The Frankfurt Book Fair is over, but if you're looking for something to do before heading home, or want to think about making plans for next year, I have some suggestions.
Zara Home. I live in New York, where every luxury and down market store is available--with the exception of Zara Home. I found one in Frankfurt in Rathenauplasse, the main pedestrian shopping area near the Old Opera, and only a short walk from the Book Fair convention center. My friends and I went in and coveted the faux fur blankets, cozy bedding, soft flannel PJs, and charming Christmas decorations. If you're a Zara fan, it's worth a special trip.
Tiger Palace Cabaret. One night, we went to the Parisian style restaurant in the Tiger Palace's brick bunker-like basement, and then up to the ground floor theater for a variety show featuring quirky, funny and terrifying acts from all over the world. My faves: The Grynchenko Brothers acrobatics from Kiev (above), Domitil Aillot, a super sexy pole dancer (male) from Paris, and Duo Giurintano, a couple of roller-skating dare devils from Italy. Thrills and chills, even better with many Campari and sodas.
Rheingau. The Rheingau, a celebrated wine region in Hesse along the Rhine river, is only a twenty-five minute drive on the autoban from Frankfurt. The Riesling Route winds through quaint medieval villages between the vineyards. Americans have the misconception that Rieslings are sweet. The German palate prefers acidic wine, and make their varietals that way. We visited the 150-year-old Prince von Hessen vineyard (owned by the royal family of Hesse) in Johannisberg, and toured the caves. The bubbling of gas escaping from German and French oak barrels through glass tubes reminded me of Frankenstein's lab. Our guide called it "the sound of fermentation." I left with two bottles: the golden pink rose, and the award winning Winkeler Hasensprung.
Baiken. For dinner, we went to Baiken in Eltville am Rhein to sample the Domane Rauenthal wines, bask in the incredible views of vineyards as far as the eye can see (photo above), and enjoy the rustic cuisine in a farmhouse atmosphere. From the first bite--an amuse-bouche of green cabbage sauerkraut, discs of pork sausage and spaetzle--it was a heady dining experience. My main dish was curried sauerkraut with pork belly, plenty of crackling, and dumplings, aka comfort food heaven, perfect for the crisp fall evening with a savory Merlot.
Jimmy's Bar. We finished the night at Jimmy's Bar, right across from the convention center, in the five-star Grandhotel Hessischere Hof where we were staying. During the week, the American and British Book Fair goers crowded the underground piano bar, perhaps because it's one of the few places in Frankfurt where smoking is still permitted. The day after the fair, my friends and I scored leather seats at the curvy bar for cocktails while we listened to a Billy Joel clone play the classics.
Getting there. Lufthansa or Air Berlin? Earlier this year, I flew Lufthansa business class, and was a bit disappointed with the food and flatbed. For the price, it didn't seem worth it. I swore I'd never fly business again to Germany. Famous last words. This time, I tried Air Berlin to Frankfurt via Berlin. The transfer added a few hours to the trip, with layover and flight time. But Air Berlin was significantly cheaper than Lufthansa, and, in my opinion, had a superior seat (a massage function and a roomier flatbed with more privacy), better service (tastier food, nicer flight attendants) and amenities (super cute gift bag, huge TV, hot towels) that made me glad I didn't uphold my biz class ban.