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Help with Itinerary please!!!!

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Hello all--
My husband has to be in Dusseldorf, Germany, for 2-3 days in May 2014, and I am tagging along. It will be our first trip to Europe and I'm so excited but very overwhelmed. We are planning a 14 day trip and I really need y'all to save me from myself--I'm driving myself crazy!!!
This is what i know for sure so far--
1. We are leaving the US on Fri. May 9 or Sat. May 10 and returning on Sat, May 24 but have not booked tickets yet.
2. We have to be based in Dusseldorf from May 19-23 for my husband's work commitments but will take day trips, etc...we don't mind leaving Dusseldorf Friday to fly home from somewhere else as long as it makes good financial sense to do so
3. I have a budget I HAVE to stick to

We are pretty wide open on where to go/what to do--I have been going round and round and feel like I'm spinning my wheels so I decided to reach out to those of you that travel frequently...
We could go somewhere else prior to Germany-- (France--particularly Brittany and Southern France, coastal Croatia, coastal Greece/Islands and coastal Spain would be at the top of the list) but we are having a hard time narrowing that list down. Any tips for that?
We could also fly into France, Germany or Belgium and focus more on a few regions--So, things/areas we are interested in doing/seeing regionally:
1. Colmar, France (really the Alsace region as a whole seems lovely)
2. Garmisch/Mittenwald area
3. Rhine and Mosel River Valleys (along with River Cruise)--would this make more sense as day trips during our time in Dusseldorf.
4. Scenic train ride through the Alps

Finally, we could go ahead and go to Dusseldorf and use that as home base the entire trip. What makes the most sense?
We are in our late 30's, both love to eat, drink, people watch and are pretty laid back. We are not into hiking or biking but enjoy pretty scenery and love the water but we are looking forward to seeing some part of the Alps. We do not care for large cities at all...for example, no desire to go to Berlin or to Paris. Ideally, (I think!) for this trip, we will spend 2-4 nights in a few different areas and then spend about 5-6 days with Dusseldorf as home base.
We are going back and forth on the idea of renting a car vs. taking the train. The rail passes seem expensive but think I read that many times, while the passes are easier, they are more expensive than point to point train rides. Is this true? If we rented a car, we would definitely p/u and drop off within the same country. I think we need to pick the less expensive option but am having a hard time pricing things out. Is there a good way to determine this? What do most of you do? If you take the train, do you purchase the passes???
I realize this is a jumble and my thoughts are all over the map--literally! I've read SO many books and poured over this forum and a few others for hours, but I'm still overwhelmed. I think I may be making this too difficult! I am grateful to any help/guidance that any of you have to offer!!!

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