José Afonso :: 64 years devoted to Palácio Estoril Hotel
Palácio Estoril Hotel is worldwide famous as one of the oldest, most beautiful and most emblematic European hotels. Built in 1930, it was during the II World War that it gained its notoriety and distinction for being the chosen location for temporary residence of many royalty members, aristocracy and high European bourgeoisie, exiled in Portugal while escaping the conflict. British, German and other nationalities’ spies, who passed each other at the bar, were also frequent visitors of this hotel. The hotel was also a source of inspiration for famous novelists, namely Ian Fleming who found in it and in the moments lived, the inspiration for one of his books from the James Bond saga – “007 – At Her Majesty’s Service”.
What probably many don’t know is that this hotel has another story worthy of a film: a Voiturier who, over the last 64 years, has been undertaking his functions in a truly unique and devoted way, worthy of acknowledgement and tribute. The story of José Afonso deserves to be told and known in the four corners of the world. Come and discover it.
It was during the fifties that José Afonso, at the time only fourteen years old, left Amares, his hometown in the north of Portugal, to try his luck for a better life in Lisbon. So far, nothing new. At the time this was a common migration for many young adolescents from the rural areas, similarly to what happened a bit throughout Europe. It turned out that on the 15th August 1951, which was by coincidence the holiday dedicated to the Patron Saint of his hometown, that José Afonso joined the Palácio Hotel as a cupbearer. Throughout the years he was invited for other roles in the hotel, namely helping out in the cafeteria, in the staff’s kitchen and, finally client’s kitchen. This was a common career path back then, that helped him gain experience and enough knowledge to be able to progress and embrace new challenges. In 1963, as a result of a new opening, he ascends to the position he still occupies nowadays, valet or voiturier.
When we asked him the secret for being able to keep up the good work after so many years, in the same hotel, José Afonso doesn’t hesitate: he likes what he does, where he does it and he always felt very respected and cherished in his work, both by the successive executive management teams and by his colleagues.
José Afonso’s speech is paused, in a tone as discrete as his posture at work. He tells us about his memories from events lived during the golden era of the hotel, such as the wedding of Humberto’s daughter, King of Italy, the frequent dinners of Calouste Gulbenkian, the visits of Barcelona’s Counts – grandfather of the actual King Filipe of Spain, who besides meeting other Spanish royal members at the hotel, also commonly visited the hotel’s barber. He also tells us about daily living with Jaime Thompson, who lived quite a long time at the hotel and that left, on his will, a small inheritance to every hotel staff member. Finally, he also talks about his contact and relationship with several known actors and actresses from the golden period of Hollywood, such as Grace Kelly. A whole world of rich stories lived and even starred by José Afonso, due to his constant dedication and presence over more than six decades.
Besides being a true celebrity on his own way, with a life worth a film, José Afonso also had at least one effective appearance on the big screen. He is the hotel’s doorman who appears on one of the scenes of the film “007 – At Her Majesty’s Service”, filmed right there in 1969, by Peter R. Hunt.
Nobody has any doubts that, when you travel, the choice of hotel and everything it provides in terms of quality level and comfort is extremely crucial to make your experience memorable and pleasing. However, no one can ignore the fact that part of the Hotel’s success, as well as client’s satisfaction, comes from the professionalism, sympathy and attention given by those who work there. For these reasons, Palácio Estoril Hotel is an example worthy of mention, for acknowledging and valuing the role of its devoted valet, who has been with them for more than half a century.
As for you, whenever you pass by for a visit, even if you don’t stay at this hotel, we suggest you to visit Palácio Hotel in Estoril and ask to meet Mr. José Afonso. He will be very pleased to meet you.
1. Mr. José Afonso, inside the Hotel, in the room where the great farewell party for his retirement was organised.
2. At his workplace
3. José Afonso and Mário Pereira (Hotel Concierge and second employee with largest seniority)
4. Lodging bulletin from Ian Fleming
5. Scene from the film “007 – At Her Majesty’s Will”, filmed at the entry of Palácio Estoril Hotel