Bedlam the Cat had planned to accompany Insider on a trip to Washington because the newly renovated Washington Monarch Hotel is pet-friendly.

In fact, the hotel was so excited about receiving Bedlam that its staff planned to hold a meeting about the best way to deal with the cat's needs, from kitty litter to dinner treats.

But it was not to be.

Despite the fact that many hotels, not to mention the airlines, are doing their best to accommodate our four-legged friends, Amtrak has a decidedly different view.

Bedlam the Cat in a moment of contemplation after his Amtrak rejection. And because Insider was traveling by Amtrak Metroliner from New York, this posed something of a problem.

An Amtrak reservationist explained the no-pets-allowed policy (Seeing Eye dogs are the exception) and when pushed, suggested that Bedlam's caretaker start a campaign on behalf of pet travel.

"Hey, that's how the bikers got their way," he said, referring to Amtrak's installation of bike racks on its New England routes.

Insider was ready to protest, but an Amtrak spokeswoman put things into perspective.

"I got on a plane last night and had to get off before the flight started because the woman next to me had a cat with her. I am so allergic that I would have had to go to the hospital had I stayed on the flight," she said.

"Amtrak doesn't allow pets for the safety of the animals and the guests," she explained.

And might little Bedlam travel with Amtrak in the future, if a pet car is created?

"We hardly ever receive complaints or requests about pets, so don't count on it," she said.

...More on Amtrak

Meanwhile, there is a group of Amtrak riders who have formed a lobby: People against the use of cellular phones on trains.

"We get plenty of calls from people who want cell phones banned on the trains," the Amtrak spokeswoman told Insider, "but there are just as many who need to use their phones while riding, so we're trying to figure out a policy that's fair to everyone."

Amtrak is experimenting with a "quiet" car on an early morning train between New York and Philadelphia, where riders like to catch up on their sleep.

So is the car free of cell phones?

"Oh yes," she said. "And there's no talking allowed either. Only whispering."

Brazilian treat

Move over Baskin Robbins! You've got some serious competition south of the border.

In Fortaleza, ice cream lovers have a choice of 50 flavors.In Fortaleza, Brazil, ice cream lovers have a choice of 50 -- that's right, 50! -- flavors at Sorveteria.

What's more, the tempting selections include tapioca, cashew and fruits as yet unknown to us Yanks.

After sampling a half-dozen or so little spoonfuls, Insider made one of life's tougher decisions, settling on cashew ice cream served atop a huge wafer.

Bedtime goodies

Some hotels go to great lengths -- and some not at all -- when it comes to turndown services and the nighttime goodies that are left for guests.

Many hotels stick to the two-mints-on-the- pillow routine; some upgrade to chocolates and miniatures of brandy, and a very few take the giant leap forward to two champagne glasses and a magnum of bubbly.

It's all in the eye of the beholder-or, in this case, the tastebuds. Insider eagerly anticipated returning to her hotel room one evening at the Hyatt Regency St. Lucia.

What treats might be there? What surprises lay in store?

Well, she came, she saw, she sampled and she still doesn't know.

The items on the plate, as shown in the photo above, were not identified and bore little resemblance to anything familiar.

One tasted sour, the second was rubbery and the third was totally bland.

Insider raided the minibar and devoured a lip-smacking, eye-rollingly delicious Snickers bar.

Now that's the stuff dreams are made of.

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