Photo of the week: the guitarist in the Bethesda Arcade

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One of the pleasures of touring Europe is coming across scenes like this: a lonely guitarist, playing his instrument in front of row of Roman arches, with classical mosaics all around. Only this isn’t Europe: it’s New York, in a place called the Bethesda Arcade.

More specifically, it’s in Central Park, the green space that dominates the centre of Manhattan. Walking through the park, my friends and I strolled through the subterranean arcade on our way to the Bethesda Terrace overlooking The Lake. I was struck by a stone carving of an owl as we entered the passageway, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found inside.

Built in the 1860s, the arcade is one of the park’s prize architectural features. The real showpiece is the famous Minton tile ceiling, made by an English company, with more than 15,000 specially made tiles arranged in elegantMinton tile Bethesda Arcade patterns. But the rest of the arcade was just as atmospheric, with its classical arches, geometric wall designs and trompe l’oeil paintings of mythical goddesses. It was a Victorian fantasy.

And there, among it all, sat this guitarist, his bicycle parked beside him, making music for the passers-by. It was a scene that seemed to have been dropped there from some other part of the world: maybe Rome, or ancient Istanbul. The soft light and the pale colours only enhanced the effect.

Cities are an endless source of delight for photographers; you never know what’s going to be around the next corner. But of all the photos I took in my visit to New York, this photo in the Bethesda Arcade might be my favourite. When I look at it, I can almost hear the music.

Note: click on the photo and enlarge it to see the scene in its entirety 

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Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

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