BOOKSHELF: Intoxicating Paris - Uncorking the
and Intoxicating Southern France - Uncorking the Magic in the French Riviera, Provence, Languedoc, Dordogne and Bordeaux
~ two books by P J Adams
If you are looking for two perfect cultural guides to Paris and Southern France, look no further. PJ Adams, a licensed family therapist, best-selling author, and a former publishing executive living in Southern California has written them both. Intoxicating Paris is the first of two books that gives great insight into French life from her perspective. The author gets 'personal', as she duly notes, delving into femininity of Parisian women, virility of Parisian men, the passion of both, verve (especially how to dress and how not to dress), the secrets of parenting those well-behaved French children, fraternity (she points out the differences and the similarities between the French and Americans), style, creativity and much more. Each assessment is relegated to its own chapter in the book, which turns out to be a lovely way to focus on each topic ~ certainly a pleasure for this reader.
I can see taking this book along on that long flight from California to Paris, and not putting it down until it is finished. P J Adams is a fluid writer with a sense of humor that definitely comes naturally. In her chapter entitled Panache, for example, she answers the question all non-French women traveling to Paris have had: what to wear so you look like you fit in ~ at least somewhat! From earrings and scarves to the right shoes and jeans, she has sensible tips; she also suggests taking along a little black dress, a white blouse, a long rope of pearls and even a beret! Not everyone will take her advice, but reading her reasons behind these choices is great fun.
The chapter entitled Vigor especially hit home. The author missed a step in a museum and broke her right leg and sprained her left ankle. (This writer missed a step at home and broke her ankle, had surgery, and was on a plane to France in 7 weeks.) The recounting of her experience with the French healthcare system reinforced all we've heard over the years: the world's best. She was treated by everyone, even strangers who rushed to her side when she fell, as someone special. Despite her embarrassment and struggling to explain where it hurt in French, the final good news was her bill ~ for the emergency room, hours of hospital time, xrays, bandages and a cast up to her thigh ~ the equivalent of $187 with another $60 for crutches and medication.
This is really a delightful little (229 pages) book written with a great deal of love for Paris and the French. We recommend it!
Intoxicating Southern France is P J Adams' second of this series and one we will take with us on our upcoming visit to south central and southwest France. Although we've been there many times before, she brings so many of the attractions and villages alive with pages of interesting history, a sufficient amount of information about shopping (there's a lot of opportunity to shop everywhere in France), and insight into the people and lifestyles found in the south. There are her quirky little tidbits such as tips on opening a wine bottle without an opener. . . all you need is a man's shoe and a tree!
This book represents ten years of travel through France's southern provinces and her encounters with interesting people along the way. And, P J Adams will appeal to those who also struggle with speaking French. Not only is there ample exploration of the Côte d'Azur from Monaco to the border of Provence, but the author provides long looks into Bordeaux wine country and a little peek into a cooking class after a lovely time at the local outdoor market with the lady who would teach the class. They shopped for and prepared nine dishes ~ "and Madame Lucie did it all in her teeny French kitchen wearing high heels and a dress!"
Some interesting pages are devoted to the French ease with weight control: how they approach food, how they consume their meals and, of course, how this all makes a difference. In agreement with something I have long believed after losing weight in France although consuming great quantities of food, P J Adams thinks that may have to do with eating better quality food. I couldn't agree more! There is a lot to be said for the French lifestyle, not only related to food but to walking more, savoring leisure time, and generally slowing the pace of life ~ like those two-hour lunches!
Despite the abundance of historic details provided about each region of southern France, the author writes this book like a sweet memoir of her travels. Intoxicating Southern France is easy reading, filled with invaluable information, and definitely fun.
Intoxicating Paris and Intoxicating Southern France are published by PJ Adams Books, San Clemente, CA.,
Copyright 2013 and 2015 by PJ Adams. ISBN 0989516202 and ISBN 0989516229 and also available in eBooks.
FEATURING: Abbeys and Monasteries of France
~ Coming out of the Dark Ages
The 'Dark Ages' is a
term given by the Italian scholar, Petrarch, to the period in Europe
fall of the Roman Empire ~
monasticism was established by Saint Anthony of Egypt
(251-356) who withdrew to the desert perhaps inspired by John the
Baptist who had done the same. Monasticism had the purpose of
leading an ascetic life and pursuing God in solitary prayer. This
was the choice made by many early Christian hermits. Soon communities
of monks were formed (cenobitic,
meaning living in a community), and, again, it was in the year 346 in
Egypt when Saint Pachomius established the first cenobitic Christian
monastery. Monks there lived in individual small houses but came
together to work, eat and worship in a common space. It was
believed that since so many monks didn't have the skills or ability to
survive a eremitical existence
~ like the hermit Saint Anthony ~ the monastery was the perfect
solution. All monks dressed alike and were given the same food to
eat. They were to complete the tasks assigned to them and be
obedient for the common good of the monastery.
the Italian hermit, Saint Benedict, who was asked by several monks to
head their monastery and change the way they lived to a more communal
lifestyle. He spent thirty years between 530 and 560, creating
of Saint Benedict,
his guidelines for monks living in a community. From the 9th
century onwards, and with the encouragement of Charlemagne and his son,
Louis, the Rule of Benedict became the choice of monasteries
throughout Europe. Each country adapted the Rule to fit its
specific culture, and many monasteries flourished as centers of art,
architecture, education and the making of manuscripts. Others
focused on evangelizing the people, but all were centers of religion
and learning during centuries of the chaos of battling kingdoms.
The efficiency of the Rule of Saint Benedict gave stability to the
monasteries, and they became quite productive.
The structure and
hierarchy of a
were built as a collection of buildings, each with a specific purpose,
enclosed by a wall. The main buildings surrounded an
interior courtyard known as a cloister.
A hierarchy was established as each monastery became an independent and
self-sufficient community having no need for anything from the
outside. Abbotts governed the monasteries and often had some
loyalty to a local lord or an authority in the Catholic church.
Most of the monasteries in France are called abbeys (abbayes), indicating that an abbott
or abbess ~ in the case of a
convent for nuns ~ lived there.
would enter the monastery first as students and would progress to
skilled positions over time. Their lives evolved from the
original intent of being solitary and alone with God, to working in a
community to grow and survive. Monasteries were being built
throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, and, unlike the monastery of
they now included a large dormitory, a dining room, a kitchen, a
chapter house for business transactions, a school, a library, a
hospital, a laundry, and, of course, a church. Outside the walls
were the gardens, grain fields and a mill house.
days were divided into eight activities, all beginning and ending with
prayers in the church. The first church service could begin at
two in the morning and the last would be at sunset. Manual labor
in the monastery and outside in the gardens filled most of the day,
with several hours devoted to the Bible, prayer and private meditation.
was produced in the pharmacies of monasteries, and the
monks studied medicaments,
primarily through the use of herbal remedies. However, both
antiseptics and anesthetics for surgery were discovered in the 13th
century, so Medieval medicine did make advances. Some of the
manuscripts copied by the monks were by medical writers of the time,
and the monasteries had infirmaries for treating not only themselves
but travelers who would come to them. Archeologists discovered
years ago that Medieval pharmacists and doctors were able to cure
scurvy by having patients eat watercress for its vitamin C.
discovered hemlock in
the drains of monastery hospitals so they knew it was used as a pain killer.
Monasteries in France
an Irish monk, St Columbanus, traveled to France with twelve companions
as missionaries. From the sixth century, the Irish monastic
scholars were known throughout Europe for their knowledge of Greek and
Hebrew. They not only brought literacy to the
people they encountered, but they proceeded to build monasteries
throughout the country before some of them, including Columbanus, moved
on to Italy. The intellectual pursuits of monks in the
monasteries included grammar, oratory, logic, mathematics, music and
astronomy. To Christian monks, the arts were a way to praise God.
The Gregorian chant is still an important facet of their musical life,
and can be heard at the Abbey Saint-Pierre in Solesmes in the Pays de
the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine for the Mass, was
practiced in monasteries. Most renowned was the monk, Dom
(1638-1715) who was the cellar master at the Benedictine Abbey of
Hautvillers in today's Marne département
region. His discovery was the méthode
champenoise, and he
with improving wine-making techniques to improve quality, manipulating
the wine presses to make clear white wine from black grapes, and for
introducing corks (to replace wood) in wine bottles. He also
improved the bottles themselves by making them of heavier glass to stop
their tendency to
explode. Monasteries also developed beer and liqueurs, and have
become known for their cooking specialties.
grew in popularity in the Middle Ages, and wealthy families would
establish monasteries on their estates, usually appointing an abbott
was a relative of the family. Because the monastery operated for
the financial benefit of the owners, it became part of Medieval
society's power structure. As monasteries accumulated wealth, the
Benedictine monks built abbeys throughout France indicating their
influential power which lasted until the middle of the 12th century.
are the monks?
The first order of monks were the Benedictines, followers of Saint Benedict, and many of their abbeys are found in France today, although only a small percentage are still working monasteries. Perhaps the most famous is Abbaye Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul de Cluny, more commonly known as Cluny Abbey, built between 1088 to 1130 in Burgundy's Saône-et-Loire département. Founded in 910, most of it was purposely demolished in 1793 leaving only a bell tower and part of the transept in tact. (Religious houses in France were suppressed during the French Revolution beginning in 1791. They returned in the 19th century under the Bourbon Restoration.) What remains is less than ten percent of the floor area of Cluny III, the largest church in Christendom until St Peter's Basilica in Rome was built five centuries later.
the Rule of Saint Benedict and are known as the black monks because of the
color of their habits ~ a Roman Catholic religious order of monastic
communities, each ~ whether a monastery, abbey or priory ~
autonomous. The monks do not take a vow of silence, but a period
of time each day is devoted to hours of strict silence. The
Cistercians are known as the white
monks, because of their light-colored habits.
Benedictine Abbey of St-Florent-le-Vieil was originally established in
the 6th century on the banks of the River Loire. It was a strong and
wealthy abbey until attacked by Normans several times between 850-853.
The abbey was left to decay over the centuries until 1637 when monks
restored it. It was damaged again during the French Revolution
1790-1793. It is famous for Pierre-Jean David's sculpture of
Bonchamps on his tomb in the church. This artist was a student in
the studio of Jacques-Louis David, and distinguished himself from the
master by taking the name David
. . . continued on page four
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