I had been meaning to go to Amsterdam ever since I realised people don't just go there to get high. So when a friend casually mentioned she'd booked a ticket to go, I jumped on the opportunity. Little did I know we were going during Gay Pride.
I didn't know what to expect, I'd seen lots of pictures of canals and heard lots of things about coffee houses. But I wasn't prepared for this.
Just how I imagined it. People on Dutch bikes everywhere, ringing their bells at tourists and commuters on foot who happily walk about chatting to their friends. People on boats, some one holiday, some locals, some in their homes on the canal. No doubt their boat/home is bigger than my place back in London!
I am totally mesmerised. I walk and walk, turning and looking everywhere. There's greenery and canals and bakeries. There are so many people. It's hot and sticky. I find a pub and sit down to take it all in.
Having devoured some calamari and potato chips with an aioli-type sauce, I set off again, half-dazed by the pint of bitter ale I downed too quickly. Somehow the streets start getting louder - someone is jeering people on through a very loud speaker system and people are cheering on in the distance. The noise become clearer and the crowds somehow wrap around me, and very quickly I'm surrounded by a massive mob whilst a man in uniform ushers me to the side of the road. As I turn, in my daze, I see that a Drag race is about to start!
My jaw is on the floor at how some Drags here look more womanly than I do! I make a mental note to YouTube Drag makeup tutorials later and move on in awe.
After a full day of wandering I head back to my hostel for a two-hour nap before heading out into the night to join one of the many street parties going on on Amstel Road together with my friend. But we're sensible and after a mad night of pushing and dancing, we head home at 1AM.
The next day she calls me, excited, and tells me her friend has a boat from which we can watch the Gay Pride. I make my way and board unceremoniously whilst trying not to flash people and also not to fall into the canal. Once on the boat the view is pretty spectacular...
There are people perched absolutely everywhere, every space of the horizon is taken by daytime ravers wearing pink. The water parade starts with an explosion of colour and music.
Over 60 boats pass by with amazing acts, loaded with people cheering, dancing and singing. There are some beautiful drags and incredible singers. We saw some old-school peeps, too, the Vengaboys...
And Conchita Wurst!
Who looks stunning.
The rest of the weekend is spent trying to soak in the sun, visiting markets and walking about town.
And just as it began, it's time to head home, where I'm currently trying to grow a beard.