Spas Around the World: The Yucatán
In this new series featuring spas from around the globe, guest writers will transport us elsewhere through tales of their wellness experiences. The first instalment of this collection is brought to us by Geneviève Latour, writer and editor at Groupe Nordik. Without further ado, here is her story in her own words:
Coqui Coqui Spa — Meson de Malleville Photographer: Jose Manuel Rodriguez
It All Begins in Valladolid
Here we are, under the blazing Mexican sun, feeling the whisper of the ocean breeze, just a few steps away from Mayan history, with a taco in one hand and an ice-cold Chelada in the other. In a land where many go to party, I chose to skip the hangover and seek out relaxation, and boy-oh boy was I in for a treat.
After a few hours of conversing in questionable Spanish with my wonderful taxi driver Alberto, I traded the jungle and beaches of Tulum for the magic of Valladolid. Right in the heart of the Yucatán, under constant sunshine, is a town filled with colourful colonial architecture as well as pre-Hispanic history and culture. And in this town is our destination: Coqui Coqui.
The Big House
If you ever make it to Valladolid, you will undoubtedly walk down La Calzada de los Frailes; a beautiful road bordered on either side by a collection of shops, cafés and restaurants painted in dreamy pastels: pinks, oranges, blues, greens and canary yellows. The temptation to step into their worlds was great as I made my way down the cobblestoned road, however, I had an appointment I simply could not be late for.
Past the Coqui Coqui perfumeria and right around the corner from a lovely vegan café I had lunch at, stands the grand Mesón de Malleville. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this 16th-century beauty is the former home of Coqui Coqui founders, Nicolas Malleville and Francesca Bonato. Decades of memories were made here, and a certain sense of reverence is accorded to the space.
Already from the outside, you can tell you’re about to enter a completely different world. The façade is deep red, not quite clashing with the pastels of surrounding buildings, but standing out and hinting at the richness inside.
Through the black French doors are impossibly tall ceilings, and rooms nearly cluttered with beautiful things; furniture, antiquities, art, bottles filled with perfume and amazing-smelling tinctures. The walls are painted in rich jewel tones—emeralds, rubies and sapphires aplenty.
My time marvelling in the foyer is cut short as someone comes to whisk me away. I make it past all the opulence and onto a refreshing inner courtyard. There, in the heat of the Yucatán summer, are hammocks swaying in the breeze, a fountain glittering in the sun and a door which opens to reveal the true oasis.
Sweet, Sweet Exfoliation
The treatment space is surprisingly minimalist. The walls are lime-washed a light gray colour, accentuated by black antiques and gauzy drapery. There’s no music playing, just the bubbling of the waterfall in the nearby courtyard and tropical birds chattering away. Meet Claudia and Leo. They will be my guides for the next 90 minutes. Part estheticians, massage therapists, and I am soon to learn, magicians.
Before I began my Exfoliation and Botanical Bath Ritual, I came to learn that Mexicans are a little less modest than Canadians. So, after disrobing, with two soft (and very small) pieces of muslin carefully positioned, I ring a bell and it all begins.
Four-hand exfoliation was never something I expected to experience. You might’ve read the description online, sitting at your desk in Gatineau, but now you’re in Mexico and you truly do not remember or know what’s coming next. A warm sugary mixture graces nearly every inch of my skin. From the very tip of my toes to my scalp. I am, for lack of a better word, buffed. While both artisans take their time massaging the mixture into my back, once I switch position, Claudia focuses on my shoulders with an incredible massage while Leo brings life back into my tired legs that climbed the Mayan pyramid Ek’ Balam earlier that day.
Once I am thoroughly exfoliated, I distantly hear the shower going. Claudia drapes me in a heavy robe, and I am guided to the en suite. It’s set to the perfect temperature and pressure and, just like that, I shed the first step of this incredible treatment.
When I make my way back into the empty room, there’s a new clean sheet on the bed along with two fresh muslins. I ring the bell and Claudia and Leo immediately reappear.
All Wrapped Up
I feel what I assume is a rich moisturizer slathered and massaged onto my skin. Once again, no spot is missed, even between my toes is coated in this surprisingly sticky, moisturizer. The longer it stays on my skin, the tackier it becomes. As Claudia massages my face, I simply can’t help it: I lick my lips. Come to find out, I am covered in a thick layer of local amber honey and fresh aloe vera, picked from their gardens. It’s less unsettling than you’d expect and utterly delightful.
Still covered in the concoction, Leo and Claudia wrap me up with heavy sheets. It’s then that I take a moment to silently thank the hidden AC unit and gentle fans above me for allowing me to enjoy this while it’s well over 40 degrees outside.
Having me macerate in my moisturizing cocoon is no reason for my two magicians to stop working their wellness witchcraft. Leo uncovers and massages my feet while Claudia gives me an incredibly thorough facial along with a scalp massage.
Eventually—I can’t tell you how long, time evades you in those kinds of situations—I am removed from my chrysalis and come out a relaxed, soft and very sticky, but overjoyed, little butterfly.
A Most Luxurious Bath
After my second shower, I am directed to a large, hammered copper bathtub filled with perfectly tempered water. To it, Leo and Claudia add chlorophyll, vanilla, crema de coco and Coqui Coqui’s signature orange blossom oil. It’s very reminiscent of what I assume Cleopatra bathed in.
Next to the bath is a bespoke tea set and honey, which I suspect is the same kind as the one I was covered in earlier. They’ve chosen this blend specifically for me, for today, for this ritual. It tastes floral and herbal, nearly medicinal, but in a way that makes you feel good, it’s most definitely my cup of tea.
I have almost a half hour to luxuriate in the bath and listen to the tropical storm that is brewing outside. My two new favourite people have left the room but stay nearby, just in case I need anything. It’s bliss. A flawless ending to an incredible experience.
This was, without a doubt, the kind of ritual I would add to my wellness routine if it wasn’t over 5506 kilometres away.
For now, I’ll enjoy my pamper sessions a tad closer to home. There’s beauty to be discovered all around us, whether it’s in a faraway land or in our backyards. Where should we go next? Near or far?