Jim Bittermann is CNN’s Senior International Correspondent based in Paris. He joined CNN in 1996 and has covered stories including the Notre Dame fire, French Yellow Vest Movement, Paris terrorist attacks of 2015, D-Day anniversaries, and Princess Diana’s death. His long form projects include “Tale of Two Cities (Washington DC and Paris)” and “‘Round the World on Hot Air: The First Global Balloon Trip.” Bittermann is also an Emeritus Professor at The American University of Paris.
Favorite place to visit in France, and why?
Absolutely anywhere, but I guess where I happily spend the most time is my “second home” in Gilles at the edge of the Eure & Loir, the Eure and the Yvelines. The location is perfectly bucolic without being isolated.
Favorite place to visit in America, and why?
My home town Chicago is the best for part of the year. Otherwise the beaches around Los Angeles or Tampa. I guess weather must be the reason!
What do you think the French can learn from Americans?
How to cut through bureaucracy and be more direct.
What do you think Americans can learn from the French?
How to educate children.
Favorite French film?
“Un Homme et Une Femme” (Am I dating myself? If so perhaps “Amelie.”)
Favorite American film?
“Moulin Rouge” (I know, it’s directed by Baz Luhrman, an Aussie). Like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the film marks out so many new visual pathways it still sticks in my mind.
Favorite French actor or actress?
Catherine Deneuve/Anouk Aimee
Favorite American actor or actress?
Merryl Streep/Jane Fonda….you’ll notice all four in Nos. 7 & 8 are ageless!
Most important French figure in history and why?
Lafayette because of his mentoring of Americans. Charles DeGaulle because he capitalized on the French capacity to punch above their weight.
Most influential American figure and why?
Franklin Roosevelt because he saw the need for social security and any number of other social programs. Barack Obama because he ushered in a new epoch to America.
What is your favorite American luxury?
Americans don’t see it as a luxury, but it sure is nice to have plenty of parking spaces around stores, restaurants, malls, etc.
What is your favorite French extravagance?
Champagne, Buches de Noel, cocktail parties
Favorite American food?
Favorite French food?
Fresh oysters, foie gras
The quality you most admire about the French and Americans?
Both have world visions and are engaged outside their borders. Both have a spirit of adventure and are willing to take a chance.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
That would have to be my bi-lingual, bi-cultural doctor-daughter Tess.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up tomorrow morning with the ability to sit down at a piano and play just about anything you wanted to?
Name three people, dead or alive, who you would most like to have dinner with?
Barack Obama for political analysis, Napoleon to understand the French, David Letterman or Steve Martin for fun.
Relative to your field of study, what is the most important tradition to keep alive?
Mentoring. I learned far more from my colleagues than in any classroom, and I hope I have been able to pass it along to a few of the younger people I have met along the line.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A sunny day at the pool, a floating raft, a crossword puzzle or book and a glass of wine.