Say you're strolling through New Orleans discussing with your companions the merits of beignets over donuts, and there to the left is a stunning example of traditional Southern building design. Rather than risk mistaking a classic American townhouse for a Creole townhouse, take a few notes from our Crescent City architecture primer and demonstrate your architectural expertise.
Where you'll see it: French Quarter. You can recognize the signature single-story homes by the steeply pitched roofs and front porches that practically touch the sidewalk.
What you should say: "You know, the full front porch and high-gabled roof are a distinct blend of Caribbean and French-Canadian design; interesting combo, don't you think?"
Where you'll see it: Central Business District or Lower Garden District. Look for a narrow brick or stucco three-story structure, asymmetrical windows and an iron balcony on the second or third floor.
What you should say: "See all that fine iron detailing on the balcony? The intricate ornamentation style is pre-Civil War."
Where you'll see it: French Quarter. With shops below and homes above, these buildings are the perfect arrangement for the thriving urban center. Arched windows distinguish Creole from American townhouses.
What you should say: "After the great fires of 1788 and 1794 torched most freestanding homes in this district, these brick and stuccoed-brick structures emerged with strong Spanish influences."
Where you'll see it: Garden District, Uptown or Carrollton. Keep an eye out for the one-and-a-half-story homes raised slightly above street-level and a porch stretching all the way across the front with columns.
What you should say: "I don't know if you know this, but these homes are basically urbanized version of French-Colonial plantations."
Where you'll see it: Throughout the city. These are plentiful and easy to spot - long and narrow single-story homes with lacey Victorian embellishment beneath the large front eve.
What you should say: "The term shotgun originates from the hypothetical theory that if all the interior doors are all open and aligned, you can shoot clear through the house even though there's no hallway."
Where you'll see it: Lower Garden District, Garden District, Uptown or Esplanade Ridge. Telltale elements include stacked and covered front porches, stately box columns and a front door off to one side.
What you should say: "Although they look similar to the townhouse styles, these homes built in New Orleans' early suburbs are set back much farther from the sidewalk."
Find more resources on New Orleans architecture at the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans website at prcno.org.
In case you need to show off more New Orleans knowledge, here are four key facts about its literary history.
The famous playwright, best known for A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie, was actually born in Mississippi, but New Orleans could safely be called his adopted home.
Hotel Monteleone was a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. Truman Capote frequented the Carousel Bar and used to quip that he was born in the hotel.
Four works written in and about New Orleans have won Pulitzers: Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler and The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty.
Anne Rice's novel The Vampire Chronicles takes place in these city streets - just add Brad Pitt for silver-screen magic.