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.
It was a cloudy day in London, but we decided to visit the Tower of London since we had never visited. When William the Conquerer invaded England he built a fortress in the middle of London. It is not clear exactly when work started on the Conqueror’s White Tower or precisely when it was finished but the first phase of building work was certainly underway in the 1070s. By 1100 the White Tower was complete. Nothing quite like it had ever been seen in England before. The building was immense, at 36m x 32.5m (118 x 106ft) across, and on the south side where the ground is lowest, 27.5m (90ft) tall; the Tower dominated the skyline for miles around. A series of separate building campaigns ensured that by about 1350, the Tower was transformed into the formidable fortress we see today. These building works started in the reign of Richard the Lionheart (1189-99), John (1199-1216) who often stayed at the Tower and was probably the first king to keep lions and other exotic animals there. John’s son Henry III (1216-72) and his son King Edward I (1272-1307) added a massive curtain wall on the north, east and western sides, reinforced by nine new towers and surrounded by a moat flooded by the Flemish engineer John Le Fossur (the ditch-digger) to which was added a second wall by King Edward I. The tradition of whitewashing the White Tower (from which it derives its name) began in 1240.