My mom flew down with me and we’ve been doing a few of the touristy things while she’s here. We’ve been in Chinatown/Box Hill/Richmond covering all the Asian areas and to buy stuff for my apartment, because let’s face it, Chinese people are cheap.

Went to Brighton Beach where we picked up seashells and a nice sunburn. They’ve got these adorable little beach houses for people to own and use as a changeroom for the low, low price of $200 000 AUD. And there’s a waiting list. And no indoor plumbing. In St. Kilda, they have a little strip where artists sell their wares so I picked up some beautiful watercolours of Melbourne. Also wanted to buy these money boxes in the shape of kangaroos, koalas, penguins etc but since Mom was there…no dice.

There is a large casino/hotel complex below the Yarra River that we went to. Couldn’t gamble since Mom was there but all I was going to do was play a little on the penny slots. So I think I have an idea when my cousin comes to visit. It also has a cinema, a shopping complex with LV, Gucci and Versace, and a giant dragon in the lobby. The dragon is part of a Chinese New Year demonstration with rat-shaped lights and lanterns that bobble up and down. It’s close to Southbank, which is just another shopping area but it’s has lots of neat little art galleries. Saw the Shrine; it’s a monument built for all the soldiers who died in WW1 and it looks like Greek temple. Bridge Rd- lots of discount shopping.

For any of you planning to visit me or Melbourne in general, come prepared for all four seasons…although “winter” here is more like a mild fall for Canadians. It did get quite hot last week, about 34 C but it’s a nice dry heat. Unfortunately, that also means that Melbourne has been in a drought for a couple of years.

The best part of Oz so far is the Healesville Sanctuary. Healesville is about an hour outside of Melbourne, have to drive through the Yarra Valley to get there and it’s full of vineyards. It’s a small zoo/rehab centre for animals that have been orphaned or gotten sick, usually from human causes (75% of all orphaned animals are from cars). The animals were gorgeous and pretty much my main reason for coming to Australia.

Walk in, see emus and lots of birds. Koalas doing what they do best…sleep. You can walk through the rock wallaby enclosure and he’ll just stay high up on his perch. The wombat, Florence, was sleeping in her little cave but as soon as the keeper came out with food, she woke right up and walked out to her adoring crowd. They’re a lot chubbier than I thought and bear a strong resemblance to a pig. Echidnas were peeking out from behind rocks; they waddle when they walk and it’s ridiculously adorable. There’s no other way of describing it. Then, I fed some kangaroos. Small, Western grey kangaroos but with sharp claws; one of them kept grabbing my hand as to claim that feeder. Reminds me of some cats I know. Also, I think they ate mud before I fed them because one of them smeared dirt all over my hands. Totally missed the one that threw up and then ate its own vomit (cellulose is hard to digest). And one of the greatest animals ever, the duck-billed platypus was swimming around in a special tank in a nocturnal exhibit. It’s a animal that lays eggs, produces milk and has a duck bill!

Also took a look at the animal hospital; it’s got a neat exhibit on how the hospital works. Even had a viewing room that had a wallaby joey in it, all snuggled up in a pouch because her mother had been hit by a car. Saw the Birds of Prey show but it was rained out after 3 birds. Probably could have seen more but the barn owl was refusing to cooperate with the keeper and they have to clear the arena after each bird because they’re so territorial.