You're right, you should ignore cooking time instructions many times. Just test with a very sharp small knife for doneness. Cooking time of pears is not critical at all.
I suppose you put a lot of sugar in there too.
What to do with the poaching liquid?
1. reduce it into a syrup consistency before serving the pears. Serve the pears with some of the syrup on top of them. It will coat the pears nicely. I like a scoop of vanilla icecream with it.
2. Don't reduce the liquid but make a sorbet with it. If you have an icecream maker, just turn the liquid into a sorbet. If not, put the liquid in a plastic container in your freezer. Get it out every 30 minutes and stir to break the icecrystals. Do this until the liquid is frozen through. Very nice in colour and taste!