After a few good hours of wandering I got to the infamous Tower of London, the refuge of kings, prison for traitors to the realm, and until recently one of the first armories in England.
The Tower has a rather gruesome history, infamous for torture, murder, and imprisonment in dark holes where many went in and few came out. With the foundations built on the walls of an ancient Roman fort, the Tower has been expanded many times since then as new kings added more to fill it out. Some of the more infamous sections of the Tower include the torture chamber in the depths of the fortress complex and the Bloody Tower, the place where two young princes are believed to have been murdered during the reign of Richard III in the War of the Roses.
Of course just because one was a prisoner here didn't mean it was as bad as you would think. If you were important enough the accommodations were nothing to sneer at, giving you plenty of time to catch up on a few things. As always those who knew the right people were given a very different treatment.
By the way did I mention the Tower has a rather blood-soaked history? This sculpture is supposedly on the site where some of the most famous blood-letting and executions took place the most famous of which was Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII who lost her head on May 19th, 1536 (same day as my birthday!)
After enjoying the evening in the company of other hostelers, including a Dutch student who was in England to take a test to prove his proficiency in English (he passed with flying colors, as one would expect for someone who got his bachelor's in English Literature) I headed out the next day to explore around Buckingham Palace. The Palace itself was closed to visitors but the Royal Mews, where they house the carriages for the royal family, were open (for a nominal fee of course. London is NOT a cheap city to visit!)
No visit to the Mews would be complete without seeing the massive, four-ton Gold State Coach. This thing was built in the late 1700s and has been used to ferry every single British monarch to their coronation since then. It is so heavy the team of four horses can't move any faster than a slow walk.
In the grounds next door to the palace were the St. James gardens, providing a small oasis of peace and greenery in the midst of the hustle and bustle of London.
I spent the day walking through Chelsea and Kensington, getting slightly lost before arriving at the British Museum of Natural History.
After wandering through the museum and seeing everything from prehistoric sea monsters to life-size replicas of blue whales I caught the Underground to Victoria to grab a bite to eat before catching my overnight bus north to Edinburgh.