To the category of Life's Perfectly Avoidable Traumas, I must add the following: Driving To Pick Up Your Friend at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
1. Rental cars, in Paris, should be safely garaged or left at the former city gates. Under no circumstances should they be operated.
2. When you attempt such a maneouvre, do not discount the possibility that Parisian cab drivers may choose that precise moment to stage a strike. Not one of those strikes where they don't show up to work, but a strike where they park their cabs in the middle of the freeway, deliberately snarling all traffic to and from the airport.
3. Charles de Gaulle Airport shows signs of intelligent design -- by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It's '60s futurism run amok: a maze of interlocking rings and flyover ramps twisting through the darkest corners of the French engineering mind, an architect's triumpantly unsupported roof that collapses soon after the ribbon is cut.
Avoidable, because there is a reliable train system that invariably (assuming the train drivers are not on strike) gets you from the center of Paris to the airport in 30 minutes. If you have the sense to take it.
If you don't, you just may find yourself driving in reverse for half a kilometer in the middle of the A1 Autoroute, along with a few dozen other cars, trying to avoid the latest bouchon.
All of which is a long way of saying that we picked up our friend Coventry at the airport and welcomed her in style for her first visit to the City of Lights. The journeys to and fro were not uneventful, but in the end we succeeded in delivering her to the front door of Notre Dame. The rest was up to her.