The Cardinal Hotel is, without doubt, my favorite hotel.
I travel often: East Coast; the Midwest; Silicon Valley; Japan and other points in Asia. I've stayed in a few Great Hotels, and they cost a Great Deal of Money; In contrast, The Cardinal Hotel in Palo Alto is a Good Hotel, make that "a Really Good Hotel", and the cost is very reasonable.
What makes the Cardinal a Really Good Hotel?
A Few Big Things and 10,000 small details.
The Big Things are Location and Value.
LOCATION: the Cardinal Hotel is in downtown Palo Alto within a 5 minute walk of a dozens good restaurants of all types; a 10 minute walk from the Palo Alto Transit Center with train and bus service North to San Francisco and South to San Jose; a 20 minute very pleasant walk to the center of the campus of Stanford University. Many Saturday mornings you can walk to the Palo Alto Farmers Market - I like to buy dried apricots from the Gibson Farm vendor. Or take-in Apple's Palo Alto store, the one which Steve Jobs took a personal interest. The Stanford Theater, one block away, offers classic movies at yesterday's prices.
VALUE: The Cardinal Hotel offers conventional rooms at prices that are much less than similar rooms offered at other nearby hotels as well as "European style" rooms which, instead of a full bath, have only a sink and mirror - patrons use shared toilet and shower facilities down the hall. The European Rooms are really a good deal.
10,000 SMALL THINGS: There's the hotel lobby, a high ceilinged ornate place with a huge skylight where you can pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and read the Wall Street Journal in a comfortable chair. The clatter of guests coming and going provides the sounds of busy-ness. During my visits I often strike up a conversation with visiting engineers or tech executives who are there on business in Silicon Valley, or a visiting Professor at Stanford University. All the while noiseless maids continuously clean places that look already cleaned. The big fireplace roars with cheerful flames during the Christmas season.
The staff is pleasant and professional, except for the Grumpy Desk Attendant.
Those other fancy hotels have the syrupy sweet attendants that offer you the usual banal cliches, but the Cardinal's Grumpy Desk Attendant doesn't put on airs. I have observed as patrons walk right past a large sign that reads "Restrooms" with friendly arrow pointing the way, then interrupt the (Soon-To-Be Grumpy) Desk Attendant to ask "Where are the restrooms?". I've watched his eyes sag a bit, a wry smile crosses his face, and he points in the direction of the arrow on the sign and says "Right over there, Ma'am", with just a slight edge to his voice. The patron almost stumbles over the sign on her way to relief. The next morning she complains to the manager.
The Grumpy Desk Attendant is not really grumpy, he just learned his skills before the Era of Political Correctness and Syrupy Sweetness. In a way it is refreshing.
The Cardinal was built in the mid 1920s, a time before Internet, before cell phones, before even television. Guests would spend their time in local eating and drinking establishments or seated in the hotel lobby quietly reading a book, or striking up a new acquaintanceship.
The rooms have, of course, been updated to include telephones, flat-panel televisions, and Internet service. They are comfortably modest.
You can find, within a few miles, lower-cost "Road-Warrior" motels as well as much more costly ostentatious luxury hotels.
But if you'd like to experience a hotel that was built for an age when travelers talked business and politics with newfound friends while seated in red leather chairs on a Persian rug covering a red tile floor, sipping coffee in front of a roaring fire; a time when you milled among the evening crowds as you made your way to your chosen dinner establishment, a time when you went out to "the show" to catch classic actors in a double feature, then stay at the Cardinal Hotel.
The Cardinal Hotel was built for a time when travel was elegant; For me, elegance never goes out of style.
- Also Known As:
- Cardinal Hotel Palo Alto
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Experience Old World charm in vibrant downtown Palo Alto. Built in 1924, the Cardinal was Palo Alto’s premiere Hotel. Today the ambiance remains; the gracious lobby still provides a delightful glimpse of Old Palo Alto. Enjoy the hotel’s warm atmosphere and proximity to world class dining, shopping and Stanford University. ... more less
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