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From whiskey podcasts in Scotland to Thanksgiving in Italy

The opportunity to show some foreigners around Aberdeen (often referred to by me, myself, and I as the Paris of Scotland) finally presented itself when my family came to visit for the entirety of Thanksgiving week. From Saturday to Wednesday they got the full Scottish breakfast and then from Wednesday to Sunday we toured around Rome, Italy.

Saturday afternoon required, of course, a trip to Pittodrie Stadium to see the beloved and unbelievably frustrating Dons lose to Motherwell, 2-0, in frigid temperatures. The game was capped off by a postgame trip to the bathroom trough, where, before urinating, a mid-70s Aberdonian chose my (already urinating) dad to get very close to and to be the recipient of his postgame rant about how he “could pass better than that” and how he’s “quicker than those lazy bastards.” Death, taxes and uncomfortable levels of intimacy at the trough.

Griffin Stockford and his sister at the Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The next day we went to nearby Stonehaven, a lovely little coastal town that is only a 20-minute drive from Aberdeen. The town is home to Dunnottar Castle, which was built in the middle ages and was once captured by William Wallace. My favorite feature of the castle was the den where the Earl Marischal once kept his pet lion, which he of course had to get rid of due to the fact that its roaring was keeping the Countess awake — classic 14th century relationship problems.

We then continued to the Glenfiddich and Royal Lochnagar distilleries, which are increasingly toward the north of Scotland. The drive was scenic, at times mountainous, and rewarded by a few drams of Scotland’s finest. The poorly produced whiskey podcasts my dad was playing (and somehow found? I can’t imagine the whiskey podcasting industry is particularly active or sought after) during the car rides were a bit easier to take in with a few drams sitting in my tummy.

While Thanksgiving in Rome meant tortellini instead of turkey, and cannolis instead of cranberry sauce, the family dysfunction found a way to make the trip. Nevertheless, we saw a lot in three days — the Pantheon, the Coliseum and the Vatican, to name a few. You learn a little bit about Roman history in school, but being there and seeing the size and magnitude of the buildings, as you’re listening to a tour guide list unbelievable dates of when they were built, really puts it in perspective.

St. Peter’s Basilica, an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.

Although there are too many differences to count, one of the biggest differences we noticed between Scotland and Rome were the cab drivers. In Rome they just want to get you where you need to go. No questions asked, and they seem startled if you want to engage them. In Scotland, they’ll quiz you about everything from your middle name to your secret shame. Perhaps there is a bit of a language barrier, but the Roman cab drivers seemed to be all business whereas the Scots are quite the opposite.

Final exam preparation beckons, and so does a box of your finest wine — ahhhh the effects that Rome has on one’s sophistication levels. Until next time, Black Bears.

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