We stayed at the hotel Palais Cardinal in early June 2006. We primarily booked it because we had read somewhere that St Emilion is very busy with very narrow roads and we wanted a hotel that would be easy to find and had parking.
The hotel is situated just off the main roundabout at the north end of the town and the best route in and out is the D122. However we took a wrong turning out of Libourne and so couldn't avoid driving the length of the cobbled main street, which as things turned out wasn't a problem, as it was early afternoon and traffic was light. This road is much busier during peak hours.
We had reserved a place in the hotel's garage, which is located just opposite the front entrance and on the other side of the main road. There is a smallish public parking area immediately in front of the hotel, but this was always full when we walked past.
On checking in we were dealt with rather brusquely by a woman speaking very rapid-fire French; we can communicate adequately in French but it was still quite a challenge to keep up. We enquired about using the garage and she informed us that it would cost 7 euros per night (we already knew this) and we would have to ask for the security code in order to open the doors, before handing us our room key and dashing off. Eventually we found someone else on reception who was more helpful and gave us a note of the code. We were unable to ascertain whether our garage space reservation was recognised and would recommend that this be properly confirmed, as there are probably only a dozen spaces. However we felt it was well worth paying the garage supplement for the security and convenience.
We had reserved one of the higher priced luxe rooms as these have air con. The weather was hot and our decision paid off, although the air con unit was huge and quite noisy, loud enough to disturb sleep on the first night. The room was comfortable although not particularly luxurious. However a definite bonus was the little balcony just big enough for two chairs, with a view over the swimming pool. It wasn't very private but we were right next to the old ruined walls of the original Palais Cardinal and we think it was possibly one of the best situated rooms of the entire hotel (room no. 14).
The hotel had a rather confusing rates tariff, with half board being compulsory on days the restaurant is open. Our first day was a Wednesday, coinciding with restaurant closing and so we headed into town to eat. There is a huge range of restaurants and we really enjoyed our meals at L'Envers Du Decor and Bistrot Le Clocher.
Breakfast at the Palais Cardinal was very disappointing - juice that tasted like it was out of a carton; weak coffee and dry "supermarket" croissants. If we stayed here again we would pass on breakfast and get something in town, even if we couldn't avoid paying the supplement.
Dinner on the second night was back to the half board option and taken in the hotel restaurant, which is rather dark and dated. We were offered a garden view table, but there wasn't much to look at. However the menu was extensive and offered a very good range, with the option to choose from the a la carte and pay the difference if preferred - why don't more hotels do this? Dinner was good and the service was ok.
Puzzlingly the woman who had checked us in was most charming when we were checking out, addressing us in fluent English and hoping to see us again!
In summary, we felt the Palais Cardinal was fine for a short stay, being conveniently located, although the half board rules were quite limiting. If we do visit again we would prefer to take our meals elsewhere as it was a shame to be cooped up in the hotel when so many more characterful restaurants are only a few steps away.
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- Also Known As:
- Palais Cardinal Hotel