Beware fame-obsessed Britain, says travel guide

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The Independent Online

Any overseas visitor still languishing under the nostalgic misapprehension that Britain remains a nation of stiff-upper-lipped, queue-forming tea drinkers is set for a rude awakening if they read the latest edition of the Lonely Planet.

Modern Britain, according to the guidebook, is a nation obsessed with celebrity, hooked on internet porn and awash with junk food and binge drinkers. As well as eating more ready meals than the rest of Europe put together, the UK is the fastest growing place for cyber sex.

For this nation of one-handed typists it is "a telling indictment that more people [in Britain] vote in TV talent shows than for their country's leaders", said the new guide to Great Britain. That, it suggested, was "a symptom of Britain's ever-growing obsession with fame and celebrity".

And in a damning indictment of what some might consider to be the UK's thriving creative industry, those so-called celebrities base their fame on "little more than the ability to sing a jolly tune, look good in tight trousers or kick a ball in the right direction".

Worse still, says the guide, even though crime rates are dropping, "vandalism and nuisance behaviour caused by binge drinking remain serious problems".

Meanwhile, the aftermath of the 7 July bombings had also left "a general air of disillusion" and Britons are seemingly "tired of politicians whatever their hue".

And while you can find great food in Britain, the guide said: "It's just that not all the Brits seem to like eating it." But it is not all bad news for Blighty, according to the guide's co-ordinating author David Else.

"Brits are just as likely to tuck into a chicken madras as a Sunday roast, or to check out the Notting Hill Carnival rather than Trooping the Colour," he said.

"Another great thing about our country is that being exposed to different religions, festivals, music and food allows Brits to experience so many other cultures without even leaving the country. We need to revel in this diversity as this is the future of Britain."

Visitors can also be assured a warm welcome and made to feel at home when they arrive. In addition, they can enjoy cities transformed by urban renewal.

Places such as Birmingham, "once a drab, grimy urban basket case" has now "spectacularly reinvented itself as a vibrant, cultural hot spot". London has a "buzz unlike any other European city" while Manchester is cosmopolitan enough to be the nation's capital.

Cardiff has become the "epitome of cool and pulsing with creative energy" while Edinburgh is "one of the most sophisticated cities in the world" and Glasgow is great for shopping.

Even former ugly ducklings such as Bristol, and Leeds are considered worthy of attention. The West Yorkshire former mill town "struts across England's urban stage like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever," the guide said.

Skegness, long seen as a fading, windswept resort was described as a "classic seaside town with a seafront parade drowning in greasy fish-and-chip shops".

A visitor's guide

Brighton A place with a character and quirkiness all its own

Swansea Emerging as a serious rival to Cardiff

Cambridge Prettier than big rival Oxford

Bradford Much of the dour city centre is scheduled for a revamp

Buxton Derbyshire spa town that has grand Georgian architecture and leafy parks

Nottingham A mix of medieval and modern

Stoke-On-Trent Historically important but has little appeal for visitors

Dundee Ambitiously moving forward from its 'grim' past

Durham Streets full of upper-crust students

Blackpool Tacky, trashy and a little bit tawdry but works well as it has mastered the seaside holiday formula

Liverpool Passionate football-mad city that has refused to be beaten

Exeter A thriving nightlife, a lively cultural scene and a rich history

Penzance Its hotchpotch of winding streets and old shopping arcades make its feel authentic

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