Concluding his road trip from Mexico City to Merida, Tom Bangay discovers an homage to 19th century Paris in the Yucatan Peninsula – a perfumery, in a hotel, immersed in the Belle Epoque…
There’s hot, then there’s really massively hot, then there’s Merida in early June. When the mercury is skirting 40 degrees, a mere 35 in the shade, a different mindset takes over. A person needs to know all the information before agreeing to cross the road and leave the meagre shade offered by the side of a building. What’s over there? Well, do we really need to eat or buy things? Will there be air con? It’s the kind of heat that levels the playing field and makes all tourists essentially the same – no outfit is cool enough to make this comfortable, so everyone just shuffles from shadow to shadow, sweating into hats and clutching water bottles.
Arriving into Merida to feel the burn, I wondered what a luxury hotel is like in such heat. Does it really matter as long as there’s great air con? Well, it turns out it does. L’Epicerie Merida, one of Coqui Coqui’s four perfumery/residences throughout the Yucatan, is not just one of the most splendid hotels you’ll ever stay in, but a perfect antidote to the searing heat. The Coqui Coqui chain was founded by Argentine former model Nicolas Malleville and his partner Francesca Bonato, a couple as good-looking as their sumptuous hotels, which also bless Valladolid, Coba and Tulum.
In Merida we duck out of the oven and into a cool, shady perfume boutique full of olfactory treats, and already feel better. The Coqui Coqui range spans 12 scents, plus the most upmarket mosquito repellent you’ll ever wear (and you’ll need it in the Yucatan). From orange blossom to tobacco they all smell divine, and there are linen oils, room scents, candles and toiletries to match. Behind the shop, there’s a tiled courtyard and fountain, leading to the spa, with an outdoor bathtub and a range of heat-appropriate treatments.
I chivalrously let other people carry the case up to the residence, above the perfumery. The residence is lavish: triple-height ceilings, cool tiled floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and elegant Belle Epoque furnishings. In the living area there are red velvet sofas, French polished tables and discreet access to the rain shower and WC. In the bedroom are two freestanding rolltop baths, side by side, a chandelier and an enormous four-poster bed. The balcony looks over the steamy street below where someone’s blowing a lonely trumpet. Accustomed as I am to playing it cool when I’m shown into gorgeous hotel suites, even I crack a grin as I sit down under the fans spinning idly overhead.
But it gets better. Behind the suite is the real stairway to heaven. It takes us outside, past the breakfast area, and up to our private pool. And I do mean private – there are no other guests and the high wall means the pool isn’t overlooked. If you swim down to the bottom, you can just about make out the spa through the semi-opaque bottom, but otherwise, take a glass of wine, settle under the shady palm trees and listen to the water cascade from the tiled fountain wall. OK, make that a bottle of wine.
There really is no better way to pass the time in the glorious heat of Merida, but to be frank I struggle to think of a situation where this wouldn’t be the best option. Magnificent inside, joyous outside, and smelling fantastic throughout. The following morning, breakfast is served on our private terrace, with freshly made juices and soft, sweet pastries alongside the eggs and tortillas. I had hoped that this trip would shake up my Best Hotels Ever list. L’Epicerie Merida cut through the heat and raised the bar definitively, in beautiful style.
For more information about L’Epicerie and the Coqui Coqui collection, visit www.coquicoqui.com.