Most people in Spain don’t have to work on Friday afternoons. It was one of the smartest moves Spanish company owners could have made because they recognized that the country starts to gear up for the weekend after work on Thursday. This tradition started off at universities around the country when students would go to bars after class on Thursday and carry on until the bars closed at 3 am or so. When I was in school, it was TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday). Here, it’s TGIT. Needless to say, class attendance on Friday is way down.
This tradition is no doubt bad for the Spanish economy but clearly good for workers. Spain’s economy is in such bad shape that people can’t wait to take their minds off the sorry state of affairs here.
Because of free Friday afternoons, in Rioja, people either get a few hours’ head start to their vacation homes in the pueblo or have a drink with their friends before lunch. This custom, called el aperitivo or el vermú, often evolves (or degenerates, depending on the intensity of the event) into a vermú torero or bullfight drink, because just like a bullfight, you know when it’s going to start, but not when it’s going to end. You just get wrapped up in having a few glasses of beer or wine with your friends starting at 1:30 or 2 pm and before you know it, it’s 6 o’clock, just the time for a gin and tonic.
People who just have their regular glass of wine or two before lunch will often return to the same bar for a cup of coffee or a drink and a game of mus (more about this unique Spanish card game in a future post) to discover that some of the friends they said goodbye to several hours earlier are still standing at the bar engaged in telling jokes or talking about politics in a loud voice.
Bars here make it easy to carry on like this because they offer tapas such as Spanish omelette, deep-fried calamari, potato chips, peanuts, and olives to munch on.
My wife and I usually leave for our summer house on Friday afternoon, but once in a while we will enjoy a vermú torero at the bar conveniently located next door to our apartment building. The combination of the upcoming weekend, not having to go back to work, lively conversation and the liberal consumption of alcoholic beverages makes the vermú torero a great way to spend Friday afternoon.