Antananarivo, called Tananarive in French and also known by its colonial shorthand form Tana, is the capital and largest city of Madagascar. The larger urban area surrounding the city, known as Antananarivo-Renivohitra (“Antananarivo-Mother Hill” or “Antananarivo-Capital”), is the capital of Analamanga region. The city is located 4,199 ft (1,280 m) above the sea level in the center of the island, and has been the island’s largest population center since at least the 18th century. Sadly Tana is not a city to visit, despite great natural beauty, crime due to extreme poverty, crowding and disease such as pneumatic plague make it inadvisable to walk without a professional escort, take a taxi or any public transportation and in reality, leave the safety of a reputable hotel. It is basically a place to stay until you leave for somewhere else, often on the single runway of the “International” airport. While we are on the subject, Taxibrousse is the famous French name for the Malagasy bush taxi, which is a kind of share taxi for overland drives. For most Malagasy people, these buses are the only opportunity to travel longer distances for affordable prices, and thus they are part of the Malagasy sense of life. They are also really unsafe since the driver and often the passengers will rob you of all your belongings. I was on a Natural Habitat tour and we stayed at the Hotel Tamboho, a beautiful little hotel on a private lake with a guarded little shopping enclosure including a modern supermarket.
The architectural heritage in the Loire Valley's historic towns is notable, especially its châteaux, such as the Château d'Amboise, Château de Chambord, Château de Chinon, Château du Rivau, Château d'Ussé, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau. The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, represent a nation of builders starting with the necessary castle fortifications in the 10th century to the splendor of those built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley began attracting the very best landscape designers and architects. The Loire Valley is an area steeped in history and because of its riches, one that has been fought over and influenced by a variety of adversaries from the Romans to Atila the Hun. The formation of the region as we know it today began after its conquest by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. It is however, Emperor Augustus who is credited with bringing peace and stability to the Loire Valley. This stability saw the growth of towns such as Orleans (Genabum), Tours (Caesarodunum), Le Mans (Noviodunum), Angers (Juliomagus), Bourges (Avaricum) and Chartres (Autricum). The Roman's greatest influence however might be considered to be the introduction of the first grape vines to the region, as shown in the wine AOC map shown above.