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A Hotel with a Big Heart

A Hotel with a Big Heart................(hotelninos7.jpg)

Tucked away among the narrow, cobbled-stoned streets of Cusco is the Ninos Hotel, one of the highlights of my family’s recent visit to Peru. Founded by Jolanda van den Berg in 1998, the hotel not only offers visitors inexpensive, comfortable accommodation in the beautiful Andean city, but provides hundreds of local children food, education and medical care.

A Hotel with a Big Heart................(hotelninos6.jpg)

In 1996, the Dutch native was determined to help the numerous children she saw begging and working in the streets. Over the next year she adopted twelve boys, and in 1998, with the help of sponsors, she opened a hotel, which gave her an income and the boys a place to study.

Now in 2009, the Ninos Hotel project supports 500 local children through two hotels, one on Calle Fierro where we stayed, the original hotel on Calle Meloq, several apartments for longer stays, and four restaurants for children, which provide nutritious meals for the children in the project.

A Hotel with a Big Heart................(hotelninos5.jpg)

We reached our hotel along a shady, cobbled, single-lane street about a five-minute drive from Plaza de Armas, the main square of Cusco. A small blue sign above a huge dark wooden door was all that suggested a hotel inside.

Our initial concerns were allayed once we stepped through the door into the quaint courtyard of a converted colonial building, brightly painted and polished to disguise its slightly rickety stairs and sloping walkways, a touch which echoed the old-world charm and cultural overlays of the city outside. Cusco, the former Inca capital with magnificent stone temples and palaces, was almost completely covered over by Cusco, the grand Spanish city with grand churches (some built on Inca stone foundations) and elegant residences with red tile roofs, archways and elaborately carved verandahs.

A Hotel with a Big Heart................(ninos2.jpg)

The charming courtyard of the Ninos Hotel is furnished with potted plants chairs and tables that invited us to put down our bags and relax in the peace and quiet of our cloistered accommodations.

We met many a guest sitting there preparing for or recovering from hiking and train trips to Machu Picchu. We also had breakfast there, a simple fare of coca tea (to help with the altitude – 11,500 feet), eggs, bread, butter and delicious local elderberry jam. Snacks were available from the coffee bar all day.

A Hotel with a Big Heart................(hotelninos3.JPG)

The hotel rooms are plain but comfortable, and they have their own names. In our hotel, they are named after girls who were adopted or fostered by van den Berg and Peruvian parents. (In the Calle Meloq Hotel, the rooms were named for the twelve boys adopted by van den Berg). Our room, “Gladys,” had a high ceiling and skylight, wi-fi access (not all do) but no tv, which was fine with us.

The staff are friendly and were exceptionally helpful with taxis, luggage and telephone calls. Best of all, we regularly saw the kids filing in and out of their classes, sports practice and meals, which they attended in another part of the building, a delightful reminder that we were not the only ones benefiting from our stay in Cusco.

– Meher McArthur

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