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Christmas goodies in Berlin, a designer tree in London, and new hotels

The Christmas tree at Claridge's in London.

Check out this tree
The venerable Claridge's hotel is a hangout of choice for London society, and for top designers. (Diane von Furstenberg has called it her favourite hotel.) So it's fitting that they've decorated for Christmas with help from a star of the fashion world. Last week, the hotel unveiled a tree designed by Dior's John Galliano: pale and faintly Gothic, decorated with snow leopards. www.claridges.co.uk

Christmas shopping in Berlin
The European tradition of Christmas markets is strongest in Germany, where hundreds of markets across the country sell gifts, handicrafts and sweet goods. In Berlin, the best fairs - like the one on the Sophienstrasse in hip Mitte - add original artwork and stylish clothing. The fairs are running now through Christmas or Boxing Day. www.germany-tourism.de/ENG/culture_and_events/christmas_markets.htm

A hotel of one's own
Today, many hoteliers are trying to give their properties the air of private homes. But few will chip in their own art by Dali and Rauschenberg, or source all the furniture themselves. At the new Petit Ermitage in West Hollywood (with rooms from $185), that's just what owner Stefan Ashkenazy did. The hotel features an appropriately eccentric look: ornate "bohemian," with tiles from Ecuador, Turkish carpets and a (working) gramophone. Apparently, style mavens are impressed: Vogue reported that Sienna Miller and Penelope Cruz have been spotted at the private rooftop garden. www.petitermitage.com

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Green on the Thames
Few hotels are genuinely green (all those dirty towels and hot showers are not eco-friendly). So credit the developers of the five-star Hotel Rafayel, which opened last week on London's South Bank. They plan to cut the average guest's carbon footprint by about 20 per cent. And the hotel's not bad-looking, either. www.hotelrafayel.com

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