridge Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas and into the Bacalan area of the city – formerly a port, Nazi submarine base and industrial area. It is being developed into a trendy new quarter, complete with the Cité du Vin wine museum plus a brand new Renaissance and Moxy hotel where we were stayed (Moxy Bordeaux website here).
We spend the evening exploring the local area, including a trendy open-air bar and food hall clearly popular with the locals, a big contrast to our otherwise very touristy stops.
We save exploring the city itself for our final day, when we zoom into the city centre on electric scooters (you can also take the tram) via the long riverside promenade.
A small coffee and pastry in the morning local boulangerie where you can watch them bake bread in front of you keeps us going until lunch time before we walk back to the Moxy, grab our trusty little Corsa and head to the airport.
Dropping the car off was just as simple, at Bordeaux Airport’s open-air car rental facility.
In the end we drove just shy of 700km and took in some of the best of what France has to offer – wineries, amazing sea food, beaches, ports and chateaux.
You’d be hard pressed to find a route as diverse as ours, and the car meant we were free to tweak our plans at a moment’s notice, letting us spontaneously explore Île de Ré and St Emilion.
You can find out more about the one-way Enterprise rental offer on their website here.