Friday, September 20, 2013

The View from the Top



What do rooftop bars and searching for happiness have in common? Read on...or skip to the end if you just want to know where to drink with the best views : )

Have you ever had a moment in a conversation with a friend that resulted in you seeing things a bit more clearly, maybe for the first time ever identifying a pattern in your life, emerging like a Phoenix from the flames? I most definitely have. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to help me pull the pieces together, from which I can then fine tune the focus, make things sharper, brighter, and abundantly more real. Connections.

I recently read an article called "The Habits of Extremely Happy People" (definitely recommend) and I'll confess that I am a lot surprised that I seem to be doing or living all of the premises in the article. Granted, a few of them are areas where I try and need practice, but some were among the core values that I live by. Why did this surprise me? Mostly because I don't tend to self-identify as an extremely happy person on the whole - I think I take myself way too seriously at times, and I think, in searching for happiness (as I feel like maybe we all are?) I sometimes skip over the lighter side of life. Maybe I'm just quibbling over words, but if I am, then the key connector word here for me, I think, is searching. 

So what does one have to do with the other? Stay with me, here.  : )

In that aforementioned conversation with a friend, we were discussing traveling, which you might notice I do a bit of. If you've read anything I've revealed about myself, you'll know that when I travel I seek out fabulous food, sophisticated cocktails or fine wine, and a view. I'll walk a mile to find the perfect spot to sit and ponder, to eat my lunch, to check my email, to take a photo - you'll almost always find me near the water, near the edge, in a spot of sunshine, hair catching the breeze. But one thing I didn't notice, until this conversation, was that I always seem to find myself at a rooftop bar. Talk about an epiphany. I suddenly saw the pattern. And no, the pattern isn't the drinking! It's that in every city I've visited, in every city where I've transitioned from tourist to local, I've unknowingly gravitated towards the highest point (if there was one) - because, where better to see the world unfold, to embrace the elements, to enjoy my drink, to photograph, and to think deep (or sometimes not so deep) thoughts?

My first reaction was lighthearted- "how cool! I think I'll write a blog post about the rooftop bars I've frequented and loved!" but then I started thinking how ironic...how interesting...how revealing that my personality unwittingly wills me to find the uppermost point from which to see the world, the highest level, the place where the elevator stops and the stairs discontinue their climb. And I started wondering if that had anything to do with who I am as a person, and perhaps even with why, despite Huff Post telling me that I am practicing the habits of being extremely happy, that I don't fully connect to the concept. Maybe happiness eludes me because I've always looked, am always looking, for that next place to land, for that next level up, to go higher, farther, dream bigger, seek more. I might tag myself as happier if I could content myself with the here and now, be still, stay put, stop looking!

And yet even now, even as I type those words, I strain against them. No. No, I don't think so. It's not in my nature to be still, to stop attempting to grow and learn and change for what I see as the better. Because that's the more positive spin. It's not that I can't be satisfied, it's that I don't want to be! I find more joy in discovering what's over the next mountain than I do in sitting in the shade of the tree at the base.

Conclusion - don't fight who you are. And I won't. Instead, I'm going to embrace it for what it is, a driving force inside me, a force that I believe helps me to realize my dreams and perhaps helps others by motivating them to do the same. Of course I recognize that always seeking can perhaps lead to never being truly happy. I'm aware there's a precarious balance between moving forward and finding the edge only to fall off. So, yes, I'll keep looking for my rooftop bar but, perhaps the next time I find it, rather than wondering how it compares to the previous, or how it might look against the next, I'll just sit back for a spell, sip my drink, and be thankful for the view from the top.

The Lighter Side: Rooftop Bars I've Known and Loved


Las Vegas, NV: The Foundation Room (Mandalay Bay)
This is probably the highest rooftop bar I've ever been on that was also open air. The view from here, out across the glitz and glamour of The Strip, is most stunning and the night club atmosphere thumping behind you makes it that much more surreal. Just don't fall off! There's a wicked breeze up here that causes even the bravest to step back a bit from the ledge. Just in case.

002 rooftop bars {photography by jacquelynn buck}


Valdosta GA (yes, really): Steel Magnolia Restaurant This was one of my favorite spots. The rooftop is 4 stories at best, but it has a great dusk view, delicious drinking options, and is modern yet southern. The food is pretty much hit or miss for me, but I quickly established my go-to items and the deviled eggs were hands down the best I've ever had. Just don't try to walk in heels across their unusual paving stones that have AstroTurf separating the squares from one another. Talk about a tripping hazard ; ) Yes, I know from experience.


004 rooftop bars {photography by jacquelynn buck}


Charleston, SC: The Pavilion Bar
One of my most-frequented locations, this has become my first stop in Charleston on every visit. It's the perfect spot to drink, have a quick bite, and breathe in the salty humid air blowing off the water and across the centuries old structures below. Downsides, it's a bit pricey, even for Charleston, and while I totally get that it's for safety, and for wind resistance, I don't love that there are plastic walls up around the periphery. But I'll live with it ; )


003 rooftop bars {photography by jacquelynn buck}



Albuquerque, NM: Apothecary Lounge
This one takes the cake for ambiance. Large, cushy chairs or high tops are scattered about, the music is modern and pumping and a smidge too loud for conversation (which can be a good or bad thing), and the view is phenomenal - especially as night falls over the city. The drinks were interesting though the service was a bit lacking - ended up being self service order at the bar because they were so busy. But again, worth it. And bonus, it's attached to a haunted hotel. Spirits and spirits. You can't beat that!

001 rooftop bars {photography by jacquelynn buck}



Savannah, GA: Rocks on the Roof
This is my newest discovery and one that I am really thrilled with. The open-air layout and modern fixtures with a slight lean towards beachy make it totally Savannah, but totally lovely. Service was excellent. Food was so-so. Shrimp on the Bloody Mary with the horseradish-infused vodka was a major plus. View was unstoppable.

005 rooftop bars {photography by jacquelynn buck}



Houston, TX: Proof
I'll confess that I'm digging into the archives for this one, visited when I was in my mid-twenties. It was just right for where I was and what I was looking for - drinks, dancing and crowds. Definitely not for the faint of heart looking for quiet conversation!

San Diego, CA: Glass Door and Top of the Hyatt
I've had the privilege of trying two rooftop bars in sunny San Diego - one wasn't open air (Hyatt) but the atmosphere were subdued and romantic, making the view obsolete if you're there for a quiet night on the town, and the Glass Door had a fabulous water view and turned into a night club at midnight, making the layout a bit difficult to manage but still fabulous in the moment. I'm still on the prowl for a better one, and might check out a few on this list on my next visit

Allentown, PA: Level 3
This one is new to me, even though I grew up in the local area. It's got some pretty fantastic furniture, great music, and gets super busy. Last time I was there the patrons were dancing on tables because there really isn't much of a dance floor, but it was still a fabulous time!

Walt Disney World: The California Grill
By far, the best kept secret in WDW dining, this place has it all - amazing (and I do mean amazing) food, fabulous drinks and wine list, and the very unique feature of being the only place you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from above, way above, thanks to it's position overlooking Cinderella's Castle. This is a must-see for anyone who wishes to experience the magic of the moment without the throngs of tired, crying children and parents. ; )

Salzburg: The Demel
This little gem is now closed, but it was a delightful confectioner with an outdoor rooftop view of the platz below. Bonus, it was chilly in November and each table had blankets draped on the chairs to keep you toasty warm : ) Wine AND dessert - who could ask for anything more? They still have a location  in Vienna, though, if you're wanting to try the treats, sans the rooftop bar.