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5 Really Strange Guidebooks

Guidebooks are very popular for tourists and residents of a city alike. They want to get around, do things, have fun, so they turn to guidebooks to help them. This is often a good idea. Unfortunately, if you pick up the wrong guidebook, it can become a terrible idea, as these five guidebooks attest.

1. Secret London

London is a city rife with history, most of it actually really extremely unpleasant and kind of revolting. Seriously, look up how they claimed Edward the Second got his ticket punched. Or, really, just pick a period of London’s history. It’s full of serial killers, fires, insane royals, utter lawlessness, and lots and lots of misery and starvation.

Plus there are all those books and short stories by the British about how London is actually the portal to a secret world or something. Ever read “Neverwhere?” Run into the wrong manic pixie dream girl and you’re taking a forcible tour of whimsy in some craphole three miles below the city. Even people who like the city make games like “Hellgate: London”, or invent characters like the Shade.

So why would you want to visit all the scenic nooks and crannies? So the ghosts of all those dead royals can eat you? So you can get stabbed by the ghost of the guy who stabbed Christopher Marlowe? Forget it. We’re sticking to Piccadilly Circus and that’s as far as we’re going. Unless they don’t have beer. In which case, we’re going to the nearest place that sells beer

2. This Is Hollywood

There’s only one reason anybody goes to Hollywood, or even Los Angeles, and it isn’t the air, unique although that solid object may be. No, people go to Los Angeles to meet movie stars and gawk at all the glamour. Or, apparently, visit the place where some low-level gangster got the stabbing he deserved from a movie star’s daughter.

Yes, “This Is Hollywood” is not a guide to the tacky palaces of movie glamour or a guide to the studios, but rather an exploration of all the places where movie stars bought the farm, injected the wrong dose of heroin, or pulled a Natalie Wood in their swimming pool. It’s really rare to have it confirmed that our fascination with celebrity is little more than a horrible, morbid desire to see incredibly attractive people destroy themselves in the most outrageous fashion possible, but we guess it’s your lucky day.

Here’s what we’re wondering: who buys this? And how do they explain what they’re doing to anybody who happens to ask? “Oh, hi, I’m looking for where River Phoenix shot up for the last time. I know this is the Viper Room, but can you point me towards the alley he was in? Oh, there’s a junkie there, is he an actor? …I meant paid.”

3. The Naughty Paris Guidebook

To win a bet, this entry will contain as many French stereotypes as possible. Aaaaaand GO!

We’re kind of wondering what the necessity of this really was in the first place. Want to find something obscene in France? When you get out of the airport, go left. Just trust us on this one.

Nonetheless, this is written for women, so we’re assuming they’re avoiding the usual array of prostitutes that the French are unjustly famous for. Seriously, French hookers are worse than the waiters over there. But we were talking about the guidebook.

It’s basically a description of where to get fetish gear and where to pick up handsome men, which you think would not be hard for a female tourist in France. We wonder if they have a method for removing the reek of cheese, or…or…crap, how do we work a “surrender” joke in here?

Oh well, you get the idea. Also, I just made twenty bucks off of everybody. And got a death threat from the Royal Academy, but it’s not like they have assass-
4. The Night Climbers of Cambridge

Granted, you’ve got to be pretty boring to go to Cambridge, in the UK, as a bit of tourism. Sure, it’s rife with history and all that, and Monty Python is from there, so they probably have a kiosk selling DVDs or five minutes out back with Eric Idle (he’ll do anything for money, didn’t you see “Dudley Do-Right”?) or something. But it’s got to be the least exciting tour in history unless Doctor Who shows up, and we’re pretty sure they shoot that in Wales.

Still, we’ll give this guide credit for trying to make things more lively, by seeing Cambridge in a rather unique way; namely, climbing up the ancient stone walls onto the even more ancient roofs and jumping the gaps between buildings to look around and take in one of humanity’s oldest seats of knowledge in from a higher altitude.

OK, so it’ll probably kill most tourists, who are about as athletic as a Jello mold full of Vicodin, but it was written by college students in the ’30s who basically had nothing better to do than to hop buildings to blow off steam. So credit for testicular fortitude, at least.

5. DC Goes To The Movies

Washington DC is the capital of America, and one of the richest historical sites in the US. In addition, it has an enormous collection of free museums, exploring American innovation in air and space, art, science, and history. It’s home to America’s attic, the Smithsonian. In short, Washington DC is rife with all sorts of informative, fascinating places for even the most jaded tourist to visit.

So why not just blow all that off and go look at a staircase because some movie threw a priest down it?

It’s not that a lot of movies haven’t been shot in Washington DC. Let’s see, there was “No Way Out”, which had Kevin Costner running in front of five monuments in two minutes even though that’s impossible for anybody but the Flash. Um, “True Lies”, for at least one shot because they had the faded pretzel guy who’s always on the Mall. And “The Exorcist” was shot in Georgetown…and that’s probably pretty much it for movies you might have seen. And trust me, as a son of Washington, the Exorcist staircase is not exciting. At all. It’s just a big concrete staircase.

So, yeah, go to Washington and look at a staircase. Why is this even a book again?

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