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New Year's on Kailua Beach

by Laura Johnson
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honolulu-hawaii.jpgNew Year's eve has got to be the most over-rated holiday of the year. I'm all about celebrating any holiday, even the ones I have never heard of but I always dread New Year's eve. Something about being forced to stay up late, wearing a sparkly, tacky hat and tooting a horn, trying to be cheerful and chatty when I am actually dog tired from the Christmas holidays. Otherwise the option is to stay home and feel depressed that everyone else is out having a good time except for me.

I discovered several years ago that the answer to all of my New Year's eve trauma was to go to work. Since I work for a major airline and the 'Senior Mamas" (our semi-affectionate term for the stews who have been flying for 35+ years) don't want to work on any holiday, I can pretty much pick up any trip I want. I debated on a 5 day trip to Prague or Stockholm but decided it was too cold. I looked at long layovers in Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires but decided I wasn't in the mood to always be looking over my shoulder. Bingo, 50 hours in Honolulu popped up on my computer and I took it immediately.

honolulu-hawaii.jpgNew Year's eve has got to be the most over-rated holiday of the year. I'm all about celebrating any holiday, even the ones I have never heard of but I always dread New Year's eve. Something about being forced to stay up late, wearing a sparkly, tacky hat and tooting a horn, trying to be cheerful and chatty when I am actually dog tired from the Christmas holidays. Otherwise the option is to stay home and feel depressed that everyone else is out having a good time except for me.

I discovered several years ago that the answer to all of my New Year's eve trauma was to go to work. Since I work for a major airline and the 'Senior Mamas" (our semi-affectionate term for the stews who have been flying for 35+ years) don't want to work on any holiday, I can pretty much pick up any trip I want. I debated on a 5 day trip to Prague or Stockholm but decided it was too cold. I looked at long layovers in Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires but decided I wasn't in the mood to always be looking over my shoulder. Bingo, 50 hours in Honolulu popped up on my computer and I took it immediately.

I like Honolulu but it is a bit too commercialized for me. There are so many high-rises, that unless you have an ocean view room with a balcony, you almost forget there is a beach. I decided to rent a car and drive up to the North Shore, the 'surfing capital of the world.' Two of my fellow crewmates had the same idea so we met downstairs in the early morning hours of New Year's eve and off we went. We rented a convertible and decided that I would be the driver, Rob would sit up front with me and navigate, using the detailed map I bought. Marilyn was perfectly happy, sitting in the back with her fancy camera, being our official photographer.

losthawaii.jpgThe Kamehameha Hwy would take us straight to the North Shore, through the mountains (that look more like volcanoes) and the Dole pineapple fields. I asked the local Hawaiian girl at the car rental place what her favorite restaurant was on the shore and she immediately said Giovanni's. She said they supply all of the rental cars to the people on the tv show "Lost" and whenever they deliver a car up there, they always eat at Giovanni's. I had never heard of it and had done some research on the restaurants up there and also been there several times. I had my heart set on Ola at the Turtle Bay hotel, (which I later read that Sean Penn dined there that day) but we decided to try Giovanni's.

It was the most beautiful day. It had rained during the night so everything was lush, the air smelled so fresh and it was misty and magical. It even rained on us a few times but we unanimously voted to leave the top down as we didn't want to miss anything. It never rained more than a few minutes and then the sun would appear. I dropped Rob and Marilyn off at Sunset beach while I decided to check out the shops at the North Shore marketplace. There were cute shops, a nice bookstore with local books and crafts, a general store with everything Hawaiian, a great surf shop where I bought a nice hoodie sweatshirt. The main attraction seemed to be the little place where they sold shaved ice. There was a line out the door, wrapped halfway around the building.

I left Rob and Marilyn with the promise to pick them up 2 hours later at a bus stop near the beach. I was happy to see them and knew they must be as hungry as I was. Rob had gone snorkeling and met some folks with binoculars and got to see the Humpback whales that migrate to the area this time of year. Marilyn said she sat in her chair, reading a book and never moved. We sort of looked at ourselves, a combination of wet and windblown and hoped we were presentable enough to have lunch at Giovanni's, as we knew nothing about it except it was a local seafood restaurant in the village of Kahuku.

giovannistruck.jpgWe initially drove right byy it and then realized the old truck we had just passed said Giovanni's. Maybe the restaurant was on the dirt road behind the truck. We turned around and upon further inspection we realized the truck was the restaurant. There were 2 trucks, parked in a L-shape, with picnic tables in between, and one had the shrimp and the other had smoothies made from local fresh fruit.

I have to say we were hesitant to park the car, in the huge mud puddle of a parking lot, and get out. It's not what we had in mind but when Marilyn saw a sign that said "restrooms," she decided we would park the car. Rob and Marilyn took the trek down the muddy dirt road to the restroom, which turned out to be one step above an outhouse.

There were 4 things on the menu – shrimp scampi, lemon butter shrimp, hot and spicy shrimp and a shrimp hotdog. I ordered a plate of the shrimp scampi that came with 2 scoops of sticky rice. It was cheap and I figured we could share it and get more if it was good or move on to a real restaurant. It was a beautiful thing; the freshest, most flavorful shrimp that would have been delicious with a squeeze of lemon but these had a perfect balance of butter and lemon with bits of sweet garlic. The rice was topped with the same lemon, butter, garlic sauce and for someone who never eats rice, I devoured a big scoop of it before Rob and Marilyn made it back from the outhouse. I also ordered a "pineapple, coconut, mango" smoothie and watched them cut the fruit open. I put three straws in it and within minutes, there wasn't a bite or swallow left of anything. There are 2 things I could eat everyday, one being a Japanese Kobe beef filet and the other being the 'shrimp scampi with sticky rice' from Giovanni's shrimp truck.

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By the time we left it was late afternoon. The sun was going down and we started making our way back to Honolulu along the western shore of the island. It was the perfect day and we never wanted the it to end. Marilyn told us about this beautiful beach she went to several years ago with her girlfriends. She remembered it as "Kahlua" beach because they drank a lot of Kahlua on that trip but Rob, the expert map reader found a beach called "Kailua beach" which was in the same vicinity as Marilyn remembered, so she thinks. That would be our final destination before we went back to the hotel. We would watch the sun go down on Kailua beach.

hawaiiobamakailuabeach2.jpg It was a crazy drive, through cemeteries and bad neighborhoods with voodoo statues, but we finally found it. I felt like I had been transported to Bora Bora. It was a calm, clear, teal colored beach. The sand was white and fluffy. The beach was a half-moon shape with a volcano at the far end of the beach with a few magnificent houses right on the beach. There was one particular house that stood out amongst the rest. We were told by a couple, as we were headed that way not to get our hopes up to walk too far as that was, you guessed it "Obama's house."

It was 7pm Hawaii time, midnight EST and we all started getting texts from friends back home saying "Happy New Year!" What?? We had 5 more hours to go! We got out my IPhone and took a photo of us on the beach with Obama's house in the background and texted the photo to our tipsy, texting friends and said "Happy New Year from us and Obama on Kailua Beach."

 

Laura grew up in a small southern town in Georgia on a cotton and pecan farm where life centered around family, friends and good food. She has lived in Atlanta for 20 years and has been a Flight Attendant for a major airline for 18 years, traveling the world in search for the next best meal.  

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