If you look up canut in a French dictionary you won’t find it. Canut, like bouchon, is a word that only exists in Lyon (and maybe a Norwegian social club). No one seems to know where it came from but a canut is a silk weaver. The silk trade came to Lyon in the 16th century when some monks returning from China brought silk worms with them. It soon became a mainstay of the Lyonaise economy. Yesterday we visited the Croix-Rousse (red cross) neighborhood, the center of Lyon’s silk industry, where you’ll find canut everything, bars, restaurants, boulangeries, you name it. The name of the neighborhood comes from the 17th century when the Catholic locals were trying to purge the city of Huguenots. A red cross was erected here as if to say “Catholics only”. Today the neighborhood feels very work a day with a large street market and people of from all backgrounds and places. There’s a kind of friendly buzz here as folks go about there working day. We wandered the market and streets having lunch at, wait for it, Le Canut et Les Gones (gones is sort of slang for kids). The place was rustic but the food was gourmet. We were the only foreigners in the place!




After lunch we visited La Maison des Canut where you can buy some of the most beautiful silk scarves I’ve seen. Ann bought a very pretty one for her sister (my other cousin) Kathy. Once again we were impressed with the hospitality of the Lyonaise. We struck up a fairly lengthy conversation with the proprietor before heading onward. As we walked we passed a boulangerie with some amazing looking bread in the window. As you may remember I bake bread and am somewhat of a bread snob. So I had to buy some – a sourdough, whole wheat, chestnut loaf and a baguette with dried tomato and basil, yum!


Take a long close look at this photo before you read on.


It’s a 3D mural. Some of the people in the picture are real, some are painted.

Ann and Mark then headed for home but to complete our silk experience, Kay and I took the metro to Presqu’ile and the Musée de Tissue. The silk fabrics on display dated from the 16th century to the present. The displays included a Jacquard loom which was automated with punch cards and examples of the designs laid out in grids. The fabrics were stunning, detailed and colorful. All in all an excellent little museum.


The following gown belonged to Josephine, Napoleon’s empress.


Finally we headed home for a dinner of wood fired pizza (there are two pizza joints within a half block of Mark and Ann’s) and a good night’s rest.


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3 Responses to Silk

  1. Sandy says:

    wonderful day, and fun to be traveling with family, too! Ahh, silk! did any part of the famed “Silk Road” end up or pass thru there? Is that one of reasons Lyon “got into it” (silk) ?? Now i’m curious about that!

    Also curious to hear details about the chestnut bread-might you try making that kind? is it a sweet bread, or an earthy, savory flavor? I can see chestnut going either way!

    Carry on with the fun!