Combine water, sugar, bay leaf and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Add pears and cover saucepan. Gently simmer pears until fork-tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in poaching liquid.
Meanwhile, add cream, syrup (or honey), vanilla and salt to a blender. Blend on high at 10-second intervals, until the cream is whipped into medium-soft peaks. (Test this by dipping a spoon into the whipped cream and holding it upright; the whipped cream should be firm enough to stay on the spoon, and the peak of the whipped cream should droop ever so slightly to one side.) Alternatively, whip the cream by hand with a whisk or with an electric beater in a large metal bowl. Serve with poached pears. Store leftover whipped cream in a tightly sealed container for up to three days in the fridge. (Add a spoonful to an afternoon cup of coffee.