Winters deep in the belly of the sinister Yucatecan interior are brutal. Heat, humidity and direct sunlight in combination conjure a hopeless sensation that’s enough to curl the most thick-skinned in the fetal position and cry “uncle.” Urban centers like Mérida are loud, crowded and filled with more shapes, textures, movement, sounds and smells than the human psyche can be expected to be exposed to at any given time. It’s the sensation where smell is more than simply an aroma processed by tender nasal receptors. It somehow takes on whole new suffocating textural properties that are felt in the lungs, eyes and mouth. In fact, almost all of the senses contain that indescribable characteristic that is enhanced by course stucco walls, choking exhaust fumes and chalky, clay-covered cobblestone streets.

The dense jungles are no improvement on the stifling conditions. So any opportunity to stretch the neck above the suffocating steamy canopy can be like a gasp of breath reassuring that drowning isn’t inevitable. The Spanish manage to offer these moments in style. Our winter terrace in Valladolid was a lap of luxury and a journey deep into the history of the New World.

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