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Now that you've been cooped up in the city for 2 days, it's time to see a bit of the Hill Country. The driving distances in this loop north and west of San Antonio are quite comfortable, which is really saying something in Texas. You can easily see these three towns in a day, do a little strolling around, browse through some antiques stores, and even get in a horseback ride. I like this trip best in the fall and winter months and in the middle of the week, when traffic and crowds are light.

1. Boerne

Take I-10 northwest out of San Antonio. In 30 miles, you arrive at the town of Boerne (pronounced bur-nee), a German settlement known for its quaint buildings and antiques stores. It's a good place for walking around, talking to the locals, and enjoying the slow rhythm of life here.

Take Hwy. 46 west to Hwy. 16 west to the town of:

2. Bandera

Bandera is one of the main centers for cowboy culture in Texas, and it holds an important annual rodeo. It's also the dude ranch capital of Texas. But you don't have to stay the night to enjoy a horseback ride.

3. Castroville

South of Bandera is an oddity for the Texas Hill Country -- an old Alsatian settlement from the 1840s. For the first few decades of its existence, it remained an isolated community, with residents not often venturing to neighboring towns. Even today, Alsatian speakers remain here.

4. Take a Break

You've probably already stopped for lunch in Bandera, but you might still want to pass by Haby's Alsatian Bakery to pick up some wonderful baked goods for the drive back to San Antonio. 207 U.S. 90 East, Castroville. tel. 830/931-2118.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.