In London on a home swap? Visit Southwark Cathedral.

Southwark Cathedral‘I will never forget the announcement that London had been awarded the 2012 Olympics. I was in my office at the Education Centre in Southwark Cathedral and even my good friend and colleague Tricia was unprepared for the hysteria.

And then the next day, from the heights of jubilation to the depths of despair: the London bombings. We had a special day ahead. Children from a South London Muslim school  with children from a South London Church of England School working together to enlighten each other about their respective faiths and to celebrate all that they shared.

One school managed to arrive and we spent the day trying to get them home again. The other school had to leave their bus at Elephant and Castle and they too had tribulations and traumas to get back to school.

I am pleased to say that that event did eventually take place and this piece is for all those of you who will be visiting our beautiful city this summer. Stray off the usual beaten path of London landmarks and visit this gem of a building which has stood by London Bridge since 1106, first as a priory, then, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries as a parish church, and, since 1905, as a cathedral.

Southwark Cathedral is an oasis of spirituality and calm on busy Bankside. Through its ancient walls you can hear the bustle of the adjacent Borough Market but inside is peace and serenity, places to sit and think, or to pray, and to marvel at the beauty which surrounds you. Shakespeare’s brother is buried here, as is Lancelot Andrewes, one of the main contributors to the King James Bible and John Gower, held by many to be the first person to write poetry in English, as opposed to French or Latin. My favourite spot is the Lady Chapel, the most tranquil part of the building, with its lovely series of stained glass windows depicting the Nativity.

You could spend days in this part of the city. There is Tate Modern, the Globe, Tower Bridge, City Hall and the re-vamped buildings of the docklands. But I would urge you to visit its greatest prize, Southwark Cathedral, no cost to enter and you’ll reap a bountiful reward.

The cafeteria is rather good too!’ – Sandra Newnham, London

Note: Until her retirement, Sandra worked at the Education Centre in Southwark Cathedral. Sandra and husband, Paul, are very enthusiastic travellers and have enjoyed many home swaps through Home Base Holidays. See their home exchange offer in London.

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