At school, when the careers officer went around the class asking what we all wanted to be when we grew up, I now wish I’d stood up, flicked my hair back and declared, ‘I want to live above, and run, a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-sized Mexican town.’ That’s exactly what Coqui Coqui is, and although Mrs Smith and I had read all about our Yucatán getaway, it was all entirely unexpected.
Tulum, home to the Coqui Coqui beach resort, sits an hour-and-a-half from Cancun’s airport. But when we arrive at Coqui Coqui Tulum, we learn that there are three domains in the Coqui Coqui empire: beach bungalow, jungle retreat, and colonial house. We are booked into the colonial residence, Coqui Coqui Valladolid in a sleepy Yucatán town, another two-hour ride away.
Off we speed by taxi, through the dark jungle, only mildly reassured by the lucky goat’s foot hanging from the rear-view mirror and the Papal decals on the doors. This guy doesn’t take chances. By luck or skill, we coast into the town of Valladolid before it gets too late. It has the vibe of a Mexican movie set: a main square bright with fluttering piñatas, surrounded by a swarm of VW Beetles and populated by a cast of tanned and toned after-work locals, promenading old folk and margarita-laden servers. I like it here already.
We arrive at the appropriate Coqui Coqui, and are welcomed by its manager, Mario, into our home for the next few days. Its entry is not a lobby, but a shop. Or, rather, a high-ceilinged working perfumery with glass cases of bottles and candles, jars and bars of soap, instantly making me feel like a child who’s been told to keep his hands in his pockets. It’s like a Roald Dahl tale of toiletries.
Coqui Coqui Valladolid – or Casa de los Frailes Residence as it once was called – is a hotel of one room. Mario shows us the way and hands us a small bag that Mrs Smith instantly clutches to her chest like a monkey with a coconut. She’s obviously seen what’s in it: a treasure trove of bath products made by Coqui Coqui using its pristine perfumes.
We take the keys and Mario leaves. We have been left in charge...
It takes a certain kind of confidence to be the only guests in a hotel of one room, and I wasn’t sure we had it. But less than 24 hours later, Mrs Smith and I are fragrant, relaxed and utterly convinced that we live above – and run – a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-size Mexican town. We spend the day on our balcony, slowly drinking Sol, and reading books that will make it to the big screen. Even the chiffon curtains do that billowy thing they do in the movies.
I meander downstairs to retrieve more Sol from the café’s kitchen. When I return back into the sympathetic coolness of the room, it suddenly hits me how breathtaking it all is. It’s something out of one of Mrs Smith’s extra-thick glossy magazines; a place I thought only existed in photo adverts for cosmetics, capturing Scarlett Johansson in a bath.
The star quality is contagious: I’ve already had two baths. I can never resist a roll-top, and this one gives the perfect panorama of our room. The furniture here all extends upward. Everything appears to be on stilts. Even the luggage rack is chest height. The bed looks like one of Dali’s elephants, with a little wooden stepladder to ascend onto it, which I have abandoned in favour of the oh-so-romantic and patented run-and-jump method. Two chandeliers hang low like glass-and-gold piñatas to heighten the effect. I’m fixed, standing under one, holding two bottles of the sunshine beer, and cursing the day I unknowingly took the wrong path and not decided to run a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-size Mexican town.
Breakfast is served in dreamy secret gardens that feel like they really shouldn’t be there. You can order pretty much anything. We have avocado on toast – who knew? Oh, you did? – coffee and loads of fruit. Sarah, the woman who serves it, tells us about the collapsed caves in town called cenotes where we can go swimming, and that tonight is Sunday night, when the town square really comes alive.
In preparation for the festivities, Mrs Smith and I indulge in some on-site spa treatments. Facials and mud baths are ordered and carried out by our old pal Mario. He’s good with his hands. The last man who touched me this much for that long took my appendix out.
Refreshed and radiant, Mrs Smith and I sit in a small bar called Maruja Cafe, Bar y Galeria, on the edge of the town square drinking margaritas and watching the after-workers and the old folk, now in their freshly pressed Sunday best, dancing together to a live band on the town hall’s steps, playing old Mexican favourites. This doesn’t feel like a film set any more. No movie plot has never made anyone this content. I’m even starting to recognise the locals. One battered green Beetle drives slowly past and I inexplicably wave at it. Hey guys! Remember me?
On our last morning, Sarah is followed into the garden by a two-month-old puppy. Could there be a better-scripted ending? And so we leave, comforted by the knowledge that, for at least couple of days each year, Mrs Smith and I can pretend to run – and live above – a quite exclusive perfumery in an average-size Mexican town with a puppy.