By Ken Hegan for MSN

Stayed in a strange Miami beach motel last week. And it was 4,505 kilometers away from Florida on Canada’s west coast.

The Burrard hotel is a throwback, 4-storey motel in downtown Vancouver, BC. It’s across the street from St. Paul’s, an acute-care hospital that specializes in heart attacks (treating heart attacks, not causing them). So if your relative is on life support and you want to drink your worries away in a kitschy paradise, slouch on over to the Burrard.

Screen shot 2013-07-12 at 1.39.22 AMBuilt in 1956, the Burrard turned seedy for decades until it was given a saucy hipster makeover last year. Now it’s an under-heralded art deco gem that you probably won’t find in travel brochures. This pastel-painted motel will make you feel like you’re on the lam from a Tampa Bay bank heist gone awry and you’re lucky to be alive.

If you are a wanted criminal/celebrity and you need to hide in a hotel where no cop or paparazzo will ever find you, the Burrard’s a safe bet. It’s the kind of refuge where you can (probably) slip the desk clerk 20 bucks to let you chill in a private room for a couple of hours so you can bleach and buzzcut your hair, fake-tan your skin, practice your new identity, then figure out your next lawless move.

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In a classic motel layout, every room overlooks the rectangular courtyard below. As the website says, “It’s like Melrose Place, only there’s no pool to drown in.”

Instead, the courtyard is a forest of fauna and palm trees (planted in the early ’70s), vintage chairs, and giant Jenga game pieces. This 2nd-floor courtyard — an eye-soothing oasis in this concrete urban jungle — is perched a few feet above the parking level. And I’m not just talking about parked cars here. The Burrard is the first hotel I’ve stayed at that offers your choice of a dozen cruiser bikes to bomb around the Vancouver seawall. Some bikes even have cute tote boxes attached to the back. Alas, you’ll have to supply your own V-neck American Apparel shirts and ironic ’70s jean shorts.

I live in Vancouver but didn’t feel like vacuuming. So I checked into the Burrard for a couple of nights. Our nice, clean, hipster-approved room #424 had a sunset view, a crooked HD flatscreen TV, and a sign pointed at the bath tub that read ‘THIS WAY TO THE POOL –>’

Kooky signs are a recurring motif. On the 3rd floor staircase, there’s:

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There’s no bar or nightclub here, so I guess the 3rd floor is reserved for groupies.

Here’s the second floor:

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Tell that to all the vacationing seniors on the 2nd floor. Meanwhile if you’re staying on the 1st floor, I’m afraid I have bad news for you:

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Every time I walked past this lobby sign, I had to stop what I was doing and rush in to use the toilet:

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If you’re actually hiding out from a bank heist gone awry, it gets lonely if you don’t call your mom. Trust me. So you’ll be happy to hear the Burrard gives you free phone calls to anywhere in North America.

The Burrard costs as low as $124 a night (low season) which includes free coffee, ice, and bottled water, and a ferociously-intense room fan that will literally blow your socks off. Kids stay free. Pets are welcome for an extra 25 bones a night (and Bowser gets a bed, bowl, and treats). The Burrard’s website touts the bathroom as “stunning” so it’s got that going for it.

Maybe the best part is there’s no breakfast room. Instead, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, pop the collar on your golf shirt, and shuffle into the ground floor deli Betty’s. As you wait for your latte and sandwich, paparazzi may not spot you, but you will be noticed by other guests. They’re all just like you…hungover hipsters, fun-seeking retirees, and haunted offspring of terminal patients at St. Paul’s hospital. It’s a dreamy hotel for sure.

I’m not even sure the Burrard is real. I only stayed two nights but even then it felt off-kilter and strange. It was like I’d already been there forever…but it wasn’t a hotel at all. Instead, it was a timeless, playful waiting room for the final hotel across the street.

— Ken Hegan

Read all Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

Ken was a guest of The Burrard

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