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My three-day one-way French road trip, courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s £2 promo

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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.

Rhys car

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.

Enterprise Paris-Bordeaux

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 wineriesChateau 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.

Comments (94)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

    Any sign of Nicole? Papa?

  • Tim P says:

    Sadly (in the UK) Enterprise have recently been unable to honour bookings, preferring to call customers the day before they are due to collect the vehicle to cancel the booking with no alternative.

  • BJ says:

    Vueling, Corsa, McDonalds, Ibis … a journey of personal rediscovery, a punishment from the boss, a concession to the disgruntled envious clique within HfP readers ??? Whatever … a nice enjoyable article and something different for a change, sponsored or not 🙂

    • Rob says:

      He was given a low budget by Sinead 🙂

      • Michael Jennings says:

        Looks like he had a lovely trip anyway. And that seafood looked nice later on.

  • memesweeper says:

    Ill de Re is an absolute gem. Glad you liked it.

    If you have a car and some time in the area Cap Ferret is wonderful. Or take the ferry across to the cape for a day trip for oyster feasting.

  • flyingbee says:

    If you’re going to the Loire, Blois is a very beautiful town to stay in and close to the Chambord château.

  • Meyers says:

    What a great article!
    Makes you want to jump on a plane ✈and do it next week!

  • WaynedP says:

    Clever offer, brilliantly showcased in your review, thanks, Rhys.

    France is beautiful and the sense of freedom, flexibility and delightful discovery of previously unknown gems afforded by road trips always fills me with deep satisfaction.

    Plus, as you eloquently illustrate, you can eat, drink and feel like a prince even on a pauper’s budget.

    Interesting mix of tenses that had me gripping on white knuckled like a passenger in a Fast & Furious film but thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

    We have no annual leave left for the year, but if we did, my wife and I would be inspired to hop across the channel for a quick, rejuvenating road trip of our own. Maybe next year …

    • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

      Is annual leave still a thing? I’d have thought post-lockdown flexible hours and work from home meant it doesn’t matter much where or when one does their job from.

      • Ross says:

        Tax authorities see things rather differently!

      • Alan says:

        Definitely still a thing – I guess depends on your job, lots still can only be done in person.

      • WaynedP says:

        We’re both very fortunate to be able to work from a keyboard anywhere, but still have to juggle finite time off for leisure against putting in the requisite hours needed to remain formally employed, quite rightly.

        Also, as my OH is a civil servant, I am especially vigilant about ensuring that British taxpayers continue to receive an acceptable return on their (and my own) tax Pounds.

      • Brian78 says:

        “Is annual leave still a thing?”

        Of course it’s still a thing

        • WaynedP says:

          I think I’m right in saying that Mr Waldorf Salad is retired, so it’s a legitimate question for someone no longer actively immersed in the work environment 🙂

      • AJA says:

        I suspect there a lot of people that still do office/warehouse/shop/hospital bound jobs who would love to try the WFH thing.

        What about those much maligned baggage handlers and other ground staff at airports?

        All of the above, and many more, are still stuck with “annual leave”

        There are of course those of us here who could just as easily say condescendingly: Work??? Is that still a thing???

        • Brian78 says:

          Even if you can work from anywhere, you still have to work! I prefer to not work when I’m on holiday, which required annual leave!

      • Sean C says:

        The last thing I want to be doing is wasting time doing my day job when I’m in another country on holiday – Flexible working also doesn’t mean you can just not do your job for a week or two on a whim!

    • jj says:

      So much better than being locked up in an anodyne resort hotel with mediocre buffet food that could be anywhere in the world.

      This is my kind of travelling, where place is more important than hotel loyalty programmes. More article like this, please!

    • Rhys says:

      Thank you!

  • Alan says:

    Excellent trip, Rhys – ages since I’ve been to France, such a great country 🇫🇷👍

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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