Hotel Palacio Estoril Portugal and Jose Afonso story

Recently I had the pleasure to stay together with my boyfriend at the one of the most historic, most exquisitely posh and luxurious hotels in Portugal, Palacio Estoril Hotel Golf & Spa. It is finest luxury 5 stars hotel. Built in 1930, today’s Palácio Hotel retains many of the characteristics of that period with history of glorious life. The hotel makes an impression on everybody who enters it, from its imposing, entirely white facade and beautiful gardens to its elegant classic decor, which has been updated over the years but without losing its combination of timeless, luxury and sophistication.

During the Second World War, due to Portugal’s neutrality several royal families went into exile in Estoril, which became known as the “Coast of Kings“. The Hotel Palácio was the chosen home of numerous members of European royalty and was also the haunt of British and German spies, who could often be found in its bar.

Later, these stories of intrigue and espionage inspired famous novelist, Ian Fleming who found in it and in the moments lived, the inspiration for one of his books from the James Bond saga – “007”.

After filmmakers filmed the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and the Hotel served as the set for the movie.

Ian Fleming, stayed at the hotel himself during a Second World War mission in May, 1941. Fleming was shadowing another spy, Dusko Popov, sometimes referred to as ‘the real James Bond’. It is said that Fleming got inspiration for James Bond and his first novel Casino Royale from Popov, the Hotel Palacio and the adjacent casino of Estoril. In 2016, a book ”Into the Lion’s Mouth” was published about Popov and Fleming, written by Larry Loftis.

source wikypedia -Dusko Popov

The Palácio Estoril was the second home of the Spanish, Italian, French, Bulgarian and Romanian royal families, and even today remains a favorite with their descendants. In February 2011, the Royal Gallery was created in their honor, where you can view photographs of the important members of European royalty who stayed at the Hotel.

The Royal Gallery is now one of Estoril’s tourist attractions.

From the beginning, the Palácio Estoril  has hosted heads of state, emperors, kings and princes, European nobility, the world’s great artists, writers, sports champions, filmmakers and actors and many politicians who have shaped the destiny of the West. Private or State visits, festivals and major summits bring to the Palácio a long list of distinguished guests who mingle in the public rooms and corridors with all the Hotel´s other patrons. In the public rooms, corridors and even at breakfast one can often come across a Crown Prince, a film director, a European sovereign, an actress or an internationally renowned musician.

The Palácio has been updated and has benefited from several refurbishment and renovations. Today, it offers all the comfort and convenience of a modern luxury five-star hotel while retaining all its charm of the olden days.

The 200m2 Palacio Estoril Wellness’s Gym ,, Banyan Tree Spa Estoril”  is designed to take care of both body and mind. The Spa building just a short stroll away through the inter connecting tunnel. There you can enjoy the best equipment for hydrotherapy, dynamic pool, jet showers, Vichy, hydro massage tubs, steam rooms, among others on a luxury environment. Pool water has the temperature at 34ºC. You can also join group classes: Yoga, Pilates, Localized Gym, Fit Mix, Zumba, Dance, Ballet, Hydrotherapy, HydroBike and Hydrogymnastics, etc. At the Estoril Wellness Center every detail has been thought to provide peace of mind, vitality, pleasure and health in a unique experience where the problems, worries and stress simply cease to exist.

We stayed at the Superior Deluxe Room located on the fifth floor of the Hotel, with big balcony and magnificent views over the sea, hotel gardens, Estoril Park, Casino Estoril and Cascais Bay.

View from our room on the 5th floor

We enjoyed the beautiful sunny weather and clean blue sky and it kind of reminded us of home and Greece, from where we come from.

View from our room on the 5th floor

The room creates a sensation of timeless comfort, ideal for those special moments and for a restful stay. Rooms in the hotel are furnished with twin, queen or king size beds and with elegant luxury fabrics. Our room had a king size, very comfortable, bed.

Our room

The Palacio landmark is its regal decor, and top facilities and posh appearance as right venue for the look of a dream space.

Our room

Rooms measure is between 25 and 35 square meters.

Our bathroom

Marble bathrooms with separate bath and shower. The hotel has a special story and charm. I loved the classic, elegant, sophisticated design. The Palacio’s decor fits perfectly grandeur and cosines of its majestic location. It gives you feeling of tradition and modernity, accented with elegance, sophistication, splendor,  achieved through the times.

View from our room on the 5th floor

The hotel staff was very helpful, attentive and friendly. The service was superb, proficient and excellent.

Jose Afonso

The breakfast was fresh, healthy, rich and it can be described as royal. The unique flavors offered at the Palacio are created in an absolutely amazing kitchen, combining legendary traditions with today’s know-how techniques. Sumptuous breakfast buffet exudes character and culinary sophistication, delivering elaborated delicacies, such as the finest ,, pasties de nata” of exclusive flavors and sensations.

There are two restaurants at the hotel. The Bougainvillea Terrace Restaurant is on a terrace overlooking the garden and pool, all the comfort you could wish for in a space decorated in a cool and chic style where you can enjoy a meal or simply have a drink while listening to music. At the The Bougainvillea Terrace Restaurant we had our breakfast in the morning but we also enjoyed our drinks by the pool.

The Four Seasons Grill Restaurant is noted for its elegant, sophisticated ambiance.

They offer a tempting and varied choice of Portuguese and international dishes.

The Bar Estoril was famous as a favorite haunt of spies during the Second World War, the Bar Estoril is now prized for its charm and stylish ambiance, where guests can relax while having a drink and enjoying the glorious view of the poolside gardens.

There is one huge black piano at the entrance with candles on it.

Bar

The prices at the bar are the same as the prices from the mini-bar in the room.

Hotel Palacio Estoril also has a several multi functional rooms and facilities to host large events and special occasions. They have flexibility to adjust this facilities to the client’s needs and requirements.

 

The hotel gives you space for romance, intimacy, for work and for social gatherings. The hotel’s history, elegance and enhanced sense of style, allow a diverse array of unforgettable moments and exhilarating experiences.

Besides the great history and Ian Fleming’s James Bond story, there is one more story regarding the hotel that is worth of a film. Probably many don’t know much about a  Voiturier (or door-man) who, over the last 66 years, has been undertaking his services in a truly unique and devoted way, worthy of acknowledgement and tribute. The story of José Afonso deserves to be told and known all over the world. I had a pleasure to meet him and to have a long and interesting chat with him.

Jose Afonso

During the fifties, José Afonso, at the time was only fourteen years old, he left Amares, his hometown in the north of Portugal, to try his luck for a better life in Lisbon. At the time this was a common migration for many young adolescents from the rural areas. At the 15th August 1951, which was by coincidence the holiday dedicated to the Patron Saint of his hometown, that José Afonso got a job at 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. Later on he went to army. After army  in 1963, as a result of a new opening, he ascends to the position that he still occupies nowadays, valet or voiturier.

Jose Afonso

When I asked him what is the secret for being able to keep up the same work after so many years, in the same hotel, José Afonso said that he simply like what he does, and he likes the Palacio Esoril, where he always felt very respected and cherished at his work, by the owners, the successive executive management teams and by his colleagues.

Jose Afonso

He told me the story of his life and how he met his dear wife at the Palacio Estoril. She also worked there until she unfortunately had the heart attack, 3 years ago. His older son also worked at the hotel, until he started his own business few years ago, as well as his daughter was employed at the call center of the hotel. But later she decided to move on with her career and today she is involved with completely different job. I also met his grandson, Rodrigo. He is 22 years old and he works at the Palacio Estoril as a luggage-boy and sometimes as driver. Rodrigo is 60 years younger than his grandfather, but following his grandfather’s footsteps and his unique competence and elegance.

Jose and Rodrigo

Mr. Jose Afonso showed me his employee card, so I could see from when he works at the hotel, here is a photo.

Jose Afonso, employee card

 

Jose Afonso employee card

He shared with me his memories from events lived during the golden era of the hotel, such as the wedding of Humberto’s daughter, King of Italy, one of the most impressive weddings where Jose was working as a waiter. 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 told me about daily living with Jaime Thompson, who lived quite a long time at the hotel and who 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 stared by Jose Afonso, due to his constant dedication and presence over more than six decades.

I asked him about his uniform, he said that the uniform style has never been changed from the time that he works in the hotel. The only difference is that in the winter time they add a red shoulder cape on and in the summer time they take it off.

Jose Afonso

He also explained to me about the changes and renovations that are made in the hotel through the years. Despite its timely renovations and upgrades, The Palacio Estoril history, charm, romance and legendary riches, do still stand undisturbed and at the same time without sacrificing modern comforts, the hotel with its standards of excellence, welcome its guests with vibrant personality, exemplary staff, elegant rooms, a relaxing ambiance, gracious service and fine dining. Indeed it is grand and cozy.

Jose Afonso

He told me that from the time that hotel was opened 1931, hotel had never closed its doors, not even during the Second World War. I asked who was staying at the hotel during the war. He said that hotel had the residents at the time. At the nowadays the hotel has only one permanent resident and it is the owner of the hotel Mr. Jamsen Al Baker who is 77 years old. José Afonso  love his boss very much. He said that Mr. Jamsen Al Baker is very sweet, kind and nice to the hotel stuff and very generous. He said that besides his monthly paycheck he get tips from his boss every week.

Mr. Jose told me that his boss, Jamsen Al Baker, also owns the Eden Hotel in Monte EstorilLisbon Marriott Hotel in Portugal, Hotel do Mar, Seisembra in Portugal, he own Cascais Marina (Portugal) as well, and one more hotel at the Tirol Austria (sorry I forgot the name).

The story about the nice hotel owner Mr. Jamsen Al Baker triggered my attention, so I searched more information about him on the web. Mr. Jamsen Al Bake is Arab, born in Iraq and he was  married for 46-years with his wife  Sareh Al-Baker, (now 72) born in China. They married in Japan on 5 June 1969 and they separated in the autumn of 2014, after 46-years of long marriage. They have three adult children: Mohammed (46), Yousif (44) and Zainab (39). After the marriage they lived in Kuwait where Mr. Jamsen Al Baker worked. He also owns two electronics companies. First, United Electronics Co. (LLC), operating across the UAE and Qatar, and Kuwait Electronics Co., where he has a 50% ‘ultimate interest.The family moved from Kuwait to London in 1987 where they lived until 1994, after they moved to Portugal. Mr. Jamsen Al Baker is the owner of the Hotel Palacio Estoril for the last 35 years. Besides all of that he owns Millennium BCP Bank shares, and Alec Electronica, Portugal. His property from the Land & Development project exceeds at more than 98,604,862 USD. His Computation of business assets are around 85,468,356 USD.

The Hotel Palacio Estoril was completely renovated in 2007, today it offers a total of 161 elegant rooms, including 32 suites, all equipped with cable LCD TV, air conditioning, private-bar, safe, high-speed internet, hairdryer, bathrobes. Featuring a total of 9 exquisite daylight banqueting and meeting rooms. The Palácio is the ideal setting for the widest range of events, be it business or pleasure. Their good service is the key, but space plays a very important role too. You almost got the feeling that you travel in time here. From the lobby to the garden, from the bar to the restaurant, from the room to elevator, you will get overwhelmed with trilling experience and unforgettable memories.

For me it was an experience of a lifetime to stay there. I enjoyed the luxury spa and the dynamic pool was an amazing experience along with the jacuzzi, hydrotherapy, Turkish bath,  steam and jet showers, etc. Everything was excellent and very relaxing.

It was also my pleasure to meet Mr. José Afonso. He told me about one effective appearance he had on the big screen, playing himself, ”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. The film was shot in Switzerland, England, and Portugal (at the Palacio Estoril) from October 1968 until May 1969. The film was produced by Eon Productions. It was based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming.

Following Sean Connery’s decision to retire from the role after ”You only Live Twice”, Eon Productions selected an unknown actor and model, George Lazenby, to play the part of James Bond. During the making of the film, Lazenby announced that he would play the role of Bond only once.

If you are close by Estoril and even if you don’t stay at this hotel, I suggest you to visit Palácio Hotel  and ask to meet Mr. José Afonso. He is a such a sweet man and I am sure that he will be very pleased to meet you. He has excellent knowledge of the area, so whatever I wanted to know about or to find, I asked him and he informed me about everything I needed.

In the town of Estoril you can do basking in a pleasant temperate climate all year round. The Estoril Coast offers to visitors a variety of cultural and leisure activities. The golden triangle Estoril-Cascais-Sintra is the scene of numerous international sporting events such as the Portugal Golf Open and the Estoril Tennis Open, the World Windsurfing Championships and international motor and motorcycle races. It is only 24,7 km from the Lisbon.

Sintra

We left the Hotel Palacio Estoril with sweet memories and positive feelings. They really care about the details! The warm welcome and special moments that we experienced in the room and the hotel in general.

And as truly excellent hosts all the members of the staff are striving to fulfill and overcome their guests needs and expectations. They treat all the guests as VIP’s.

Estoril is connected to Lisbon by the Cascais-Lisbon regional railway. This railway serves all of the towns and beaches that lie between Cascais and Lisbon and are situated on the northern side of the Tagus estuary. The town of Estoril is the third from last station (which is called Estoril) and this is the station to disembark for the casino and the Hotel Palacio Estoril. The single ticked cost  €2.20 for adults and €1.10 for children. We went from the airport to the Hotel Palacio Estoril by taxi and the ride was less than €30.

Tamariz beach

The Palacio Estoril is just across the street from the picturesque Tamariz beach and its attractive promenade lined with bars and terrace cafés, providing plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sea and sun. During the summer months, a series of festivals and events take place in Estoril and the picturesque town of Cascais such as the Craft Fair, the Festival of the Sea and many popular festivities and international classical, jazz and popular Music Festivals.

Tamariz beach

The Rally de Portugal Historico ( Portugal historic Rally) a classic regularity event of 5 days rallying – 2000 km – More than 40 R.T. – Only at one average speed. The next event will take place on the 1 – 6  October, 2018. This year’s event took place from 2 to 8 October.  After the traditional departure at the Casino Estoril Gardens and the PRS of the Estoril Circuit, the squad went to Figueira da Foz for the first visit of the event to the city since 2011. From there, the route took drivers and cars to Arganil, Viseu, Lamego, Douro Vinhateiro, Aguieira, Leiria and, of course, to the two night specials of Sintra before arriving at the Estoril Casino Gardens.

Rally de Portugal Historico

 The famous Casino of Estoril is the largest casino in Europe, and it is another nearby location visited by Bond as well. The casino is going to be the subject of my next blog post.

Casino Estoril

For the end if you are looking for a place in Europe housing a memorable tale to tell, do not look further. That place is the Hotel Palacio Estoril a major stage of wartime espionage, the favorite haunt of kings and queens in Estoril, and the one of a kind settings for a James Bond episode “007 – At Her Majesty’s Service”.  Still today it is very common for a guest to accidentally bump into royalty, into celebrity while walking around the hotel.

Tamariz beach

Reality and fiction mingle, go hand in hand here.

As I mentioned at the Hotel Palacio Estoril “007 – At Her Majesty’s Service”, played by George Lazenby and Diana Rigg, brought the James Bond’s series to the place where it was conceived by Ian Fleming, its celebrated author. It was here that in 1968, the film was shot and as result, images of Portugal spread to the four corners of the world.

At the Hotel Palacio Estoril , fiction becomes reality that delivers fiction, yes everything  it’s possible here. If you liked this hotel, and you wish to book the same hotel yourself, please press the link on the hotel name or on the Booking.com word (blue letters). The link will take you directly on the booking.com website and this property page. There you can check the price, photos, reviews and availability.

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