Friends reunited as hotel stalwart returns to island
After decades away, former Sonesta Beach Hotel worker Paul Vlachos’s return to the island he loves provided a joyful reunion for colleagues from the iconic hotel.
“Bermuda is the best place in the world for me,” Mr Vlachos told The Royal Gazette as he gathered with friends at the Bermuda Connections guesthouse.
Mr Vlachos spent 14 years at the Sonesta, from 1977 to 1991, when Bermuda tourism was in top gear.
Sabrina Kirby, who manages the visitor apartments just off Pompano Lane, was only too happy to reconnect him with his co-workers.
“I knew at least 95 per cent of the people he was talking about,” Ms Kirby said.
“He has been like a kid in a candy shop — it gave me chills to hear his elation talking to them. He has not had to identify himself. Everybody remembers Paul.”
Originally from the Greek city of Thessaloniki, Mr Vlachos got into hospitality and travelled to Canada in 1972. Five years later, he took a job as a waiter at the Sonesta. “I loved Bermuda right away,” Mr Vlachos said.
“It was one month for one season, but I stayed here 14 seasons. If you don’t go to Bermuda before you go from this life, you are going to miss something.” Everywhere has sun, he said, but Bermuda’s people make the ultimate difference.
“After a few years at Sonesta, I had customers calling asking if Paul was still there,” Mr Vlachos recalled. “And I had a good relationship with the people here.
“I learnt culturally here and was very proud for Bermuda.”
Coming back more than 25 years later, he was accompanied by his daughter, Constantina Vlachos — a swimming teacher who works at Toronto’s Granite Club, who took her first Bermuda trip as a chance to dive in for the Round the Sound race.
The Sonesta Beach Hotel is no more: it was replaced by the Wyndham, which was knocked down in 2009.
But Mr Vlachos said the Green family, who own the site, gave permission for him to take a stroll on the property — where a security guard told him that nostalgic visitors regularly drop by.
Colleagues who came for a get-together at Bermuda Connections included Dennis Tucker, a former vice-president and managing director of Sonesta Beach.
“Paul was there during the heyday; it was a great time,” Mr Tucker said. “My term of endearment for Paul was that he was one of the good guys.
“He was incredible with everyone he worked with, and certainly with the guests.”
When the Sonesta was in its prime, there could be 600 to 800 guests and up to 400 staff. Mr Tucker remembered it as “like a little city to itself”.
Among friends was former senator Georgia Marshall, another proud Greek who made Mr Vlachos’s acquaintance and was promptly invited to dinner at his staff quarters.
“He’s a lovely, affable gentleman who loves people,” Ms Marshall said.
“Over the years we’ve just kept in touch. Now I see him all this time later with his beautiful grown-up daughter.
“He is truly one of the good guys, and an ambassador for Bermuda. He is what we ought to return to.”
Other Sonesta stalwarts included Michael Steede, who recalled Mr Vlachos’s nomination as employee of the month; assistant maître d’hôtel William Masters; director of personnel Keith Adams; barbecue maître d’ Donald Furbert, and former MP Kenneth Bascome, who called the night “a perfect example of nostalgia tourism”.
Mr Vlachos, who returned home last Friday, said he looked forward to returning, hopefully with his wife, Maria.
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