Saareguemines, France

Casino of the Ceramists

Another morning of closed locks! However, the update from our well informed swiss neighbours was that the rain will abate and the locks will reopen in the afternoon. And promptly a few sunbeams broke through the Völklingen “steel"grey sky. Good timing to let us celebrate our last day in Germany with one of those crazy, huge ice cream cups we saw being consumed no matter what the weather was like. (We did it for you, Lucy!). 

The big exodus of boats started that afternoon and continued on the next morning. We made our usual leisurely start at 9.30 am the next day and were thrilled when the first lock was opened for us on approach. An even bigger thrill was to steer into our first narrow lock at the beginning of the Saar Canal. It seemed so tiny after the big river locks on the Moselle and Saar. 

But nothing could surpass our delight when the friendly lock keeper of lock 30 handed us the remote control button. Yes, back in control for the next 29 locks!!! 

Climbing the canal between Germany on the left and France on the right, we soon entered the all French territory and made our way to Sarreguemines. We chose to stay at “Club Eau Reine” where a Frenchman speaking a mixture of German, French and the local dialect gesticulated wildly for us to tie up along the large, green barge serving as capitainerie and club house. From what we understood, we would 'be better off on the barge than on the fixed pontoon with the water level still being unsettled'. 

It turned out to be a great spot, very secure with number-lock entrance, new bathrooms, and most importantly a washer and dryer! Our clothes were at a stage of walking away!

Behind the moorings is the beautiful “Casino of the Ceramists” with the “Rendez-vous Gate”. The “Casino” was designed as a meeting place and equipped with a library, theater and gymnasium by the German director of the Ceramics Factory, Paul Geiger in the 1840th.

We are in good company here too as a little further on 2 barges with Aussies were moored, known to Austin via the DBA (Dutch Barges Association)

The centre of town lays directly opposite. We did our usual city walk through the lively town centre. At lunchtime we followed the locals into an Italian restaurant, called “Vesuvio” on Rue Généraux Cremer. Not like us to recommend any other than a French restaurant, “when in France…"! But I had the best pizza there - the base paper thin and crispy, smoked and cooked salmon, rocket, capers and a little parmesan, yum! The other dishes looked great too.

The following day was summer solstice and with it being the longest day of the year, why should anyone sleep! So we joined the crowd celebrating La Fête de la Musique. As many canal cruisers would have experienced in one or the other French town, this is a celebration of music with bands and performers on every corner - a cacophony of sounds and something for the whole family.  Of course it goes hand in hand with beer and wine and here, in Sarreguemines, with sausage stands and “Flammenkuchen” due to the German influence. We had great fun until about 10.30 pm, when we decided to call it a day and returned to the Freshwater. There was no way of sleeping! The “boom-boom” seemed to increase and was soon mixed with persistent beeping of a procession of cars and fire crackers being let off. With Europe being so multicultural, we are used to hear beeping cars most nights when one or the other country has won a soccer game in the Euro Cup.

Too tired to leave the next morning we walked from the confluence of the Saar and Blies rivers along the bank to the Blies Mill, today a museum of ceramic techniques and its history. In 1840 a German fellow bought an old mill on the river and turned it into a ceramics factory. Inside the museum the stages of preparing and mixing the clay and shaping, burning and painting technics of the ceramics are shown. We loved the adjoining Ceramist’ Garden landscaped around the ruins of the old mill.

In town itself the Faïence Musée (Ceramic Museum) exhibits the most elaborate and extravagant pieces of Ceramic Art.

When leaving Sarreguemines, summer arrived with a vengeance! 35 degrees feels like 42 degrees on a steel boat!

We took advantage of the small mooring in front of the first lock to shop at the 20m distant supermarket “Intermarché”, then made a very hot 5 hour trip to Sarralbe. Amazingly mooring on the fantastic, new quai of Sarralbe including electricity, water, and 30 minute stints of WIFI is all free! Aussies Stephen and Kim on their barge “Friesland”  were already moored there.  After re-hydrating and a cold shower we joined them at the picnic tables for a chat and a drink while their energetic dog “Dash” was doing just that, dashing around.

With our energy kind of sapped by the sudden heat, we decided to stay here for another day.

Ceramic tiled Wintergarden room of Faïence Musée

© Austin Robinson 2019