The Uber-Impressive Minack Theatre

Minack Theatre

At first glance, the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno looks as though it was built by some ancient empire. Nestled into granite cliffs overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the venue hosts an array of drama, musical and opera performances throughout the summer months. We popped in for a visit on a non-show day, and my socks were blown off (it is a tad windy) by not only the venue, but the tenacity of its creator.

The Minack Theatre was planned, built and financed by one very plucky Cornish woman, Rowena Cade. A fan of the stage in her youth, she moved to Cornwall following the First World War and settled in a house overlooking the sea near Porthcurno. Due to its remote location, entertainment options were scarce, so Cade became involved with a local theatre group in 1929. Sensing the need for a more dramatic stage for the group’s next production of The Tempest, Cade initially offered her garden before adopting a “go big or go home mentality” and instead opting to build a stage into the cliff beneath her house.

Minack TheatreDespite having no previous manual labour experience, she learned the skills needed from her gardeners and they built a theatre. Into a cliff. So determined was she to bring this project to life, Cade and her gardeners even rebuilt the theatre following its destruction in World War II. Every winter until she was in her eighties she worked away, developing her own techniques for working with cement so that it would mimic the appearance of granite, and lugging sand and reclaimed materials from the beach below (including 15ft beams! This woman was a machine). It truly is remarkable to see the theatre as it stands now and realize that it was built not by a team of labourers or fancy equipment but by sheer determination and grit.

From the start of April to the end of September, the theatre is open to day visitors from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., except during certain ticketed and children’s performances. There’s a small exhibit honouring the life of Rowena Cade – a worthwhile stop to gain an even greater appreciation of this beautiful space.

Also a worthwhile stop – Porthcurno Beach. Just don’t blow over the side of the cliff on the path down.

Porthcurno Beach

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Four Days in Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Every morning at sunrise I ran along the boardwalk. Usually when I run, I need music to keep my mind occupied (meaning: distracted from the sounds of me wheezing and my internal monologue of PLEASE STOP THIS) but I kept one ear tuned into my surroundings and the other focused on the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach.

Around 6:45 a.m. a familiar man would appear on my right. Dressed all in black save for a well-worn Santa hat, he sat casually draped across a patio chair, smiling at the world. “There she is!” he’d exclaim as I came along. I would be lying if I didn’t appreciate the chance to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath, and he’d chat about his plans for the day and how excited he was to be alive.

As anyone who knows me can verify (or even if you’ve read a few of these blog posts, such as this one), I travel to California quite a lot. I love the sound and sights of the ocean and mountains, the smell of eucalyptus trees and the copious amounts of vitamin D. But most of all, I really enjoy the warm nature of the people that I encounter, particularly in areas like Venice Beach. While it is gritty in spots (particularly along the boardwalk) and rather eccentric in general, I find residents to be quite friendly. I went just before Christmas for four days and encountered west coast charm at every opportunity – from shop owners on Abbot Kinney and baristas in the local coffee joint, to morning joggers and surfers getting their boards ready for a morning session. People just seem to be really content with life and that spirit is quite infectious – I recommend checking it out.

If a trip to Venice Beach tickles your fancy, here are some favourites of mine:

Continue reading “Four Days in Venice Beach”

Disconnecting While Travelling

I just got back from 10 wonderful days on the best (sorry, west) coast. Rainy days, wellies and wool sweaters, spots of sunshine and resulting sunburns, ocean air, mountains and simple, fresh foods. Wine. Family time. And relatively disconnecting from email and social media as much as possible.

All of these things mix together to create a peaceful, relaxing time. I need to do this more often.