I'm caught up in the excitement as the crowd around me surges to catch sight of Charles II on his triumphant return to Whitehall Palace.
I'm standing outside the Banqueting Hall on Whitehall Street in 21st century London, but with the assistance of a clever audio tour and carefully placed props, I've travelled back in time to 1660 and into a palace that burned down in 1698.
At one time, Whitehall Palace was the largest palace in Europe. It became home to the English monarchy in 1530 when Henry VIII and his new wife, Anne Boleyn, moved in. It contained over 1500 rooms and included four tennis courts, two bowling alleys, and a cock fighting pit.
Next stop on the tour is Cardinal Wolsey's wine cellar and a chance to hear the servants gossiping about Henry VIII's behavior around comely Anne Boleyn. Then, I will meet Bill Shakespeare and have a chance to try out for his newest play, King Lear. Unfortunately, despite shouting my lines and wildly brandishing my arms as instructed, I'm found wanting.
Disappointed, I head to the back of the palace and discover that the river Thames has frozen over and a "frost fair" is being held on the river. After strolling through the noisy crowd, I turn to scan my audio device across windows in the modern-day Ministry of Defense. Doing this, I'm able to eavesdrop on the interrogation of Guy Fawkes and listen to the story of the maid who set the fire that resulted in the destruction of Whitehall Palace.
Then, it's off to the Privy Court and an opportunity to overhear gossiping courtiers. Recklessly, I join the 2d Earl of Rochester's rowdy group and we slash at a rare (and costly) sundial with our swords.
The tour becomes more somber as I come to stand below the room in which Charles I spent his last night in 1649 and overhear his final thoughts. Then, I follow him as he walks to the scaffold where he will be beheaded and I listen in as he talks to the executioner.
The tour and my time traveling ends back at the Banqueting Hall, and the only building that still remains of Whitehall Palace.