;Even in the dull, grey, mist of morning, the whorls of lavender flowers that greet us on our way down the path to Barbizon seem to radiate their own soft glow. Though only an hour by carriageway from the State of Hang, it has the look and feel of a rolling, French meadow. Where the sounds of the city succumb to silence and the soft symphony of nature takes over. What was that? A Whip-poor-will? No, just a gaggle of plump geese, but what a glorious day to be alive.
We're shown around the manicured, 30 mu, landscape, where Bayberry trees grow shade for ornamental perennials. What robust marigolds! They must be seen to be believed. And a pumpkin patch for the young ones! Oh, how they'll frolic come All Hallow's Eve. What's this? Some sort of motorized conveyance for stumbling about the dirt? Go-karts, you call them? What's that, you ask? You'd like me to attempt to complete a circuit about this treacherous terrain? In morning dress? You forget yourself, good sir. Perhaps after I slip into my riding pants and mount one of your regal steeds for a brisk canter about the grounds, I'll be more inclined to indulge myself in something more common.
I see my friends have found the archery range. What rogues! No, no, no, I'll enjoy this one from afar, as my flamingo-like arms are too dainty and waifish for the thrash of the bow's string. I'll be in the gift shop perusing their wide assortment of decorative soaps, bath salts, and bouquets until we reconvene for lunch. In the meantime, mind your cock feathers.
Inside the rustic yet cozy, country-style restaurant we ordered a feast fit for a king. The salads, both garden and fruit, were large-portioned without stealing focus away from our entres. The first to arrive was our sandwich, the Barbizon Special, which is more commonly known as a club sandwich, and F.Y.I., China; a fried egg doesn't replace the cheese in a sandwich. Both is great, but if you have to choose one; pick the cheese. This 3-tiered banality was followed up by a salmon steak drizzled in a garlic-butter sauce that delighted the whole group. Seared to perfection on the outside, and tantalizingly tender throughout. It lay atop a bed of mashed potatoes and a medley of grilled vegetables. A theme we'd see in each subsequent entre. The next of which, utilized the mashed potatoes as a scrumptious foundation for a lavishly-presented trio of prawns, glazed in a similar, if not the same, delectable butter-garlic sauce as the salmon. The penultimate of the aforementioned, was a juicy rib-eye steak, which came doused, in what we felt, was a rather churlish amount of black pepper sauce, but our ire was quickly sated after supping upon the succulent, roasted, spring chicken that was laid before us, rounding out our meal.
After gorging ourselves like King Richard the Lionhearted himself, albeit it in white silk dining gloves, we sauntered over to the horses, slipped into our stir-ups and went off for a relaxing trot around the track. You guys go on ahead, I'll catch up, never you mind. Tis not my first time upon horseback. Oh! He's begun to gallop! Whoa! Halt, you brutish stallion. Squire! Take the reins and subdue this beast. My scrotum cannot endure yet another blow of the saddle, as I'm quite sure the first score has left me unable to produce an heir. Perhaps I'm still dizzy from that spell with that wanton bronco, but I think I'd fancy a go at those go-karts. Thank you for noticing my delightful wordplay. Now, let us see what advantages this horseless carriage has over my 4-legged companion. Egads! A group of armed, fatigued guerillas is assembling to storm the resort! Let us make haste to the seclusion of the pumpkin patch. What's that? These brutes are merely playing a laser-based game of simulated warfare? How delightfully savage. Would I care to try? Oh no, thank you. I'm quite sure I've not the constitution after the throttling my testicles were just subjected to. No, I believe I'll just affix my 4-point safety belt and take as you say around this primitive cart track. You say the right phalange breathes life into this contraption? Oh, there it goes. How exhilarating! Look at me, everybody! I'm a motorist! Oh, odds and bodkins. Excuse me, young boy? I seem to be stuck in a gulley. Could you be so kind as to push me out? In fact, could you just push me over towards the paddle boats docked on the shore of Lake Barbizon. Depressing that accelerator has exhausted me so. Perhaps a leisurely paddle about could restore my vitality. No, not the bumper boats you scoundrel. What's that? You say the onsite 7-Club (Yes, that 7-Club) opens its doors at 3:00pm? Forget the paddle boats. Take me to shandy town! Getting there: Reaching Barbizon is easy. Just take a bus from the Hangzhou West or South Bus Stations to Tonglu (tickets 36RMB). After arriving at the Tonglu Long Distance Bus Station, take a taxi to Barbizon (~15RMB). There are also busses available from the Tonglu Long Distance Bus Station to Barbizon, which cost only 1RMB. By car, leaving from the west side of town, take Liuxia Ring Road. From downtown, take Hangzhou South. Get on the Hangxinjing Highway, and follow the signs to Qiandaohu until you see the Tonglu exit. Get off, and after the toll gate, you will be on South Yingchun Rd. Turn left at the first traffic light (Chengnan Rd.), turn left again at the first junction (Daqishan Rd.), drive 600m down the road and you'll see our signs. Majoy Digital War: Duration: 4 hours; Price: 158RMB/person (weekdays), 188RMBRMB/person (weekends). Call: 0571 88255733 for reservations. Minimum group size is 10 people.