After you’ve been to as many store parties as I have (sigh), when it comes to New Year’s celebration it’s an internal struggle between going home to Missouri to be with people I actually like and eat fried food until the elastic in my sweatpants snaps, or to go somewhere tropical and thus be forced to spend even more time with the sorts of people I see here in the city. Well, this year, I managed to blend enjoyable company and a tropical location thanks to Nicolas Malleville, the male model turned boutique hotelier. (Feel free to Google.) As the head of a growing hotel and spa chain on the Yucatan Penninsula—he owns beachfront hotel Coqui Coqui in Tulum, another outpost in the jungle of Coba, and is finishing a third in the city of Valladolid, where he also has a perfumery that counts Renée Zellweger as a fan—he invited a group of heat-seeking New Yorkers south of the border. Malleville’s fellow male models James Penfold and Robert Konjic (again, feel free to Google—tell yourself it’s research), along with Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, Sophia Hesketh, Byrdie Bell, Poppy de Villeneuve, Nora Flaherty, photographer Paola Kudacki, PMK’s Robin Baum, and Burberry’s Lauryn Flynn all headed down to visit the three properties. We spent the days leading to New Year’s Eve at the Coba hotel, which has a great view of a crocodile-filled lagoon leading up to the Mayan ruins and pyramids. Meanwhile, the eve proper was spent reveling in Malleville’s spa on the church square of Valladolid, where the locals had propped up a gigantic gold crucifix (take that, Times Square ball dropping!); and the first few days of 2009 were spent on the beaches of Tulum. Sure, there were some hiccups: Bell forgot sun block and got burned while Restoin-Roitfeld forgot bug spray and got bitten like no one’s business. But in all, it wasn’t a bad way to start the new year. And hey, while they didn’t have Missouri’s fried food, nachos and guacamole substituted just fine. And nobody does Mexican, like, well Mexicans.