When I lived in Los Angeles and worked as a freelance writer, one of my favourite afternoon breaks involved going to the local art house movie theatre for an escape. The Laemmle Theatre in Pasadena always featured a good mix of indie and foreign films, plus they’d turn a blind eye when I’d sneak in a cup of good coffee from the cafe at  Vroman’s Bookstore next door.

I typically chose European films for the ambiance. What is it about skirts fluttering against the tailwind of a Vespa that sparks a desire in every woman to live out her own Fellini-esque fantasy? For two hours I’d sit alone in the dark, quietly sipping coffee whilst absorbed in these fanciful flights of imagination.

I’d dream of one day visiting the seedy piano bar in The Beat That My Heart Skipped or the muted rouge-hued cafes in Amelie – with a dashing European suitor, of course. Like the young schoolgirl who spent her evenings envisaging a new life abroad whilst singing along to Sur les quais du vieux Paris in An Education, I too would aspire to one day turn my Francophile fantasies into reality.

Clare Imma

Fast-forward several years later and here I am living and working in Europe, though instead of strolling down the cobblestone streets of Paris with baguettes sticking out of my retro shopping basket I’m struggling to keep my umbrella from turning on itself as I push my body against the howling gales of Dublin. I don’t say that with any disrespect to this country that I’ve grown to love; but never during the dozen viewings of The Commitments or The Butcher Boy did I ever consider Ireland in same romantic realm as France or Italy.

How wrong I was; in my experience Dublin is one of the most romantic and sophisticated cities in Europe. Recently my husband and I took a day off and ventured out into the city centre mid-week. We started the day at IMMA and sauntered from room to room, relishing in the off-season quiet. We snuck in a quick coffee before hopping on the LUAS for a ramble around the shops in town and then ducked into Aobaba on Capel Street for a banh mi – the Vietnamese sandwich of my dreams which, until that moment, had eluded me since I landed in Dublin in 2010. It was delicious.


Next we meandered down Grafton Street and into Stephen’s Green to fawn over swans. Then it was back up for a browse at The Secret Book and Record Store and then another coffee, this time at the upstairs café of Tower Records, followed by an indie flick at Screen Cinema (Le Week-End , starring the incomparable Jim Broadbent and enchanting Lindsay Duncan). By the time the film was finished day had transitioned to night, the streets aglow with warm light emanating from every pub and restaurant window. We took it as a sign and cozied up to the bar at Bowe’s, where the drinks always come with a complimentary bowl of chips and sausages – a beautiful thing if you’re well on with pints. As we wanted to save room for dinner I gave ours to some lads who looked like they’d hunkered down for the night. They thanked us and we were off.

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We settled into a tiny booth at Pintxos, an intimate tapas restaurant in the heart of Temple Bar. Over the flickering light of a single candle we nibbled on blistered Padron peppers, crushed tomatoes with garlic on toasted bread and crispy patatas bravas and washed it all down with a crisp sauvignon blanc. When the plates were cleared, we got one more for the road and reminisced about the day.

And for a second, I was taken back to that theatre in Los Angeles, watching those films and dreaming of this very moment.