2023 Photo Contest

2022 was the biggest year ever for European Experiences: 28 tours and 291 travelers. So it’s no surprise that this was our biggest photo contest ever, with 150 photos submitted! We enjoyed sharing all these special places and experiences through the photos and descriptions, and we hope you’ll enjoy some “armchair traveling” through these photos too.

This year’s contest was open to everyone who participated in our 28 trips in 2022. Each traveler could enter one or two photos that best represented their personal experience during their trip; they were also asked to provide a few sentences about their photo and why the experience was meaningful to them. If a traveler joined us for more than one trip, they could submit up to two photos from each trip. Our daughter Kelly Wood managed the contest again this year, and the two of us (Kathy and Charley) were the judges. We judged “blind” and didn’t know who submitted any of the photos.

It means so much to us that every photo and its description represents a unique memory from the traveler’s experience. We appreciate the time everyone took to participate in the contest and share their memories, and we’ll be sending them all a special gift.

As always, a wide variety of photos were submitted, representing many different aspects of our European Experiences trips. In choosing our winners, we included a mix of photos from a variety of trips and locations and chose photos that were different from photos recognized in recent years. We had a very difficult time narrowing down our choices and recognized a few more photos than we originally planned.

We’re highlighting 20 photographs that reflect the broad scope of a European Experiences trip, considering first the photo and then also the description. Under our contest rules, we could recognize only one photo from each person, which required a few adjustments in our choices.

And The Winners Are…

Congratulations to Alan Birnbaum of Fresno, California, our 2023 grand prize winner!

Several entries in this year’s contest featured nighttime scenes and beautiful sunsets. But Alan’s photo of the sunset over the Luberon valley, taken from an evening apéritif at our friends’ home high in the village of Bonnieux, was especially compelling. This experience was a highlight of this September Luberon week.

The Luberon Experience was Alan and his wife Kathy’s second trip with European Experiences. They joined us for The Chianti Experience in 2019 and then hoped to join us in the Luberon in 2020 and 2021… we were happy to finally welcome them in 2022!

Alan’s grand prize is a $500 credit on a future European Experiences trip. We also selected four runners-up, who have each received a $250 credit on a future Experience trip. Fifteen other photographs were selected for special recognition. These travelers each won a $50 Amazon gift certificate (or a $50 credit on a 2023 or 2024 trip). See all 20 winning photos below, along with what each traveler had to say about the experience represented in their photo. The Runners-Up and Special Recognition winners are listed in alphabetic order by first name.

We’re also including a “special collection” of excellent photos from this year’s contest that feature Local Faces in Special Places, highlighting the connections our groups make with local people. We’ll be sending a special gift to these photographers.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this year’s contest! Special thanks also go to Kelly Wood for her excellent support for this year’s contest.

Grand Prize Winner

The Luberon Experience (September 2022) in Bonnieux

Alan from California, USA

Bonnieux at Sunset: As the sun sets, “L’heure bleue” begins, best marked by gathering with friends, not just in France, but anywhere, for hors d’oeuvres, aperitifs, and conversation, at its best blessed by the abstract beauty of a sunset in the west, such as this view from the balcony of a breathtakingly beautiful house in Bonnieux. Our Luberon Experience group members were grateful guests of long-time friends of the Woods.


The Cotswolds Walking Week (July 2022) in the countryside

Debbie from Maryland, USA

I snapped this photo because it captured what was so wonderful about a day spent walking in the Cotswolds — a blue sky with fluffy clouds, and endless fields and trails with something new to explore around each bend. You might encounter sheep, a castle, a village or just some other hikers. And you could walk in silence or enjoy chatting with another group member. There were no cell phones, traffic noise or other distractions – just hours to enjoy nature and the beautiful countryside.


The Puglia Experience (October 2022) at Alberobello

Kelly from Texas, USA

What a treat it was to see the trulli houses in person! The unique architecture, some signed by the craftsman, was spectacular. Walking the lanes and visiting one of the homes gave me insight into the daily lives of the people who call Alberobello home. This was a highlight of my wonderful week in Puglia!


Inside Paris (September 2022) in Montmartre, Paris

Marguerite from California, USA

I love the fun and exuberance of this photo. The colors of the dark blue sky, the red building, the bright white neon lights and our vivid yellow convertible cruising through the streets of Paris on our first evening! So much fun!


The Cotswolds Walking Week (July 2022) in Snowshill

Steve from California, USA

I loved our peaceful visit to the Cotswolds. One of the first stops on our Cotswolds Walking Week was a tour of the Cotswold Lavender Fields. It was a sunny day and the lavender was in full bloom. I photographed a young girl in a beautiful dress running through the fields. Our excursion to this serene spot set the tone for a wonderful week of walking in the region.

Special Recognition

The Luberon Experience (September 2022) in Bonnieux

Adam from Maine, USA

Alone, after a full day sightseeing, I sit in between dusk and night, up near the old church, where the village of Bonnieux rests below, under a mantle of stars.

Special Recognition

The Chianti Experience (May 2022) in Greve in Chianti

Carol from Tennessee, USA

Our dinner at Castello di Colognole with Rita was amazing. This photo is of the gathering on her beautiful lawn with unbelievable views. The wine from her vineyard and appetizers were perfect! And then we enjoyed a fabulous dinner.

Special Recognition

The European Christmas Experience (November 2022) in Salzburg

Christina from Alberta, Canada

The Christmas Museum is a wonderland of local Christmas traditions and folklore. An unlikely duo, Krampus accompanies St. Nikolaus when he visits children. St. Nikolaus delivers small gifts to “good” children and Krampus deals with “naughty” children. The folklore around Krampus is still celebrated in Alpine communities. The “kid” in this photo was left with a lasting impression.

Special Recognition

The Cotswolds Experience (July 2022) in Chipping Campden

Eleanor from Virginia, USA

Chipping Campden Silver: A silver workshop like no other. Superb craftsmen at work!

Special Recognition

The Mediterranean Provence Experience (May 2022) in Bandol

Eric from Oregon, USA

You won’t find the ostentatious glitz of the French Riviera in Bandol. What we did find was laid back charm and a perfect place to explore Mediterranean Provence.

Special Recognition

The Mediterranean Provence Experience (September 2022) on the Ile de Gaou

Jeanne from Colorado, USA

Ile de Gaou near Le Brusc Port. The scenery of the Mediterranean Provence tour included so many beautiful scenes of harbors, the sea, and boats. This little “harbor” seemed just perfect!

Special Recognition

The Riviera Hillsides Experience (June 2022) in Grasse

Jill from Illinois, USA

I just loved the hanging objects displayed in several of the villages we visited in the Hillsides. These umbrellas were in Grasse. The contrast of the bright pink against the stone and the blue sky were so eye-catching. The shadows made it even more captivating.

Special Recognition

The Cornwall Experience (September 2022) in the Isles of Scilly

John from Hawaii, USA

Neptune Steps in the Tresco Abbey Garden, Isles of Scilly. The stairs almost seem lost in the greenery as they ascend to the Father Neptune statue.

Special Recognition

The Riviera Hillsides Experience (June 2022) in Saint-Paul de Vence

Larry from Maryland, USA

Susan and Nancy rest up from the galleries and shops in the magical hilltop village of Saint-Paul de Vence.

Special Recognition

The Périgord Experience (June 2022) in Saint-Geniès

Linda from Illinois, USA

Saint-Geniès, a fairytale village of honey colored stone, typical of the Périgord, had a bustling morning market. Seeing these pristine little villages was a special part of the experience.

Special Recognition

The Cotswolds Walking Week (July 2022) in Bretforton

Patti from Tennessee, USA

During the visit to the historic Fleece Inn for dinner we had the extraordinary surprise treat of a fun and lively performance by The Morris Dancers. Morris dancing is a type of old English folk dancing in which the dancers dress in colorful outfits and use various implements like sticks and handkerchiefs in the choreography of the dances. These men practice and obviously take pride in their art. This shot shows the dancers in one of their many jumps and turns of the dance. Such a delight!

Special Recognition

The Périgord Experience (June 2022) in Coly Saint-Amand

Sarah from Missouri, USA

While we had many memorable meals in the Dordogne, one of my favorites was the evening spent at Manoir D’Hautegente, which has been a home for nuns, the property of noblemen, and was eventually owned by a French family for more than 427 years. Now it is a four star hotel and gourmet restaurant serving “products of the region and of the season….” We were fortunate to have aperitifs around the pond and a wonderful gourmet dinner on the terrace. An unforgettable evening!

Special Recognition

The Cotswolds Walking Week (July 2022) in Chipping Campden

Shelley from Maryland, USA

Spending the week at one home base on this trip meant that we had time to see things in a different light. It was always nice when we could see the tower of St. James Church while on one of our walks. On this evening, as I was strolling through town past the almshouses, the sun hit the tower in a way that made it look like the tower itself was glowing.

Special Recognition

The Paris Experience (September 2022) in Batignolles-Monceau, Paris

Tim and Anita from Queensland, Australia

Paris is known as the city of light. Even in this rainy picture at dusk we can see the warm yellow lighting so common in Paris which, when combined with the red restaurant canopies and colourful shop fronts around the city, provide an invitation to all to come out and enjoy the ambience.

Special Recognition

The Puglia Experience (October 2022) in Ostuni

Vivian from Florida, USA

La Magia di Ostuni di notte: Ostuni at night is magical. The White City glows in amber during the evening. It was a magical respite after a glorious day of touring.

Special Collection – Slide Show

Local Faces in Special Places