SOME people might think Nikki Collins-Ross must be mad!
For the 41-year-old says she much prefers the sand dunes of Crimdon Dene to the sunshine sands of her hometown of Santa Monica, in California.
The American, who made Hartlepool her permanent home in 2010, says you can swap Santa Monica pier and the glitzy celebrity hangouts of Los Angeles – give her Crimdon any day.
Nikki, who lives in the Brierton area of town, said: “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
“Local people don’t know how lucky they are – sometimes people forget to go down to the beach and take in the scenery and the dunes.”
She said a lot of her American friends are surprised at the prime location of Crimdon Dene Caravan Park and the great views enjoyed from the mobile homes.
“If that was LA they would be paying $2m for a house right there,” said Nikki, who became a British citizen during a naturalisation ceremony at Hartlepool Register Office in 2009.
She said she much prefers the view from Crimdon down to the Steetley chimney stack to gazing at the likes of Venice Beach and Muscle Beach in California.
Nikki, who can spend up to four hours walking as far as Horden, exploring the natural caves at Blackhall Rocks and limestone formations, added: “Crimdon is far more interesting.
“A lot of birds come nesting here, and the whole tale of the collieries is interesting.
“Prior to me coming here, I hear it was pretty much a disaster area.
“But there has been a lot of work to restore its natural beauty.”
Nikki, who loves to take photographs and makes jewellery from the beach glass she discovers on the beach, added: “If you look at Crimdon Dene, it changes every day.
“There are natural dunes – we don’t have that in LA, they have been ploughed over to make way for houses.
“On Venice Beach there are hotdog stands, roller-skaters, loud music, really tacky stores and awful beach shops – that’s really not my idea of a beach.
“I like the dog walkers and people out for a stroll.”
Nikki, whose mum, Katheryn Griggs, was brought up in Cheshire, spent 13 years working in boutiques on board cruise ships.
It was there that she met her husband Martin Ross, 55, a chief engineer who is originally from Birmingham but moved to Hartlepool around 15 years ago.
The couple were engaged on a ship in Tahiti, where Martin is currently based.
Nikki, who had friends over from New Hampshire and Washington for the Tall Ships’ Races, says she also loves Seaton Carew beach and describes it as a “quirky Victorian town”.
She said she preferred our weather pattern, and added: “LA is too big and too impersonal for me.
“I don’t care about the built-up shopping malls and movie stars. “Here, there is a sense of calm and relaxing.”