Eurotrain tickets to Paris offer a high-speed Joyeux Noel

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The Independent Online
IS IT the trainspotters' revenge? Two tickets for Eurostar's Channel Tunnel train from London to Paris are seen by thousands of people as this year's most desirable Christmas present.

Last week Eurostar laid on extra trains on Fridays and Sundays to accommodate people booking a weekend of Parisian shopping and sightseeing over the holiday.

Father Christmas has been brought in to send off passengers at Waterloo, and Eurostar has instructed chefs to prepare a "festive menu" of turkey and Christmas pudding for revellers. But Christmas decorations have been banned from the Channel Tunnel trainbecause safety inspectors consider them a fire hazard. There are various fares, but buying a pair of on-the-day second-class returns tomorrow would cost you £310.

Novelty holidays, weekend breaks and health and beauty tokens are vying with traditional gifts, such as books and clothes, as imaginative and coveted Christmas gifts.this year, and it helps if you've won a decent prize in the National Lottery.

Swimming with a school of wild dolphins in the Bahamas, courtesy of Discover the World holidays, has proved a favourite with animal lovers and those seeking spiritual calm. Others, perhaps put off by the £1,529 price tag for the nine-day trip, are booking a weekend in Gibraltar watching dolphins at £313.

Women after an unusual gift for not-quite-grown-up partners can choose between a motorbike alarm clock which revs its engine, flashes its lights and grunts "let's go" (£19.99 at Boots), or a supersonic flight with the Russian airforce in a Mig 29 fighter. Hotel bills and two hours' flight preparation are included in the £3,500 package, as - ominously - is "a room for rest and medical help". A day "flying" Concorde in the British Aerospace flight simulator - £675 - is safer.

Concorde's own supersonic flights to Lapland - where passengers are greeted by Father Christmas - are fully booked, as is a New Year's flight on Concorde to Vienna's Imperial Ball at the Hofsburg Palace. But there are still places on Concorde's lunchtimeflights around the Bay of Biscay - at £515.

For the sporting type who has everything - including a healthy bank balance - Harvey Nichols is selling a solid silver tennis ball holder. "It's an exact replica of the cardboard one. It costs £3,500," said a spokesman.

Even with the interest-rate rise, there are people willing to splash out. The Lanesborough Hotel, London says its night for two with butler, chauffeur, champagne and personal business card (£199.50) has gone down well with romantic souls.

No one has yet invested £19,000 in the New Year's party for ten which includes ice-skating and mulled wine at Moyns Park, the home of Lord Ivar Mountbatten. Tickets for a rival New Year's bash aboard the Orient Express - in Kent - will be poking out of other well-heeled Christmas stockings.

Among stay-at-home types, a home cinema with a 50in screen and Dolby surround sound has proved a winner.

Another hi-tech favourite is a car tracker - a device which allows cars to be traced if stolen. Both the AA (which sells its version at £199- £399) and Securicor, whose Trackback costs £633, say that sales have soared.

Fitness and pampering are especially in vogue this year. Personal Trainers - who can provide"lifestyle" and fitness sessions at the client's home for between £150-£400 - say that their services have been widely enlisted. All registered trainers are qualified in resuscitation