In a large saucepan, heat the water and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Add any of the additions that sound appealing. Slide in the pears and take care to ensure the pears remain submerged in the liquid. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.
If you wish, after poaching the pears and while the liquid is still warm, add approximately 1/2 cup (120 g) dried cranberries, or raisins and let them plump.