Saturday, September 6, 2008

PRISONS TURNED INTO 5 STAR HOTELS.....

Some popular Prisons in the history are now transformed into 5 Star Luxury Hotels. Watch the best of them.....


Liberty Hotel, Boston
This storied 19th-century Charles Street Jail in tony Beacon Hill lay vacant for 15 years before developer Carpenter & Company turned it into one of Boston's most stylish hotels in 2007. The original four-wing main structure has 18 rooms, a tapas restaurant called Clink and a cocktail bar named Alibi. Across a courtyard that used to be the prison exercise yard is a museum dedicated to the building's history (forger Frank Abagnale, Jr. was a former inmate), and a modern 16-story tower with 280 rooms topped by a sprawling President's Suite. Sit on its terrace deck with views of the Charles River, Cambridge and Boston below, and you may very well turn away the rescue helicopter.

Malmaison, Oxford
The Malmaison chain's 98-room Oxford property perfectly meshes old prison character—heavy cell doors; barred windows, bare brick walls—with funky design touches such as vintage Victorian bathtubs, plush velvet-toned bedrooms, and a private cinema for guests in the Governor's House suites. The main rooms are in the A Wing and C Wing sections, as is brasserie Mal, featuring organic Oxfordshire-grown farm ingredients, and a sultry blue-neon lit cocktail lounge helmed by a sommelier by the name of Johnny Walker. The hotel's motto is: "This time, we take no prisoners."

Four Seasons Istanbul
Billed by its management as the most beautiful prison in the world, the handsome turrets and mustard yellow walls of this castle-like neoclassical building are just as they were when this was the notorious Sultanahmet Jail up until 1982. But things sure have changed. Instead of cramped cells, guests get to stay in one of 65 sprawling rooms or suites decorated with contemporary furnishings and Turkish artwork, all nestled around a lush palm-lined garden courtyard. Restaurant Seasons, rated the finest hotel dining in Turkey, has a terrace spilling out into the gardens—a relaxing oasis after visits to the nearby Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar.

Breakwater Lodge, Cape Town
Robben Island may be South Africa's most notorious former prison, but the historic Breakwater Lodge, an 1859-built structure with castle-like ramparts on the glitzy Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in the heart of Cape Town, is the country's first jail-turned-hotel. Built to house male convicts working on a nearby breakwater, it became a hotel in 1991, and largely caters to business travelers in 300 standard rooms and suites. What really sets it apart are the views: Table Mountain out back; water to the front. Get a harbor view on a high floor and you can actually see Robben Island from your window.

Comfort Inn Alamo Riverwalk, San Antonio
About a 10-minute walk from the actual Riverwalk, this 82-room hotel adjacent to the Spanish Governor's Palace once served as the San Antonio Bexar County Jail. Built in 1878, about 40 years after the battle of the Alamo, it housed convicts and condemned men awaiting death row right up until 1962, when it became a holding depot for city and county records. In 2004 it re-opened as a modern, if somewhat understated Comfort Inn. Many of the original details are intact, from the handsome Spanish colonial fa├žade out front, to steel bars on the windows of large square rooms—former cells. Thankfully, a three story chute in the "hanging room" has been sealed off.

Hotel Katajanokka, Helsinki
Hen nights and bachelor parties love to book this former prison in central Helsinki for "ball and chain" packages. "Guilty" stickers are available at reception and there's even a "segregation" cell for the bride-to-be. Built in 1837, this was the Helsinki county prison right up until 2002. Today there are stylishly minimalist rooms along with prison uniform-striped carpets, and the high red-brick prison walls enclose a shady, flowering garden that used to be a depressing exercise yard. Don't miss a candle-lit dinner in the restaurant Jailbird where you can order the President Ryti tenderloin, named for the famous former inmate.

Jail Hotel Loewengraben, Lucerne
There's no escaping the penal theme at this Swiss jail-turned-hip-budget-hotel in historic old town Lucerne. Thick wooden cell doors still have tiny slots for food to be pushed through, rooms have bars on the windows, and prison memorabilia decorates the walls in common areas. While it's sparklingly clean and light-filled, hearing the metal gates in the long corridors creak at night adds a certain prison-chic charm. Fortunately, the Alcatraz bar downstairs has a lively scene that goes on late into the night

Jail House Inn, Preston, Minn.
"Bed & Breakfast Worth Going to Jail for" reads the motto of this 12-room Italianate-style guesthouse in Preston, Minnesota that used to be the Old Fillmore County Jail. Erected in 1869, it served as the town's jail house until 1970, and briefly as a private residence, before its current owners restored it to period Victorian detail. Playing on the jail-house theme, you can sleep behind bars in a Cell Block room, in the Master Bedroom where the former Sheriff used to stay, or in the Court Room where hearings were held. This time though you get private whirlpools, fireplaces and a porch instead of a five-year sentence

Unitas Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic
This 19th-century convent became a secret interrogation center in Soviet times, with the noted dissident and future president Vaclav Havel a frequent "guest." After operating for many years as a budget pension, it's about to re-open as a stylish boutique hotel. The location is the thing: You're just feet away from the Gothic churches, galleries and cafes of the Old Town square and a short walk from the Charles Bridge.

Karosta Prison, Latvia
Bachelor parties from Western Europe throng to this bizarre Czarist prison fortress in Liepaja, a three hours' drive from the Latvian capital Riga, for what's billed as a KGB prison experience. A sprawling 19th-century naval prison that became a Soviet jail house in Communist times, overnight guests—and you do only want to spend one night—sleep on real prisoners' benches and mattresses, in real cells, get showered with cold water, and bellowed at by Russian guards. It treads a fine line between tribute and insult, but console yourself that it was immeasurably worse for those who came before you. Scanbalt Experience organizes tours that include stops at Karosta.

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