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I rented a car for the weekend and spent the weekend in The Cotswolds with Liz & Eric. Such beautiful country. We spent the night Saturday at a B&B just outside Stow-on-the-Wold, a medieval market town with a remarkably well preserved town square. We spent several hours just wandering around the town.

Stow-on-the-Wold is just off The Fosse Way, a Roman road built to connect the Southwest of Britain with the Northeast. I had always wondered how, given the technology available to them, Roman roads could have been as arrow-straight as I'd always read they were. Driving on The Fosse Way, I learned the answer: they weren't. As you can see from themap, they were willing to make concessions to the landscape --- just not a lot of them. What you can't tell on the map is how the road will go along straight for several miles, then jog a little to one side, and then continue into another straightaway. I assume this is an artifact of the surveying techniques available to the Romans. None of which, to my mind, reduces the accomplishments of the Roman Engineers: I find it astounding that there are as few jogs in The Fosse Way as there are, given what rough country the Cotswold Hills are and the techniques they had available. Their accomplishments stand on their own merits, without being trumped up by modern writers making impossible claims for their work.

Sunday we went to the Roman Villa at Chedworth. Leaving aside their social system, the Romans knew how to live.

We also took a walk along the Grand Union Canal at Gayton Junction, where the Northampton Branch takes off from the mainline and descends a series of seventeen locks over the next few miles. The locks are operated manually, in a two stage process: first, a sluiceway is opened at the bottom of the gate to let the water levels equalize, then someone walks the gate open, leaning on the top beam and pushing against ridges of stone embedded in the ground.

By the time I'd driven 250 miles on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car, shifting with the wrong hand, I was pretty comfortable with it. But it was pretty freaky at first; I had an especially hard time getting any sort of intuitive sense of where the left side of the car was. That wouldn't have mattered so much if the roads weren't so incredibly narrow in a lot of places. But England has stringent driver licensing requirements, which meant the other drivers almost never did anything unexpected, which made it a lot easier. Over the entire weekend, I only had two exciting moments (not that driving shouldn't ever be exciting, just that the excitement shouldn't come from other drivers). One was with a bus, one with a lorry, in both cases they were coming around what for them was an inside curve with their outside wheels in my lane, and in both cases they had the really pretty good excuse that the lane was narrower than they were. I get more unwanted driving excitement than that from my twenty minute commute in Boston most days.

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xela

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