May 18 2010 by Claudia Kunkel
Despite having been to London several times and making sure to cover all of the 'must see' landmarks, museums, theater...the list goes on. I have never had the time or opportunity to explore the English countryside beyond that. A recent business trip to Swindon, England changed all of that.
Chances are you haven't heard too much about Swindon, but we discovered that it is ideally situated to explore the unique character of the Cotswold landscape. With a rental car at our disposal and a free weekend in front of us, we took off traveling mostly country roads and meandered our way to a charming town called Cirencester. Along the way we passed through rolling hills with timber and stone farms tucked in here and there. We witnessed walkers trekking along remote walking paths with a pack and a walking stick, and we traveled through tiny villages with quaint stone cottages that seemed to have come out of a fairy tale. As a kid, I have painful memories of loading into my grandfather's big old Lincoln for a Sunday drive through the countryside and I can honestly say that I didn't think I would ever get around to enjoying a car ride just for the scenery but, in this case, getting there was more than half the fun!
Upon arriving in Cirencester we were delighted to find a well preserved and bustling old Roman market town. The town center has a beautiful church, Church of St John Baptist, overlooking the main street that is in the process of a restoration. It borders on Cirencester Park, a surprisingly large park hidden in the middle of town and surrounded by beautiful old wool merchant homes and Cotswold cottages. The town center is lined with one of a kind boutiques, cafes, restaurants and pubs. Although this is a small town, you can get lost wandering up and down the narrow streets lined with stone buildings. We found markets tucked away in the most unexpected places along the way.
Surprisingly, Cirencester used to serve as the Roman capital of England and is known as the capitol of the Cotswolds. A visit to the Corinium Museum helped us get familiar with Cirencester's history as an important producer of Roman mosaic art work and features excavated objects depicting life in a Roman household. This museum is a must see. Another typically English activity is afternoon tea and we particularly enjoyed taking 'tea and cake' at a popular place called Made by Bob. It was worth the wait!
So, next time you find yourself on a business trip to an area you haven't considered exploring, look closer!