It’s been months since we’ve gone anywhere further than a 30-minute walk from our front door. In February we were in Florence just before Italy closed its borders and France started a 2-month lockdown when no one could be more than 1 kilometer (half-mile or so) from home. Once travel was again authorised it was initially limited to essential, nearby trips only until the summer vacation season arrived. With that as background we jumped at the chance to go out to lunch with friends Sally and Larry to a village about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Carcassonne. The drive down there may have only been 15 minutes but it was literally the change of scenery that we needed.
The first written mention of Preixan appeared around 850 in the manuscripts of rulers descended from Charlemagne. At that time, olive trees shared the fields around the village equally with grape vines but now only a few trees, perhaps centuries old, remain. The grapes have proliferated however and we are well acquainted with the AOC Malepère wine that they produce.
It is believed that in the local language of Occitan, the village was named Preicho meaning “perched” as in being located on a hill or other elevated spot. Roman settler Priscius built his villa on the mound while others constructed their homes around it in the circular pattern that still exists today. In the 9th century the villa was demolished and replaced by a castle that was joined in 1119 by the church of St. Félix. Then in 1856 both of these buildings were partly dismantled to build the church of St. Jean that continues to serve the village.
Enough with the history—let’s eat! Carcassonne chef Christian Fabre opened Le Relais de Preixan to serve authentic dishes from this area in a beautiful spot with a panoramic view of the Pyrenees mountains. When Sally sent us the invitation to dine with them, she included an email from a resident who had, “been to our local restaurant “Le Relais de Preixan” four times in the last 2 weeks and every meal has been exquisite. Set 3 course varied lunch for 15 euros (Tuesday to Friday) including wine on a beautiful terrace with a fabulous chef and an excellent serving staff.” I can’t really top that description, especially since that matches our experience, so I’ll leave you with some more images from the day.