Instead of eating a baguette on the sidewalk under the Eiffel Tower, our derriéres found themselves ensconced on our sofa for our 9th wedding anniversary. Plans for the 9th of March heading nowhere fast due to lack of funds. A couple of weeks later though, a work commitment gives us a chance to get creative. There was a delivery from Holland to Belgium and we decide to carry on driving …

We find a reasonably priced hotel on Rue Cardinet (in northern Paris) that has its own parking garage, so we can stow our car and not worry about parking fines or that evil magic – disappearing cars. This very weekend, France is battling England for the 6 Nations rugby final – at the magnificent Stade de France. Our search for tickets is horrifying! Normally priced from EUR 15,00 per person – they’re on offer now between 200 and 300 GBP!! Unfortunately, our budget doesn’t oblige this excess – much as we’d like to watch the game from the sideline. At least we glimpsed the stadium on the way in!

The hotel receptionist kindly marks the courtesy map with bus routes and metro stations, but our goal for the weekend is to absorb as much of the Parisian atmosphere as is humanly possible. We opt for the “leg wagon”.

Map in hand, we traipse to Arc de Triomphe, which looks rather skinny – but after crossing under the road, we pop up at the ‘normal’ view. What a beautiful monument! The view makes the 285 stairs oh-so-worth-it! It’s the weirdest feeling ever, homely and familiar – like visiting a place I once lived in? The brooding sky parts to let the sun’s rays turn pink and fuzzy over streets that veer out like octopus tentacles.

The toy cars are hooting below; by some miracle, not causing huge pileups. Marcel figures out that you give way to the right. Absolute chaos from our perspective, but somehow it works! We watch a bridal couple being photographed. Her strapless dress must be cold! Brrr – what we all do for our big day!

It’s been a long day (we left at 8.00 am and the sun is fading), so we search for a pub that’s showing the game. We even find one selling Kilkenny (what a BONUS!) and settle in for the evening. In the first 30 years of my life, rugby was one of those “silly boy’s games”. I only watched the ‘big’ matches with the ’95 world cup topping the bill. I couldn’t stand the violence and macho behaviour. None of it made any sense. Fortunately, things have changed. Not the game. Me. I’ve learned more about our physical abilities and appreciate what the human body can take. Rugby isn’t some play-play sport where you get an Oscar for mimicking an injury. It’s full contact. The tackles are real. The scrums are tough. It’s the epitome of being a man. Respect. And kudos to Marcel for his endless patience in explaining those complicated rules.

Two brave souls in the pub support England in a French stronghold. Nope, not us! France is our second team! (watching them play the Boks isn’t fun). We’re loving this match. The French commentary adds authenticity as well as looking out the window seeing the same rain that’s pelting the players. 12-10 to Les Coqs. Félicitations! A Grand Slam win, and they take the VI Nation trophy.

Mother Nature is very kind. It stops raining long enough for us to walk back, and enjoy a nightcap in the open windows of our hotel room. Watching Paris fall asleep with occasional strobes of lightning and thunder. The bed sleeps well. We enjoy the usual croissant and coffee breakfast and head out towards Sacre Coeur.

Walking allows you to stop at will to take yet another pic of the gorgeous tan buildings and their intricate noir balconies. We wander through the back streets of Montmartre. French locals reading Sunday papers or buying the freshest cockles and clams. We find the Moulin Rouge and think, “next time …”. Tourist masses bus it up the hill.

Some nostalgic black and white images and a soundtrack to match…

Hawkers pushing their tack are vying for attention, but the view is lovely and the cathedral impressive. A harpist sets the mood outside. We feel voyeuristic “doing a circuit” inside during mass. The chanting is lovely. We respectfully depart and make our way down the hill. A ‘skedonk’ (beat-up old car) parks next to an Aston convertible. In non-tourist Paris, Sunday is quiet… The map suggests one straight stripe to the Louvre.

Some 8 years ago we had a small hour to visit the Louvre. Granted, we saw the mystique of Mona Lisa’s smile, but you don’t do any of it (or yourself) any justice. We agree to skip it and rather come back to do the enormous museum at leisure. For this visit, we have another idea. We got to see Rodin. My favourite sculptor during art class at school. Also known as the chap behind the Thinker. And the Kiss. And the Gates of Hell … It’s one thing seeing the Thinker on postcards, posters and small statues, but to see the original, as Rodin intended it, brings tears to my eyes. I’m overwhelmed.

The dynamic movement in his sculptures has always intrigued me, just as the oversized hands and feet and muscular backs. We also discover the Waltz, sculpted by Camille Claudel. Spending the afternoon in the gardens and museum, Marcel quietly reads to me the history of each piece. I notice the odd visitor leaning in to hear the explanation.

Not wanting to miss our 18:30 date, we find our way to the Eiffel Tower. With no pub where we could sit to enjoy a beer, we buy two at the vendor selling chocolate-and-banana crepes and sit on the concrete banks of the Seine. Now that’s not a view you see every day. The “Teiffel” (in Vix-speak) towering above us, swarmed by a multitude of multilingual ants.

After a day and-then-some of serious walking, my hips are running on empty. They’re aching beyond comprehension. Marcel looks disappointed as I head for the lift. We reach the second “floor” and take in the view. BEA-U-TI-FUL! After the setting sun, they turn on the lights … Look, I’m all for sparkly stuff – but do they really need to turn this exquisite piece of engineering into a flashy decoration to match some tacky momento? Marcel disagrees and thinks it quite funky. C’est la vie!

I manage the stairs at Cité de L´architecture and we find the next bus to the Arc de Triomphe. We contemplate the day with another Irish beer and catch another bus back to the hotel and fall into blissful sleep.

Our weekend break feels like a week… It doesn’t cease to impress me. Our desire to know all-of-who-we-are demands much time and effort, and it’s not always easy to understand or to follow. It’s really special that we’re sharing and delving into each other’s passions and interests.

Relationships are sometimes a balancing act … Sure, I’ll go to the ballet with you, will you join me at the pool table? How about visiting Keukenhof, and we’ll watch the Grand Prix when we get back? I didn’t enjoy rugby, but because it’s important to Marcel, I’ve learned to understand the game. I’m starting to understand a ruck and the subtle intricacy of the scrum.

And ‘cos it’s important to me, Marcel’s been open to widening his knowledge of art, and after today, has a fair understanding of Rodin and his sculptures! I mean, these things are poles apart and this is something you’d not normally do … combining rugby and Rodin?!? Who knew Paris could offer up something so diverse?