Saturday, September 20, 2008

My visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris

Jim Morrison circa 1965

Before my visit to 17-19 Rue Beautreillis I wanted to visit Jim Gravesite first.
CLICK HERE to read my full review with some photos of Jim apartment in Paris.

Pere Lachaise cemetary Paris

Pere Lachaise graveyards

Père Lachaise is one of the most popular cemeteries in Europe. I think it was set by Napoleon at the start of the XIX century, and it was the last one allowed to be built inside the city of Paris.
It is located on the 20th arrondissement which I guess means in french district or neighborhood.

The place is quite big, and it has a few different entrances. You can get there with the tube and is got a couple of close metro stations, one named as the cemetery itself
The Doors playing live at The London Fog circa 1966

There are about 300.000 bodies there but Père Lachaise is known for some of the famous people we can find there like Balzac, Chopin, Maria Callas, Delacroix, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Miguel Angel Asturias, Honoré de Balzac and Bizet amongst many others.

Pere Lachaise Gardens

One morning this August while I was getting my motorbike chain fixed in a garage in Paris city center I decided to pay a visit to the place. I couldn't really be arsed to see the other personalities mentioned before.

All I wanted to do was visit Jim Morrison grave.

For a long time now I have always being interested to read biographies of the 'ol Jimbo.
I haven't been a big fan of The Doors music really, I don't even believe there was much virtuosity on their music, although I like a bunch of their songs [Riders on The Storm and Strange days amongst my favorites], but I always have been more interested on what the band and more particularly the singer did represent on a baby boom days and very conservative America back on the mid 60s.

Jim Morrison 1966 promo shot for their 1st album

Lets say the rebel side of the famous singer and lets say his personal struggle to fight the back 50s-60s establishment and conservative society.

Wandering around a ....err...cemetary

I believe the fucker was punk rock 10 years before it was invented!

He had a story to tell and I believe he certainly achieved the goal.

Jim Morrison was The Doors.

I've been in Paris a few times visiting my family but never had the chance to go to Père Lachaise before. To be honest I understand graveyards aren't a common placed to visit when you are traveling abroad, are they?

Love what It said there

check out the skulls!

But I personally always loved graveyards, mainly for photography purposes. Wherever country I traveled to before, like in Scotland or Ireland for example.

I've read some stories about the place before. Jim Morrison grave in Père Lachaise is apparently one of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris. Due to the big amount of visitors it seems like there is normally a french police officer there to try to keep the place quite.

Also the grave itself is surrounded by metallic fences.

I was expecting to find loads of people there and even more considering it was summer holidays.

Near the cemetery there are flower shops where you can purchase a map where they tell you the exactly location to find the celebrities. I find it a bit stupid when you can get free maps inside.

Once you are in you can tell the graveyards are very old. Some were pretty cool.

The place is split in different sections [Divisions] and I knew I was looking for the 16th one.

There are also nice streets with very big trees around. It was like a small village, but instead houses there were tombs.

That was a massive grave!

I felt a good atmosphere to relax walking and enjoy a nice smoke. To be honest the place remained very quiet and not much people was seen around.

Pere Lachaise has streets inside, its huge

The weather was great, we had a fantastic blue skies, pretty different of how is Paris during other times of the year, lets say more grey and cold.

It didn't took me too long to find the exactly place where Jim was located, after asking a couple of visitors there. Once I found Jim's graveyard the first thing that shocked me was that it was a bit hidden behind other bigger graveyards. Not very easy to see it.

Jim Morrison grave

Metallic fences around and no one to be seen...mmmm...

There was only a few people there, mainly American tourists I guess and the tombstone was indeed, as I've heard before, surrounded by metallic fences.

I thought it was a funny thing. All your life singing about 'Break on through' and freedom and you end up like this for the rest of your days.

And the best of it, no police was seen on the area at all.

Aside of the simplicity of the graveyard itself I noticed that it was too small and short, even more for a 6 foot bloke.

I stayed there for about 5 minutes and when I saw that all the few people who were there was leaving I thought to meself 'Fuck fences' so I decided to jump.

so Break on the other side

'Jim Jim, what did you died for?' And Jim says 'Nothing at all'.

'I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos-especially activity that seems to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom... Rather than starting inside, I start outside and reach the mental through the physical.'

Isn't it the grave too short?
'This is the strangest life I've ever known.'

'All our lives we sweat and save, building for a shallow grave.'

Well, thats probably one of the most accurate Jim quotes taken from 'The Soft Parade' lyrics.

On the grave plate we can read 'Kata Ton Daimona Eat Toy' which in greek means something like 'True to his own spirit', but I think the meaning changes a bit depending if it is new or ancient greek. I ve heard Demons can be changed by spirit. I think his dad made the plate.

Sometime after it was time to go, after a few photograph shots I felt I already accomplished what I wanted to do.
So then I got out through the main entrance and nearby I saw a bar-restaurant decorated with Jim posters on the outside. It was the better place to relax and have a beer.

It said 'Brasserie' on the plate and the street was called 'Rue du Repos'. Proper name really

Inside the bar

I'm aware there are The Doors fans gatherings there from time to time, but mainly the 3th of July the day Jim died.
Once inside I asked the bar man if he knew the tube station where Jim Morrison lived in Paris. He gave me some directions and explained me how I could get there.

It wasn't really too far from there and due that I had still some time off left I walked towards 'Rue Beautreillis' which it was pretty near like I said. I only had to go to 'La Bastille' square about 15-20 minutes walking.

But that belongs to the next chapter.


Joanne Glasspoole said...

Hi, I just read your post and looked at your photos, and it is an excellent guided tour of Pere Lachaise. I hope you don't mind, but I reprinted by piece on

Pedro Vila Villar said...

Yes no worries Joanne. Glad you liked it :-)