Fanning oneself to lower the body temperature is a human activity that has probably existed since those scruffy guys were scribbling on the walls of the Lascaux caves. Maybe even before that, but of course it was much cooler then. In the meantime the French have, naturally, mastered the fine art of fanning.
With this warm weather, one fashion accessory that is much in evidence in Paris is the folding fan. Most spots in Paris are not air conditioned, so a fan comes in handy when temperatures rise. Normally I never leave the apartment without my folding umbrella. These days, I don't leave home without my folding fan. I've always loved fans -- so you might say I'm a fan fan. I bought my small pale green little paper fan for 2 euros at a Chinese shop on rue des Archives. Actually at those prices I bought 5 in assorted colors and gave them to friends and houseguests. But as with umbrellas, I imagine I'll be prone to losing fans as well, so I thought it might be good to have an assortment. And better to buy now before the next canicule (heat wave) arrives. When that happens the prices can skyrocket -- even for the cheap ones -- if you can find fans at all.
My favorite fans in the affordable price range came from the boutique of the Hotel des Invalides. from 5 euros to 17 euros for pretty printed fans with historic motifs.
Then without even trying I stumbled upon the captivating store of Francoise and Didier Schuler at the Marche aux Puces. Here are fantastic antique eventails to really write home about. Luxury French fans from the 18th and 19th centuries: ivory, black lace, gold, and finest hand-painted silk. Not quite your everyday fan to jam into your Vanessa Bruno bag as you head off to work, these collectible fans fetch the princesses' ransom of 400 - 1000 euros (why do I have such Veuve Clicquot taste and such a Stella Artois budget?). The staff were so friendly and were kind enough to give me a copy of "The Language of the Fan" (Le langage de l'eventail) which is displayed in their shop. So the next time you're feeling hot and coquettish, you can thank me for knowing what to do with your fan:
Carrying in right hand in front of face: follow me
Carrying in left had in front of face: desirous of acquaintance
Placing it on left ear: leave me alone
Drawing across forehead: you have changed
Twirling in the left hand: we are being watched
Carrying in the right hand: you are too willing
Drawing through the hand: I hate you
Twirling in the right hand: I love another
Drawing across the cheek: I love you
Presented shut: do you love me?
Drawing across the eye: I am sorry
Touching tip with finger: I wish to speak with you
Letting it rest on right cheek: yes
Letting it rest on left cheek: no
Open and shut: you are cruel
Dropping it: we will be friends
Fanning slowly: I am married
Fanning quickly: I am engaged
With handle to lips: kiss me
Open wide: wait for me
Carrying in left hand, open: come and talk to me
Placed behind head: don’t forget me
With little finger extended: good bye