High in the mountains of the Vaucluse region in Provence, is the small beautiful village of Gordes. The houses cling to the side of the mountain, separated by narrow cobbled streets that spiral up to the Renaissance castle, so loved by artists such as Marc Chagall, it has been designated one of “les Plus Beaux Villages des France.”
Tucked away in the corner of the main square is an unusual holdover from an earlier time, one of France’s few remaining Cercle Républicains. These small cafes were designed as meeting places that would uphold the principles of the Republic. Similar in feel to a working man’s bar, they operated on a subscription basis, where members would collude to combat the influence of the church and royalists.
The Cercle Républicain was founded in 1912, and during World War II became a vital hub of the Resistance in this remote mountain village. Today, the bar operates on the same principals as stated in the charter, which still hangs on the wall. Annual membership is set at five euros, and the club is run by an elected president (usually the oldest member) and a board.
The Cercle is still filled with local workers and the more elderly residents of the village. The cheap drinks and food are subsidized by the annual dues. Gorde’s Cercle also offers breathtaking views over the Luberon Valley.
The need to act as a watch guard against royalists is long gone. Where once there were thousands of Cercle Républicains throughout France, today there are just a handful, the most charming of which can be found in the quaint, beautiful village of Gordes.