Travel Bookshelf: Cheeky Guides

Let’s face it–most guidebooks are boring. Sure, they’re informative, but they either read like a postgraduate thesis (Blue Guides) or are filled with snotty, uninformed opinions (take your pick)

The Cheeky Guides come as a breath of fresh air, or rather a gust of lager-laden belches from some local lush leaning against the bar at a seedy pub. These guides to Oxford and Brighton, two of England’s most popular destinations, manage to cover all the basics such as hotels, restaurants, and major tourist sights before veering off into the strange, silly, and even sinister.

Take Brighton, for example. You can learn where to go to speak to the dead (page 62), buy nipple clamps (page 260), or bathe in the nude (page 247). The authors are even kind enough to give you cryptic but probably sound advice. In the case of Brighton’s nude gay beach, “look out for the Windmill Man.” I’ll remember that.

If you’re wondering what the authors look like, they have a remarkable resemblance to the finger puppet “author photos” in the Brighton guide. There’s a real photo of them holding hands on the first page of “The Gay Scene” of the Oxford guide. Apparently they couldn’t find any real gays to pose for this picture.

The books are illustrated with clear, hand-drawn maps and the rare photo of something historic, but mostly feature random images of drunken students and midget strippers with hats on their willies. After all, who needs photos of some old building you’re going to take a photo of anyway? I’ve traveled all over the world and never once had the opportunity to take a photo of a stripping midget. Perhaps I’m not going to the right places.

The company also has Cheeky Guides to Student Life and Love, in case university and long-term relationships aren’t cheeky enough for you already.

While the books contain a hefty dose of silliness, and the occasional tall tale you’d have to be an American tourist to swallow, they do offer a wealth local color and unusual destinations you won’t find in regular guides and make a good addition to any traveler’s bookshelf.

So for a breezy, fun read, spread open a Cheeky Guide.