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moving with pets

Expat Life

Get Sore Feet with Expats on Margaret Island in Budapest

January 9, 2018
Margaret Island Bird

Unlike the majority of our friends and family back home, we are happily having a very mild winter here in Budapest.  We’ve been so lucky to be able to move around the city so easily and get settled into new life abroad without freezing or struggling with the snow. It’s also allowed for us to simply explore and discover this gorgeous city.  Yes, this means sore feet – especially mine – but we are happy and very grateful.

Margaret Island

Margaret Island is a 2.5km long island in the middle of the Danube in Budapest.  The island spans the area between the Margaret Bridge (south) and the Árpád Bridge (north). The island was called Insula leporum before being named after Saint Margaret (1242–1270) in the 14th century. Margaret was the daughter of Béla IV of Hungary, and she lived in the Dominican convent on the island. Today, the island is directly managed by the city and is a recreation area with athletic buildings, gardens, parks, pools, cafes, a hotel, a small zoo, running trails and more.

An arial view of Margaret Island

An arial view of Margaret Island.

A January Day

Yesterday, it was 12 degrees so we decided it was perfect weather to head to Margaret Island to walk with the dog.  Since Lucy no longer has a backyard, we really wanted a chance to let her run free on the grass like she loves to do on Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands.  Our new apartment is in the 5th District in Budapest, so we hopped on the number 2 tram to take us to Margaret Bridge.  We got off at the end of the line and walked across Margaret Bridge to Margaret Island from there.


Once we arrived, we simply wandered around the island and enjoyed what we accidentally found.  We found lovely buildings, cafes, trees, open green spaces, sculptures and even ancient ruins.

The Knights of St. John settled on the island in the 12th century. Among the present historical monuments of the island are the 13th century ruins of a Franciscan church and a Dominican church and convent, as well as a church from the 12th century. The park was officially turned into a public park in the early 1900s.

Running Activities for Expats

If you are a runner, there is a monthly event and free timed 5k run around the island.  Find about more about it on their Facebook page. As you can see by the photo below there is a dedicated path for runners (the red one).  There is also a path specifically for “walkers” and then also paths for bikes and motorized vehicles all around the island.

Dedicated traffic lanes on Margaret Island

Dedicated traffic lanes on Margaret Island

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun.

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun.

Until next time…

There is so much to see and do, but we only spent a couple of hours.  We hope this wonderful weather streak continues and we have many more winter walks on the island.

The day was so beautiful, we decided to walk all the way home from the island and took some great photos in the winter sun.


Moving Abroad

Night flight to Budapest: The First 24 Hours

November 22, 2017
Night flight to Budapest

We made it through our night flight to Budapest.  Our entire journey took about 16 hours from door to door – and I have to admit, it was a bit rough.  Our flight went from Toronto to Amsterdam to Budapest. We’ve never traveled with so much luggage AND a dog.  We were sweaty, tired, a wee bit cranky but pretty happy upon arrival. Lucy (our dog) was amazing.  Not an accident or single complaint at all!

Our 5 checked bags.  We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

Our 5 checked bags. We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve had a successful take-off on this first Nightflight to “Budapest”
Our flying time will be 16 hours. We’ll be travelling at a speed of 2183 miles per second.”  – with apologies to Boney M

Our car picked us up at the airport and we arrived at our lovely, spacious, but FREEZING apartment.  We successfully restarted the gas boiler and then hit the streets in search of a hot beverage while we waited for our apartment to heat up. We found a lovely tented area just down the block to have a mulled wine and a beer. Perfect.

View from our balcony on Raday Utca

The view from our balcony on Raday Street in Budapest’s 9th District

After our drinks, we came back to the apartment where we started to unpack our bags and then proceeded to promptly fall asleep until about midnight.  Of course, we then spent a few hours up in the middle of the night – hungry –  as our bodies aren’t used to the six hour time difference yet. Since we are typically morning people, we were astonished to wake up the next morning around 11:30am.

The next day

We got dressed, headed off to the nearby dog park and then walked a few blocks east to the Danube for a coffee (coffee is so very good in Budapest). We went to do small grocery shop at Tesco, dropped the dog back off at the apartment and went in search of some freshly made goulash soup.  We tried at first to go to the “For Sale Pub” – a quirky touristy spot with autographed papers everywhere – but it was packed full.  Instead, we ate at the cosy “Paris Texas” on Raday Street. The soup came from the restaurant next door and it was delicious!

Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

A very jet-lagged Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Once our bellies were full and warm, we headed back “home” for more unpacking, did a little bit of work online and then collapsed into our bed… only to wake up again in the middle of the night. *sigh*



Moving Abroad

What We are Doing in our Final Week: Moving Abroad Checklist

November 14, 2017

Moving abroad to Budapest, Hungary is a huge undertaking. So many people, places and things to organize and get ready before we board our plane. Here is what we are doing in our final week in Canada.

Prepare an Important Document Folder

Perhaps obviously, you need to take important paper work with you to your new home. We are taking essential paperwork in our carry-on luggage.  That means our passports, International Driver’s Licenses, my Hungarian Residency Card, our Hungarian Marriage Certificate and our credit/debit cards.

In additional to these hard copy documents, I have scanned and uploaded all of the above along with MANY others to a secure cloud-based server that both my husband and I have access to.  You can use something like LassPast or even Dropbox, but I do recommend you scan important documents and keep copies somewhere in case of physical loss.

International Shipment Pick up

As mentioned in this post, we are using Move One to send our goods via sea shipping container to Budapest. Brytor is the company they partner with here in Toronto, so it was with them we met with to pack and load our goods directly from our storage locker. Unfortunately, this happened during a sunny but unexpectedly cold day. It was  -10 degrees celsius and absolutely frigid during packing. However, this made for fast work and our things are now safe and secure for international transit.

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Our worldly goods neatly stacked up and ready to be packed and loaded into a shipping container

Government Services

In this final week, we visited our local “Service Ontario” office to let them know we are leaving the country and that we need to suspend our OHIP health care services.  We informed them of our intent to take a two-year absence from our services. A quick and easy process (if you don’t count the long wait time in line).

Doctor’s Appointments

Andrew and I, along with our dog, all have our final doctor’s visit during this time.  For the humans, we are topping up on some prescription medication that may be harder to get in Hungary (that fact is, we don’t really know but we are hedging our bets).  For our dog, Lucy, this vet visit is essential for her being allowed into the European Union.  You can read all about that process here.

Sell Remaining Goods

Unbelievably, we STILL have stuff left to sell. By now, my husband and I are getting REALLY sick of Kijiji.  I mean, its been fabulous, we’ve sold tons of goods over the last few months, but the amount of people that respond to ads simply to express their dislike of the item/price/colour/whatever is truly bizarre and a huge time waster. Luckily, we were able to sell most items quickly and easily.  Our cars are both sold now, so its just some miscellaneous electronics left. The items we don’t sell will be donated or given to my sister to sell in our absence.  Thanks sis!

Pack our Bags

We are moving with seven suitcases.  Yes, you read that right.  Seven.  For those of you that know us well, you know that Andrew and I only ever take carry-on luggage when travelling.  No matter how far – or for how long.  So taking seven suitcases on a plane is completely contrary to our normal travel style.

Dog in Suitcase

Lucy sitting our suitcase “helping” me pack

We have three large suitcases and two medium suitcases that we will be checking in.  We also have two carry-on suitcases we are taking on board the plane with us.  These have our important documents, computers, cameras, medications, jewelry, etc.

While this many suitcases isn’t normal for us, it was considerably less expensive to come with us on the plane that add to our overseas shipment.  These bags contain everything we need to live and work for 8 winter weeks until our shipment arrives.

Saying Goodbye

By now, we have said good bye to the majority of our friends and family.  We had lunch with my husband’s brother and his wife yesterday and we will have a final dinner with the rest of our family on Saturday.  I predict the definite need for Kleenex.

However, unlike when my husband moved from England in 1988… Social media, FaceTime, Skype, YouTube and more will help us stay connected each and every day.



Moving Abroad

5 Tips for Moving with a Pet from Canada to Europe

October 24, 2017
Pet Relocation

As we get closer to the “big move”, we find ourselves making our final visits to doctors and dentists. Moving with a pet from Canada to Europe is not difficult  – but paperwork, bureaucracy and patience is required. Our 8 year old dog, Lucy, is no exception. In fact, for Lucy, this final vet visit is an essential part of her travel and immigration requirements for her new life in Budapest, Hungary.

Moving with a pet

Lucy hanging out at a local park in Toronto.

Lucy needs to visit her veterinarian and get a “Veterinary Certificate” (clean bill of health) within 10 days of travel. We then take that certificate the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and get it endorsed by a CFIA vet before we fly.

Top 5 Tips for Moving with a Pet:

  1. Make sure your vet has the correct form for European travel and has done it before. You need to complete this for your port of entry into Europe (in our case, The Netherlands) NOT for the final destination (in our case, Hungary). This is especially relevant as we almost messed up on this thanks to bad information we received.
  2. Note that you must personally accompany your dog while moving – at least within 5 days. Dogs can travel in-cabin or as cargo.  Lucy is small enough to come in-cabin with us.
  3. If your dog comes in-cabin, it will count as your carry-on luggage – VERY FRUSTRATING. Not only do you miss out on being able to take a bag, but you have to pay $125 (may vary) for the privilege of having your pet on board. This is standard for Economy or Economy Premium classes – I’m not sure about the fancy folks in higher classes.
  4. Identification is mandatory for the European Union. Your pet needs to be identified with a microchip (or in some cases a clearly readable tattoo is acceptable). Be prepared for them to scan your dog to ensure your paperwork and pet match up.
  5. And finally, know that a rabies vaccination is required for entry of pet animals to ALL EU countries. This needs to been done AFTER your pet receives their microchip. An essential part for any pet’s relocation.

Bonus Tip: Make sure you fully understand your airlines regulations.  In our case, we booked our tickets FIRST with KLM and then waited about 5 days to find out if there was room for our dog to accompany us on the plane.  Airlines have limits to how many pets can be aboard any given flight. This may effect moving with your pet, so make sure to check before you arrive at the airport to board your flight!

“Some of our greatest historical and artistic treasures we place with curators in museums; others we take for walks.”  -Roger A. Caras

Click this link for detailed information and CFIA paperwork for entry of pets to the European Union (EU).

Furthermore, we use a carrier like this one. We use it successfully on WestJet, Air Canada and KLM for international travel – no problems at all. However, please check with your airline for specific recommendations.

Moving Abroad

Now Boarding: Moving Midlife to Budapest, Hungary

October 18, 2017
Moving Abroad to Budapest

Welcome to our blog all about our experiences moving to – and living in – Budapest, Hungary. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about this move abroad… so here are some answers:

Why did we choose to move from Canada? Well, in very simple terms, we wanted to share the experience of living abroad while we are both still young enough and healthy enough to truly enjoy it. We didn’t want to wait another 20 years until retirement – a lot can happen in that time.

Why did we chose Hungary? We chose Hungary as our destination because I am a dual Canadian-Hungarian citizen. And because my husband is British, we can easily live and work in anywhere in the European Union. In my husband’s case, he can do this before “Brexit” occurs and can remain even afterwards as the spouse of a Hungarian citizen.

Why Budapest? This is the easiest question to answer. We both firmly believe that Budapest is the most beautiful city in Europe. It offers a wide variety of incredible architecture, music, nightlife, food, wine, history, weather and a beautiful landscape that we love.

Danube Drinks

Our favourite place for a drink beside the Danube.

We are also seeking a simpler, slower life then we had in Canada and we look forward to reconnecting with my Hungarian relatives and family history. While we will continue to work hard, we want to live a life where personal relationships are more important than material possessions. We are looking forward to “starting over again” and trying something new.

What about our families? This is the toughest part. Leaving our family in Canada. But with today’s technology, we know that each and every one of them is only a click, swipe or phone call away. Furthermore, first visits are already scheduled on the calendar. 🙂

Are we taking our dog? Absolutely. Lucy will be making the journey with us from the very first day as we travel via Amsterdam to get to Budapest. For the details on how we did this, please read our post: 5 Tips to Moving to with a Pet.

When do we arrive in Budapest? This first post was written while still in Canada.  We arrive in Budapest at the end of November 2017 and are looking forward to the Budapest Christmas Markets.

Do we have somewhere to live?  Yes and no.  We have secured a fabulous, classical, one-bedroom apartment for short-term rental through HomeAway until the beginning of January. Its right near the Central Market Hall (Nagy Vásárcsarnok) and we are very familiar with the location. Once we arrive, we will look for long-term accommodations using the services of InterRelocation.

Budapest Central Market Hall.

Spices for sale in the Budapest Central Market Hall.

Will we eat Kocsonya (ko-choan-yuh)? Absolutely not! (Google it yourselves)

Why is this blog called “44 Letters”? Because there are 44 letters in the Hungarian alphabet. Doesn’t learning Hungarian sound scary and confusing? Well that’s because it is. Much like this move to Budapest!

What can you expect from this blog? Lots of stories, photos and videos about moving abroad, our daily life, our favourite places in Budapest to eat, drink, dance, enjoy and more!  We’ll even include stories from our travel experiences throughout Hungary and Europe. We’re not 20, you likely won’t see a photo of me in a bikini – but we are not retired and we are ready for this adventure.  This is our Midlife in Budapest.