Even in our wireless time, collecting hotel notepads still has an enduring appeal.
Credit: James Worrell

If you travel light, a hotel notepad is an ideal memento—slim, utilitarian, free. And even if it doesn’t cost anything (except the price of a room, or a Campari in the lobby), it’s exclusive. The only way to get a hotel notepad is to find yourself at that hotel.

At most recent count, I have 20 or so knocking around in a drawer, and as a rule I use the more distinguished notepads for the most routine notes. One from Le Meurice, in Paris, is for grocery lists (olive oil, cumin, dishwashing liquid: check); one from Blantyre, in the Berkshires, is for expenses (the column of numbers jotted down on it no longer means anything to me, but must have been crucial once). Working out who did or didn’t walk the dog is that much more entertaining when it’s scribbled on a creamy notepad from the Hay-Adams, the discreet D.C. hotel where the Obamas stayed before moving in to the White House.

The more obscure, the better. Important messages are saved for notepads from Sea Ranch Lodge, a 1970’s masterpiece on the California coast, or the Locarno, an aging hotel in Rome with a birdcage elevator and a bar that always feels like dusk. In fact, I rarely use the pad from the Ritz Paris or Chateau Marmont because I fear it would come across as showing off. But the Marriott in Panama City? That’s for special occasions.