Jetlag's a bugger, innit? We arrive in one of the most exciting cities on the planet and what do we want to do? Sleeeeep. Still, denied a kip as our room in the charmingly genteel but ever-so-lightly run down Art Deco environs of the Washington Square Hotel isn't yet ready, we're left to explore our new 'hood, lovely Greenwich Village.
Last time we were in New York we loved this laid back, quirky, Bohemian area and, ten years later, our feelings haven't changed. Quaint, elegant and friendly, its streets lined with characterful bars, record shops that actually sell records and thrift stores that are treasure troves of retro glamour, Greenwich Village is a great place to hang out, even in the rain.
Rain continues to dog our trip the following day, when we splash up to MOMA for the Tim Burton exhibition, the reason we've come to New York (okay, I've come to New York – Ian isn't quite so bothered…).
Giant stripy jaws swallow you into a dark corridor lined with screens playing episodes of Stain Boy, before spitting you out into a neon-lit, womb-like room reverberating with B-movie sound effects and showcasing a glowing carousel of monsters. Hooray!
Beyond lies a rich array of Burton's drawings, including cartoons, storyboards and paintings, dating from his early days as Burbank's resident teenage weirdo to sketches for Alice in Wonderland, as well as models, costumes and props from all his movies. (Sadly, you can't touch the angora sweater worn by Ed Wood...)
In fact my only criticism of this fabulous exhibition, crammed with unseen works by the visionary artist/director, is that it's also crammed with far too many people. Oh well…
Boy, it sure knows how to rain in this city! I guess we should have been warned when we saw the furled umbrella nestled snugly in the hotel wardrobe for our use...
As we discovered at MOMA, rain plus school holidays equals crowded museums. But once you escape the entrance hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and bodyswerve the Egyptian galleries, you can still find peace.
Left: The entrance hall at the Met is mobbed, but move up a floor and you'll find quiet.
Left: This spinx-like pair can be found in the Ancient Near Eastern Art gallery.
Left: The armoury at the Met is one of the best I've visited. And I've visited a lot of armouries, for my sins...
Left: The period rooms chart changing styles from the first American settlers onwards. I'm thinking of getting this wallpaper for our living room...
Left: The open storage area is fantastic: row upon row of matching objects form glorious swathes of coloured glass, brass, pewter and silver, all spiced by an odd sense that you're not really supposed to be there...
Left: Detail from a charming William Morris-esque tapestry by John Henry Dearle.
Left: Afterwards, we take a walk in the drizzle through Central Park and pass this lovely Alice in Wonderland statue.
Left: Cold trees in a soggy Central Park.
Praise the Lord! Our third day in New York dawns rain free and practically spring-like. Washington Square (below) is transformed from a bleak, waterlogged emptiness to a cheerful community hub teeming with life: buskers strumming and drumming, dog walks tangled up in by tiny pampered pooches, chess players making their moves at the tables, pale-faced locals enjoying the sudden sun. Now this is more like it...
Left: The squirrels are out in force too as the sun comes out.
Left: On our way to the American Museum of Natural History, we take a stroll through Central Park - in the sunshine!
Left: Manhattan skyline.
The Silk Road exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History is excellent, taking us on a fascinating journey along the famous merchant route that encompasses the sights (and smells) of the epic caravanserai trek.
The rest of the museum, while charming in a dusty, old fashioned way, is overrun by gobby school children looking for Night At The Museum references. 'No-one ever came into this gallery before that film came out,' a weary docent observes as a stream of noisy kids chorusing 'dum-dum' pours into the Oceanic Peoples hall, making an excited beeline towards the replica Easter Island head. Ben Stiller clearly has a lot to answer for.
Left: This allosaur skeleton stars in Night at the Museum, and is a star attraction at the American Museum of Natural History.
Next, a subway trip to East Village, the edgier, seedier brother of Greenwich Village, home to tattoo parlours, vintage palaces, goth shops and Tompkins Square Park, full of snoring drunks asleep on benches, surrounded by bulging plastic bags.
Left: A tribute to Joe Strummer in East Village.
All our evenings in Greenwich Village have been fun, hopping from pub to pub through the puddles, from the dark wooden pews and bottle top mosaics of the Peculiar Pub to the cheesy piracy of Wicked Willie's Rum Bar, the spit and sawdust of the Back Fence to the old world charm of the Fat Black Pussy Cat, the hokey Irish history of the White Horse and the excellent live music of the Red Lion.
But this evening, the streets of the Village comes alive with people enjoying the sudden spring air. We enjoy a fantastic dinner in the Spotted Pig, a quirky gastro pub on West 11th Street, and stroll back via a few more pubs. I can't believe our last night has come round so soon!
New York, you git. On our last day, you pull out all the stops and give us glorious spring sunshine. Today we walk from Greenwich Village through Soho and Little Italy, down Broadway to Battery Park, where we view the Statue of Liberty at a distance and thank God we're not queueing for the ferry - three hours, minimum, it appears.
Left: The Spring Street bar, where scenes from Donnie Brasco were filmed. I love how wandering the streets of New York is like getting lost on a giant film set.
Left: Even the police horses in New York are cool!
Left: The Statue of Liberty. Not...
Back up the West Side to Greenwich Village and then it's all over (bar the stressful rush hour taxi ride to Newark airport and the delayed flight...). Ten years is too long to wait before returning to New York again: the fabulous Big Apple, both frantic and laid back, exotic yet familiar, rainy one day and gloriously sunny the next, has got under our skin good and proper, and we can't wait to go back.