surinenglish

Capital gains

The travel guide Lonely Planet has named Madrid the second best place to visit in the whole of Europe, slotting it in just behind High Tatras in Slovakia (me neither, I think they're just showing off). Leaving aside the fact that they've obviously never visited Burnley on a Friday night, I think we can concur with their assertion that the Spanish capital is a marvellous place to spend a little time

Twenty years ago, I lived there for about six months - fruitlessly pursuing the vague whiff of an opportunity in the music business - and had a quite wonderful time.

The most enjoyable of the many riches the city has to offer is, I think, simply pootling about down the quieter streets. The loveliest shops, coffee houses and bars pop up unbidden down the most unlikely side streets and alleyways, like urban oases amid the soulless franchises dominating the main thoroughfares. This makes sense of course, given the five-zillion-euro-per-square-millimetre rents the prime locations demand but the result of such greed is actually quite charming - myriad imaginative independent businesses quietly tucked away, simply waiting to be discovered.

In summer, Madrid empties like a cleaner's bucket as the heat descends and most Spanish inhabitants take the opportunity to visit their coastal residences or return to their parents' towns and villages for a lengthy stay. I suspect it's more the latter than the former, in fact, since the miracle of air conditioning makes July and August perfectly manageable in my experience. In fact, it's a great time to visit the plethora of museums and galleries on offer since you'll more or less have them all to yourself. Take a fan.

Like all the best cities, Madrid has a vast public park - El Retiro - which offers succour to the soul when the intensity of the metropolis bites just a little too hard. A good book and a blanket will be the extent of your requirements if you're planning an afternoon visit. Oh, and a bottle of wine might be handy, if it's still allowed.

Just a quick mention for the Metro which is like the London Underground except that it's infinitely smaller and people actually smile on it.

Fingers crossed the English football fans present for the Champions League final are capable of enjoying the many riches of Madrid without resorting to the trouser-dropping selfie-taking antics of a group of their compatriots I witnessed in Malaga city centre this week.

God help us all. Next thing you know, there'll be stag parties in High Tatras.