Confession time. I’m a real The Doors fan, particularly of Jim Morrison – the iconic rock singer of the 60s and early 70s. He was the one who smouldered through the camera lens, wearing tight black leather pants. He was known to smoke a fair bit of wacky tobacky and indulge in chemical substances. He was also a heavy drinking poet.

It was probably the combination of all this dark, brooding stuff that carried him off to the other side on July 3, 1971 – at the tender age of 27. Such a brief life: the proverbial candle in the wind.

What is it with all these 60’s and early 70’s singers who departed this planet early? Janis Joplin. Jimmy Hendrix. Jim Morrison. Is there something about having a first name starting with J? A profound reflection on my part!

Anyway. I’ve visited Paris a few times in my life and have ALWAYS wanted to visit Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise cemetery but the opportunity never cropped up. I was usually flying in for business meetings, then turning around and flying back out, or routing through Paris on my way to somewhere.

Last weekend though I was DETERMINED – in caps. I flew into Paris late Friday night and first thing Saturday morning it was up and out to Père Lachaise. The challenge was finding Jim in such a huge place (44 hectares or 110 acres). What I didn’t realise was that so many other luminaries are also sleeping peacefully at this cemetery – Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Isadora Duncan, Abelard and Heloise. Take note of that last mentioned and most celebrated of romantic couples – who knew they were lying at rest at Père Lachaise? Maybe you did; I didn’t.

So the challenge was on. Beat the hordes and find Jim, fast. I suspected that a ton of tourists would be tracking down Jim Morrison’s grave site. I also decided to find Abelard and Heloise. It was a hard choice and I had to miss out on Oscar Wilde because I had plenty to do and see in Paris.

Accompanied by my French colleague from work, Audrey, we bolted by Metro to the cemetery. I must say I didn’t like this cemetery as much as Rome’s Campo Cestio. There was a heaviness to it and it left me feeling almost claustrophobic (which I’m not). I think it’s because of the tombs. There are numerous, imposing tombs that sort of crowd the senses – as opposed to Campo Cestio, which has an openness about it, with the sunlight streaming through the trees.

Audrey located Jim at grave number 30 in Section 6 and Abelard and Heloise at grave 27 in Section 7. Off we went and promptly became lost. For about one hour. I kept saying to her that all we needed to do was spot the hordes as they would be doing what I was doing – on a Jim Morrison pilgrimage.

I have no idea why but I was expecting some shiny black marble tomb. 1970’s style. You know what I found? A pretty ordinary looking grave. The headstone reads: James Douglas Morrison 1943-1971. It didn’t even have the actual dates of his birth and death (which are December 8, 1943 and July 3, 1971 respectively). His father apparently placed the stone that carries the Greek inscription: ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ – meaning true to his own spirit. Very fitting for such a wild child.

We then rushed over the uneven cobblestones towards Abelard and Heloise. In contrast, theirs was a very striking monument and the lovers were reunited in death.

The whole thing has caused me to wonder about Jim Morrison. He died in a bathtub in a hotel room in Paris. He was living in the city with his American girlfriend, who herself died at 27 years old. Why didn’t his parents fly his body back to the United States? Why such a pathetic looking grave site? I remember reading somewhere many years ago that hardly anyone attended his funeral.

The title of this post BTW (if you’re not familiar with The Doors) is from one of their well-known songs. You can listen to it here.

Spot the names of the famous people buried at Père Lachaise,

Audrey locates Jim Morrison’s grave site.

This was a lovely, well-maintained area of the cemetery.

A very unusual monument – Rodenbach was a French novelist and poet.

Jim Morrison’s very ordinary resting place.

Finally…I made the pilgrimage.

A tree trunk near the grave site is festooned with chewing gum. Not sure of the significance.

The tourist hordes were starting to gather by the time I left in hot pursuit of Abelard and Heloise.

Approaching the beautiful monument to Abelard and Heloise.

The final resting place of Heloise.

Advertisements